Calgary Flames

Breaking down Nazem Kadri’s seven-year contract with the Calgary Flames

On August 18, 2022, the Calgary Flames signed top free agent centre Nazem Kadri to a seven-year contract carrying an average annual value (AAV) of $7M, ultimately worth a total contract value of $49M.

Kadri’s contract structure by year

Per PuckPedia, a no-movement clause is in effect through the first four years of Kadri’s deal, carrying $4.5M in base salary with the remaining $2.5M of the cap hit tied up in a yearly signing bonus. A modified no-trade clause carrying a 13-team no-trade list kicks in at the start of the fifth year of the contract. The signing structure then changes to carry $6M in base salary and $1M in signing bonus. Finally, years six and seven carry no bonuses and the full $7M dollar cap hit is strictly tied into base salary.

To look further into the why this contract makes sense for both the Flames and Kadri, the way it transitions from the first few years to the latter ones reveal that both parties understand Kadri will be an older player by the time the contract is up, and that there may be difficult conversations to be had once that time comes.

Kadri got his pay day as an older unrestricted free agent. Now coming in as a Stanley Cup winner, his contract represents a $2.5M raise over his previous six-year contract that was originally signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. His previous contract was worth a total of $27M, and now he’s earning nearly double that on his current contract.

In signing with the Flames as an older free agent, there’s no telling how things may look when the contract is up. Whether it includes Brad Treliving still the Flames’ general manager or if a new manager is in place by then is anyone’s guess. However, the contract details are already well-defined, and here’s what makes it work: it is structured to make it buyout-friendly. To see why, here’s a breakdown using CapFriendly’s buyout calculator.

Buyout calculation for the 2027–28 season

Realistically with the contract structure, a buyout would only happen in the final two years of the deal. Kadri would be 36 years of age heading into the 2027–28 season, and therefore the buy out ratio would be two-thirds.

Given that there would be $14,000,000 remaining in salary, it would entail an overall cost of $9,333,333 and would consist of $4,666,667 in overall savings. A reminder that buyouts span twice the length of the remaining years and given that there’d be two years remaining in the contract at this stage, the buyout length would span four years.

SeasonInitial Base SalaryInitial Cap HitSigning BonusBuyout CostPost-Buyout EarningsSavingsCap Hit

Buyout calculation for the 2028–29 season

Similarly, if the Flames instead need to buy Kadri out in his final year, it’d look something like this:

SeasonInitial Base SalaryInitial Cap HitSigning BonusBuyout CostPost-Buyout EarningsSavingsCap Hit

In this scenario, Kadri would be 37 years of age at the time of the buyout, so again the buyout ratio is two-thirds. Given that there would be $7M remaining in salary, it would entail an overall cost of $4,666,667 and would consist of $2,333,333 in overall savings. Again, at one year remaining on his contract, the buyout length would span two years.

Calgary’s excited to have Kadri

Without a doubt, signing Kadri to a long-term contract makes him another big-name star that wants to play with Calgary. Now having attracted the likes of Jacob Markstrom, Blake Coleman, and even Jonathan Huberdeau, Calgary’s cementing itself as a destination to play and compete in. Kadri signing with the Flames is the cherry on top.

Whatever he brings to the table in the first few years of the contract will help the Flames in their “win-now” mode, and their window to compete is wide open. We’ll see how long that window lasts as performance levels will inevitably fight against age curves.

For Kadri, he’ll be a much older forward when his contract expires. Making sure that his entire $7M cap hit would be strictly base salary structured in years six and seven of the deal was a smart organizational move. Ultimately, it makes the tail-end of this deal fairly buyout-friendly. Kadri’s goal is to keep his performance up as to not get bought out. After all, he’s signing on to play with a competitor, so let’s hope for everyone’s sake that he’s able to remain competitive for all seven years.

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