Today is Brad Treliving’s birthday, and he celebrated by making an unreal splash in free agency, as the Calgary Flames have signed Nazem Kadri on a seven-year contract! The average annual value (AAV) on the contract is $7M, making the total value of the deal $49M. On the same day as the trade before it happened, a source told The Win Column that Kadri was indeed signing with the Flames and Monahan was being shipped out to make cap room.
Landing Kadri as the free agent prize
Kadri was the top free agent still available, and he ultimately chose Calgary as his destination. To fit Kadri in, I thought the Flames would have to ship out one of Milan Lucic or Sean Monahan. Brad Treliving and co. decided on Monahan and flipped him and a first-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens. We will touch on the implications of this deal in a separate article.
Swapping Monahan’s cap for Kadri’s is really only a $625K increase on Calgary’s cap. It works out to around $2M left to tinker the roster. Replacing an injury prone Monahan with Kadri for only $625K on the cap is tidy work by Brad Treliving.
I looked at the fit between the Flames and Kadri way back on July 11, back before it was confirmed that Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were leaving, and before the earthshattering changes that the Flames have underwent. Kadri was a player of great interest to the Flames. He was almost a Flame in 2019 in a deal involving T.J. Brodie, but chose to nix it to try and remain with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Flames have since continued to be interested in Kadri, and finally got their guy. Kadri is coming off a career year where he scored 87 points in 71 games (1.23 P/GP) and 15 points in 16 playoff games (0.94 P/GP) on the Avalanche’s run to the Stanley Cup! That’s right, Nazem Kadri is a Stanley Cup Champion, and will bring that experience with him to Calgary.
Expectations on Kadri as a Flame
We can expect some regression from his career season in 2021–22, but Kadri should remain a significant contributor to this Flames team for many seasons to come. Kadri is an ideal acquisition. He brings significant offensive generation, being among the highest in terms of volume shooting, cycle playmaking, rush offence, possession, and net-front presence. Entering the 2022 offseason, he was the biggest fish on the free agent market. Treliving has really outdone himself after being dealt a very tough hand at the start of free agency. Kadri also brings a ton of intangibles on and off the ice, and should be a perfect fit in the Flames dressing room. Here’s his isolated 5v5 impact visualization from HockeyViz.com.
We can argue about giving a seven-year term to a soon to be 32-year-old. He certainly won’t be the same player in Years 5, 6 , nor 7, but signing Kadri is a win-now move—the Flames have just shown their fans that they are very serious about winning. Considering Kadri was looking for $8.5–9M when free agency opened, getting him for $7M will help the Flames manage the cap in future years.
Calgary’s strong push to win now
The Flames are going for the Cup now, so their focus isn’t six years down the line. The cap will go up significantly by the time Kadri’s contract begins to age, making this deal easier to handle.
For Treliving, putting this team in the best position to win also puts him in the best position to guarantee himself a contract extension. With the Huberdeau trade and now this Kadri signing, a Treliving extension may be in the cards soon.
Flexibility in the top-nine
Kadri now gives you plenty of options up front. You could run a centre core of Lindholm, Kadri, Backlund. Maybe you shift Lindholm to the wing and have a top line of Huberdeau – Kadri – Lindholm? Suffice to say, there are a ton of flexibility and the line blender will be dishing out offence on offence. As a first look, something like this could make sense for the Flames’ top-nine:
Mangiapane – Lindholm – Someone
Huberdeau – Kadri – Toffoli
Dube – Backlund – Coleman
Having eight of nine spots filled with the potential of having Jakob Pelletier in the mix is good news. The biggest gain the Flames have is the ability to not just roll four lines, but also mix and match as new situations will call for. Do you need a defensive shutdown line? Reunite Mangiapane with Backlund and Coleman. Nothing but offence? Huberdeau and Kadri could lineup with another playaer on a hot streak.
Or, that “Someone” on the top line can be yet another add is being worked on by Treliving. Only time will tell.
Can the Flames do more?
Signing Kadri gives you so many options. With that forward group—not to mention MacKenzie Weegar’s addition to the defence—head coach Darryl Sutter has plenty of options to work his magic. Calgary just proved to their fans that they are legit in contending for a Cup. I don’t think they are done just yet.