The Calgary Flames continued to make the most noise this offseason by executing yet another massive day of deals. The team signed recent Stanley Cup winner Nazem Kadri to a seven year, $7M AAV contract, which will make him the highest paid player on the team next season before Jonathan Huberdeau’s contract kicks in in 2023–24.
Due to this massive deal, the Flames had to make a corresponding salary cap move. This resulted in franchise stalwart Sean Monahan being shipped to Montreal along with the 2025 first-round pick acquired in the Matthew Tkachuk deal. The trade itself was astounding, coming with some of the craziest conditions of any recent NHL trade.
The summer of Brad Treliving continues as yesterday seemed like the 100th major news day that he has executed this offseason. After losing Johnny Gaudreau in free agency, trading Tkachuk for Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, signing Huberdeau to the biggest contract in franchise history, extending Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington, it’s possible that August 18 was the craziest day yet.
Let’s take a look at just how this deal came down and the timeline that led to Nazem Kadri signing with the Flames.
The open to 2022 NHL free agency
The Calgary Flames opened free agency as one of the biggest teams on the rocks. They were just made aware that Gaudreau was not re-signing with the team and would be heading to market as an unrestricted free agent. Frustratingly, after spending months trying to re-sign Gaudreau, it became a sudden pivot with instant necessity to move on.
All of a sudden the team had around $10.5M in cap space to spend and many linked Kadri to the Flames for this reason.
At the time though, the Flames were most likely more focused on signing Matthew Tkachuk to a long-term deal. Additionally—as reported by Pat Steinberg—the Flames even had another conversation with Gaudreau on the opening of free agency to return for seven years at $11M a season. This of course fell through.
It was reported that the Flames had reached out to gauge interest with Kadri, but at the time most likely didn’t know the status of a Tkachuk contract in order to make that decision or even go on a spending spree. It simply did not make sense to pursue Kadri with Tkachuk still here.
Kadri on the other hand was one of the top two most coveted free agents alongside Gaudreau, and was looking to cash in with a big contract. Kadri was looking to join a competitive team, and the teams that fit that bill at the time was slim as competitors were all at or near the salary cap already.
His incumbent team, the Colorado Avalanche, were the ones that made the most sense. However, they needed to make a ton of corresponding moves in order to achieve that.
One week after free agent frenzy
With Kadri still unsigned, the news on the market was that the Avalanche, New York Islanders, Seattle Kraken, and Detroit Red Wings were the most interested in Kadri. The Flames were noted to have interest, but Elliotte Friedman seemed to be the only insider to note that it was unconfirmed just how much dialogue had occurred.
Simultaneously, Tkachuk had just informed the Flames he would not be signing a long-term contract with the team. The organization had a limited time to execute a potential deal in a plausible losing trade. Miraculously, Brad Treliving responded by orchestrating the biggest trade of the salary cap era. In gaining Huberdeau and Weegar, it was clear that the Flames were not destined for a rebuild anytime soon.
Tidying up the RFAs
The Flames next order of business were finalizing the deals of both Kylington and Mangiapane. As fate would have it, both were coincidentally done on the same day. Despite the league drawing lines between the Flames’ cap space and a potential Kadri deal, it was clear that the Flames wanted to get their home grown products done first.
After both deals were signed, the Flames had just under $2.8M of cap space. Clearly, it was impossible to fit Kadri under and most expected him to take his talents elsewhere.
Throughout this period, the Kadri talk remained quiet with the same teams being involved to varying degrees. It was rumoured at one point that Kadri had a deal in place with the New York Islanders at seven years, for $7.5M per season, but it was never confirmed by any legitimate sources.
The last seven days
Elliotte Friedman reported today that over the course of the last week, the Flames emerged as the front runner and Kadri’s preferred destination. Even with numerous reports coming out saying that Kadri would be going to the Islanders, the Flames quietly remained as the team of interest.
For a number of reasons, the Flames made the most sense. First, with the acquisitions of Huberdeau and Weegar, the Flames remained competitive and possibly improved their forward group enough to entice for Kadri to join as a key forward. Of all teams interested—outside of the Avalanche—the Flames were the most competitive not only next year but for years to come. More importantly, the Flames were the most aggressive and willing to offer the term that other teams wouldn’t.
Although it is highly risky to sign a 32-year-old to a seven year-contract, it was evident that the Flames had pinpointed their guy and weren’t going to let him slip away.
Friedman reported that a deal was done earlier this week, but the Flames needed to make a corresponding move to clear cap space. This of course, was the Monahan trade.
Putting the pen to paper for a done deal
Brad Treliving used a fishing analogy yesterday during his media availability:
“You know it’s a little bit like fishing. Sometimes you think you got it on the hook and then it goes away a little bit and then you see if you can get it back.”– Calgary Flames General Manager Brad Treliving
Earlier on in the process I think the Flames didn’t see this happening, but after years of “just missing out” the Flames and Brad Treliving got their guy.