Unsigned UFA Nazem Kadri enters uncharted territory a month after free agency day

Jun 22, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri (91) stands on the ice prior to a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third period in game four of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Nazem Kadri entered uncharted territory on Saturday. He remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent a month after free agency day.

Looking for a hefty long-term deal, the 31-year-old fresh off a Stanley Cup championship run with the Avalanche began the offseason as arguably the biggest center on the market. In what has been an exciting summer of player movement, Kadri, who will celebrate his day with the Cup on Aug. 27, has yet to put ink to paper.

While the NHL often sees contract signings trickle in a month after free agency begins, it’s not often you see all-stars in the prime of their career remain unsigned. Kadri could become the biggest unrestricted free agent signing past the month mark in modern NHL history.

In the salary cap era, which dates back to 2005, only three unrestricted free agents have signed a one-way, multi-year deal this late into the offseason. Kadri is coming off a career-high 87 points in 71 games. The others were simply not of his caliber.

Kadri’s former teammate Jake Gardiner, who signed a four-year, $16.2 million contract with Carolina in September 2019 received the most term and dollars a UFA has gotten over a month from free agency day. The other deals were two years in length, with Anaheim signing UFA center Antoine Vermette in the summer of 2016 ($1.75 million AAV) and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo with Detroit in 2012 ($2.5 million AAV).

Other notable free agents each received one-year contracts. Most recently, Anthony Duclair signed a one-year, $1.7 million deal with Florida in 2020. Kevin Shattenkirk and Patrick Maroon (Tampa Bay, 2019), Thomas Vanek (Vancouver, 2017) and Alex Tanguay (Tampa Bay, 2009) round out the list.

Kadri spent a number of months preparing for what could be the biggest deal he signs in his career. He switched agents during the regular season, hiring Darren Ferris, well known for helping client Mitch Marner sign a lucrative contract with Toronto in 2019. Coming off a six-year, $27 million deal, Kadri was rumored to have his sights set on a max-term contract upwards of $7 million per season.

Multiple destinations expected to have interest in him chose to look elsewhere on July 13, the day free agency opened. Detroit signed Andrew Copp, the New York Rangers nabbed Vincent Trochek and Anaheim locked up Ryan Strome. Another potential destination, the New York Islanders, had their sights set on free agent winger Johnny Gaudreau.

After Gaudreau left Calgary for Columbus, many speculated that the Flames and Islanders could express interest in Kadri. Calgary had other business to attend to with all-star winger Matthew Tkachuk. But the thought of Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello shifting his focus to Kadri made a lot of sense.

Lamoriello was at the helm for the Maple Leafs in 2016 when Kadri signed his six-year extension that expired this summer.

Kadri could also choose to return to the Avs. While Colorado is likely uninterested in overcommitting to Kadri, general manager Chris MacFarland said last month that he’s asked Kadri’s agent to keep Colorado in the loop on any offers that come his way.

The Avalanche have yet to replace Kadri, although MacFarland also made it clear that he’s comfortable rolling with the team as currently constructed. J.T. Compher, Alex Newhook or perhaps even Mikko Rantanen could slot in as the No. 2 center.

The Avs have roughly $4.5 million in available cap space.

NHL insider Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff said on Tuesday that he believes the Islanders have an offer in the seven-year, $49 million range on the table for Kadri while Colorado is offering something closer to four years, $24 million.

Whether he signs with New York, returns to Colorado, or chooses another destination, it’s likely Kadri’s deal will be larger than Gardiner’s contract with Carolina.

Training camps around the NHL are expected to commence in just over a month.

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Aarif Deen is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.
Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

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