One little tweet had Kraken twitter in a frenzy on Independence Day, and it had to do with one of the biggest free agents of this offseason: forward Nazem Kadri.
Kypreos on Kadri: "The number I hear is it starts at 8 and it could go as high as $10M, the teams that I'm hearing out there, two teams that can stroke that cheque right now are Seattle and the Boston Bruins".— NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) July 4, 2022
This is a quote from Nick Kypreos on the Real Kyper & Bourne podcast during their discussion of player movement this offseason. Elliotte Friedman agreed that it was a very real possibility:
“I think Seattle for sure will be in on him,” replied Friedman. “Seattle to me is going to be an aggressive team.”
Friedman reiterated the point in his most recent 32 Thoughts column as well.
The Kraken are expected to be very busy over the next few weeks. This was a disappointing season, and nobody wants a repeat...There are going to be a lot of rumors: Johnny Gaudreau, Nazem Kadri, John Klingberg, etc. They’re going to be aggressive.
There are a lot of “ifs” and “maybes” surrounding these reports, but where there’s smoke there’s fire and we’d be remiss to not believe that the Kraken will at least make an attempt to sign Kadri. The numbers may be steeper than most would be comfortable with, and we’ll break that down in a minute, but first let’s look at what Nazem Kadri has brought to the teams he’s played for to this point in his career.
Nazem Kadri, the player
Kadri is coming off of the best season of his career, which culminated in a Stanley Cup victory with the Colorado Avalanche. He scored 28 goals to go along with a career-high 59 assists and 87 points. He also had arguably his best defensive season to boot. He’s always been a good player in the NHL, but this year was something else. How did he get so much better in his age 31 season?
For starters, he played on the best team in the NHL. His primary linemates for the 2021-22 season were Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin. That’s not the top-tier of players on a loaded Avalanche roster, but it’s definitely an upgrade from his linemates at the end of his tenure in Toronto — Leo Komarov and end-of-career Patrick Marleau.
That said, he proved that he can be an above-average second-line center in this league. He ended the year on an even higher note, finishing the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 15 points in 16 games, including a hat trick that all but sealed the Avs’ second round victory over the St. Louis Blues.
It’s obviously a risky move to sign a player coming off of a career-best season, considering the chances they fall back towards their career average in the coming years. Kadri is clearly capable of providing 87 points of offense in a single season, but that doesn’t mean he’s likely to do that again soon. Still, career-average Nazem Kadri is a really good player that would be a great addition to the Kraken. His best stretch in Toronto (with those linemates mentioned above) looked like an All-Star caliber offensive forward, who admittedly left a lot on the table on the defensive side of things.
Kadri is a full-fledged top-6 center that can hang on the first power play unit and score some goals. He could immediately slot in on that second line, with Matty Beniers hopefully jumping right into the fire in the top-line center role. That would allow Seattle to move Yanni Gourde down to the third line, where he spent most of his time in Tampa Bay. That third line in Tampa Bay of Gourde, Barclay Goodrow, and Blake Coleman was widely considered the best third-line in hockey and a big reason they won back-to-back Stanley Cups. Seattle could be on their way to reproducing something like that with Gourde and Brandon Tanev on his wing.
But what is that worth to Seattle?
Would the Kraken be willing to spend that much in free agency?
When it comes to the (albeit brief) history of Seattle Kraken offseasons, there are two ways to look at it: one is that every contract a free agent signed with the Kraken in the summer of 2021 came in below $6 million in average annual value (AAV). The other way to view it is that Seattle handed out two of the five biggest contracts by AAV to unrestricted free agents last year, including the second-highest contract of the offseason (Philipp Grubauer’s 6-year, $35.4 million deal). They didn’t go after any $8-$10 million forwards simply because there weren’t any available last offseason.
This year, arguably the only free agent forward coming off of a better season than Kadri is Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau just put up 115 points and finished 4th in Hart Trophy voting, and still doesn’t have a new contract from the Flames. It’s likely he’ll command a contract with an eight-figure AAV. And guess what? The Kraken are also reported to be open to bringing in Johnny Gaudreau. The ownership group in Seattle isn’t afraid to spend money, and Ron Francis isn’t afraid to be aggressive in free agency. It just comes down to how much the front office values what Kadri brings to the table. And of course how interested Kadri is in coming to the Pacific Northwest.
Kadri’s final contract is a tough one to predict. The best season of his career, a Stanley Cup victory, and a really good playoff performance will no doubt play a factor during negotiations. Using the contract projection model from Evolving Hockey, Kadri’s most likely contract will come in as a 7-year, $8.5 million AAV deal. That’s on the lower end of what his camp is reportedly seeking, which is definitely a number Kraken fans would be more comfortable with than something in the $10 million range.
At the end of the day, Nazem Kadri would make the Kraken a better team. But his potential cap hit could cause issues down the road, especially considering the career-year we just witnessed and his current age. So let’s play some armchair GM now and put yourself in Ron Francis’ shoes. How high would you be willing to go for Kadri?
How much would you give Nazem Kadri per year to come to Seattle?
This poll is closed
Wouldn’t go above $6M
$6M-$8M range would be fine
He’s worth $8M-9M to Seattle
$9M+ just get him here!