Nazem Kadri
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Leafs have an opportunity to reunite with former fan favourite this summer

Published March 11, 2024 at 10:05
BY DEAN CHAUDHRY

Nazem Kadri won the Stanley Cup in 2022 with the Colorado Avalanche and walked into free agency as the top-dog after a career-season that saw him tally 87 points in just 71 games. A lot of teams were interested but he eventually chose Calgary, who insisted they were still trying to remain aggressive and build a winner despite losing out on Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. With the Flames now appearing to enter the rebuilding phase, what does mean for Kadri's future?

Brad Treliving had a nightmarish start to his 2022 off-season when Gaudreau walked into free agency, followed by Tkachuk wanting out of Calgary. The Flames had just crashed and burned in the second round of the playoffs to their provincial-rivals in Edmonton after claiming the division crown with a 50-21-11 record.

Gaudreau, Tkachuk, and Elias Lindholm combined for 124 goals and 301 points while accruing a ridiculous plus/minus rating of 182. That wasn't enough to keep them in town however so Treliving had a decision to make; rebuild with two cornerstones leaving or try to remain in contention?

He traded Tkachuk to Florida for a package that brought over Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. He then signed Kadri in free agency to a 7-year deal worth $49 million, essentially replacing Gaudreau in the lineup. Unfortunately the moves did not pan out and the Flames missed the post-season in 2022-23. Treliving and the Flames mutually split last spring as Craig Conroy took over as general manager in Calgary.


Fast-forward another season and the Flames have entered what seems like a rebuild with Nikita Zadorov, Tyler Toffoli, Elias Lindholm, Chris Tanev, and Noah Hanifin having been moved for a myriad of picks and prospects. That leaves current roster players like Kadri, Huberdeau, and Jacob Markstrom on the outside, which doesn't sit well with Kadri considering he signed up for what he thought was going to be a contending club.

Kadri and Conroy will most definitely have a sit-down conversation when the season comes to an end but it's going to be tough with the veteran forward still having 5 years remaining on his contract at an AAV of 7 million dollars. However, we just saw a rebuilding team in San Jose trade Tomas Hertl to the Vegas Golden Knights, while retaining salary for the next 6 seasons.

"I think at this point there's not much else for me to prove. People know what I can do in this league, I've been doing it for a long time. I've been very consistent at it, both in the regular season and the playoffs.

Any role I'm given I try to run with. I've always faced some doubt throughout my whole career, and that's never really affected me, or bothered me. So I just kind of approach it the same. I don't think it really matters for me. I'm going to go out there and show what I can do regardless."

If the Toronto Maple Leafs - and in this case Brad Trelving as well - want a reunion with Kadri, they can look to the Hertl deal as a template. San Jose traded Hertl (17% retention) and 2 third round picks for a top prospect in David Edstrom and a 2025 first round pick. The Leafs could potentially look at acquiring Kadri (15-17% retention) and 2 third round picks for prospect Fraser Minten and a 2026 first round pick if both sides are amenable. The Leafs may actually even be able to negotiate a better deal since Kadri is older than Hertl.

The Flames' dastardly fall from grace was quick and not what Kadri expected but sometimes that's just the name of the game:

"That's hockey. That's sports. Things kind of change, and they change fast, so how we rebound is the next question. And I think we've shown a lot of heart and character all year really and that's certainly a positive."

The Maple Leafs have a real good chance at making a big splash and it doesn't hurt that Treliving and Conroy have a good relationship from their time together in Calgary. The question is, will ownership sign off on any deal that helps Treliving out after the two sides agreed to part ways last summer? Treliving and Conroy's relationship didn't help the Leafs one iota in their pursuit of Nikita Zadorov and Chris Tanev this year, so we'll see if anything changes this summer.

POLL
March 11   |   456 answers
Leafs have an opportunity to reunite with former fan favourite this summer

Would you be interested in a reunion with Nazem Kadri?

Yes, he's matured into a solid top-6 centre24754.2 %
No, his contract is too expensive16937.1 %
The salary cap is rising, but I'm not sure408.8 %
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