Over the last several days, there have been rumors about the New York Islanders signing UFA center Nazem Kadri. Kadri is one of the best remaining free agents this offseason, following a year in which he registered 87 points in 71 games.
Throughout his career, Kadri has been a decent goal-scorer, having tallied 30 or more goals in two separate seasons. Last season, he scored 28 goals, his highest total since 2017-18.
In addition to his offensive production, Kadri has also been among the NHL’s most penalized players. Kadri has had over 90 penalty minutes (PIMs) twice in his career, most recently in 2019-20.
To find out how Kadri would fit on the Islanders, we need to look back at his NHL career up to this point. This will help to answer an important question: should the Islanders sign Nazem Kadri?
Early Maple Leafs Career (2009-2016)
The Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Kadri 7th overall in 2009. Upon signing a three-year, entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs, Kadri returned to his junior-league club, the OHL’s London Knights.
The lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign would be Kadri’s breakout season in the NHL. He appeared in all 48 games, registering 18 goals and 26 assists for 44 points; Kadri’s goal and point totals were second on the Maple Leafs to Phil Kessel. Kadri’s contributions on offense helped Toronto to secure their first playoff berth since 2004. During the playoffs, Kadri put up one goal, four points, and 10 PIMs in a seven-game loss to the Boston Bruins in the opening round.
Kadri would be suspended four times over the next three seasons. In November 2013, Kadri was dealt a three-game suspension upon dealing a hit to the head of Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Bäckström.
In 2014-15, the Maple Leafs suspended Kadri for three games for showing up late to practice. Later that season, the NHL suspended Kadri for four games after he illegally checked Edmonton Oilers winger Matt Fraser in the head.
On April 4, 2016, Kadri was suspended for four games after cross-checking Detroit Red Wings center Luke Glendening in the head.
From 2013-14 to 2015-16, Kadri averaged 18.3 goals, 26.3 assists, 44.6 points, and 56 PIMs.
Final Years in Toronto (2016-2019)
Kadri’s 2016-17 campaign was his best yet. He amassed 32 goals, 61 points, and 95 PIMs in 82 games, all of which were career highs. Kadri finished second on the Maple Leafs in goals and third in points.
Kadri registered a goal, an assist, two points, and eight PIMs in six playoff games. The Washington Capitals eliminated Kadri and the Maple Leafs in Round 1.
In 2017-18, Kadri matched his 32 goals from a year earlier, doing so in 80 games. He ended the season with 32 goals, 23 assists, 55 points, and 42 PIMs in 80 games.
The Maple Leafs matched up with the Bruins for the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs. During the series, Kadri was suspended for three games after boarding Bruins forward Tommy Wingels in Game 1. Kadri had no goals, two assists, and 19 PIMs in four playoff games.
In 2018-19, Kadri’s offensive numbers cooled off a bit. Over 73 games, Kadri tallied 16 goals and 28 assists for 44 points, in addition to 43 PIMs.
Toronto faced Boston again in Round 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. In response to Kadri cross-checking Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk in the head during Game 2, the NHL suspended Kadri for the remainder of the round. Kadri had a goal, an assist, two points, and 19 PIMs in two postseason games.
New Beginnings in Colorado (2019-2021)
Kadri’s first season in Colorado went quite well; he registered 19 goals and 17 assists for 36 points in 51 games before a lower-body injury sidelined him. Additionally, Kadri set a new personal record for penalty minutes, totaling 97 PIMs in 2019-20.
The Avalanche finished second in the Western Conference (in both points percentage and the Seeding Round Robin), leading to a first-round series with the Arizona Coyotes. Colorado advanced to the second round with ease, eliminating Arizona in five games. The second round proved tougher, however, as the Dallas Stars eliminated the Avalanche in seven games.
Kadri was an essential player for the Avalanche, as he notched nine goals and 18 points over 15 games. Among Kadri’s nine playoff goals, five of them came in Colorado’s first-round victory over the Coyotes.
The NHL shortened the 2020-21 season to 56 games due to COVID-19. Kadri appeared in all 56 games, scoring 11 goals and 32 points, while only taking 34 PIMs.
The Avalanche entered the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs as the Presidents’ Trophy winners, giving them the top seed in the West Division. They drew the St. Louis Blues in the first round, who finished fourth in the division.
Kadri was suspended for eight games following an illegal check to the head of Blues defenseman Justin Faulk in Game 2. Colorado’s second-round elimination prevented Kadri from returning, ending his playoff campaign. Kadri finished the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs with one assist and 10 PIMs in two games.
Stanley Cup Championship Season (2021-2022)
2021-22 was perhaps the best season of Kadri’s NHL career. Kadri amassed 28 goals, 59 assists, 87 points, and 71 PIMs in 71 games.
The Avalanche finished first in the Western Conference once again, drawing the wild-card Nashville Predators in the opening round. Kadri had one goal, three points, and four PIMs in a four-game sweep over the Predators.
In the second round, Colorado faced the Blues for the second year in a row. Here, Kadri faced another controversy when he accidentally collided with Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington, removing Binnington from the series. In response to backlash from Blues fans, Kadri scored a hat-trick in Game 4, helping the Avalanche to a 6-3 win. At the end of the second round, Kadri had totaled five goals, five assists, and 10 points in 10 playoff games.
In Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, Kadri was cross-checked by Oilers forward Evander Kane, which kept him out for the rest of the series. Upon successful thumb surgery, Kadri returned and scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. Two games later, Kadri’s Cup quest ended, as the Avalanche hoisted the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001.
Kadri concluded the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs with seven goals, eight assists, and 15 points in 16 games.
Having said that, let’s go back to the question at hand and take a look at why the Islanders should sign Nazem Kadri.
Why the Islanders SHOULD Sign Kadri
While Kadri is not a super high goal-scorer, he can definitely bolster the Islanders’ offense. Brock Nelson was the only Islander to score over 30 goals last season, tallying 37 goals in 72 games.
Additionally, Kadri’s physicality would be a strong asset for the Islanders. With Zdeno Chára’s future uncertain, Kadri could be a younger option to step in as one of the team’s premier fighters.
Overall, Kadri would be a nice cross between a physical player and a decent scorer.
Now that we have looked into why the Islanders should sign Nazem Kadri, let’s investigate the other side of the argument.
Why the Islanders Should NOT Sign Kadri
Despite his success last season, Kadri’s suspension history is a bit alarming. He is a repeat offender, so he would likely be hit with a longer suspension than before if he were to be suspended while with the Islanders.
On top of this, his potential cap hit may not be great for the Islanders. Kadri’s asking price may be steeper than desired, at somewhere near $7-8 million per year.
These concerns may make or break a deal between Kadri and the Islanders.
The Islanders should sign Nazem Kadri. He may be turning 32 later this year, and he may not be the best at scoring, but he can provide a much-needed boost for the offense. The Islanders ranked 24th in the NHL in goals scored (231) last season, so the offense needs some help.
It’s your move, Lou Lamoriello.