While many teams around the NHL look quite different after a busy last few weeks, the New York Islanders aren’t one of them.
They kicked off the offseason in a big way with a trade to acquire Alexander Romanov from the Montreal Canadiens. However, they didn’t add in free agency (at least to this point). They seemingly weren’t ever close to landing Johnny Gaudreau, the offseason’s biggest free agent, and didn’t manage to acquire J.T. Miller, despite the reports.
However, the Islanders have been linked to another high-profile name, being Nazem Kadri.
Kadri is coming off a massive season, winning the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. The center scored 28 goals and 87 points in 71 games, a pace of 32 goals and 100 points per 82 games. Lou Lamoriello is also familiar with Kadri from their time together with the Toronto Maple Leafs, so there may be an element of comfortability with the player.
It seems like over the last several years, the Islanders have been in the mix to add a top forward. That said, adding a center in Kadri seems like a bit of an unexpected fit. With a combination of Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson as the team’s top two centers and Jean-Gabriel Pageau as a solid third-line option, there isn’t an obvious fit with Kadri. Someone could be shifted to the wing but it still seems like a bit of an odd move, given the team has three natural centers. While the Islanders don’t need to be looking exclusively for a winger, it would be the most seamless fit.
That said, year after year, we know the Islanders need to make a major upgrade to their forward group to take the next step, yet no significant moves are made. The likes of Pageau and Kyle Palmieri are solid top-nine forwards but obviously aren’t going to be the impact players the team needs. They’ve ranked 20th in the league or worse in goals per game for the last four years. This year, it became more visible than ever that their lack of offense was an issue and with New York finally seeming like the frontrunner to land a top forward, this could be the move they need to make.
There are some concerns about signing Kadri, though. For starters, he’s not going to come cheap after his huge year, even though the results are a bit of an outlier. Over 180 games in the three seasons prior to 2021-22, Kadri had averaged a pace of just 21 goals and 51 points per 82 games. Then considering he won’t necessarily have the same top talent around him in New York as he did in Colorado and we’ll almost certainly see a huge drop-off from his 2021-22 numbers.
He’ll also be 32 years old in October, meaning there has to be some concern of a decline. Kadri will likely end up with quite a bit of term on his next deal based on his play from this past season but as a result, his deal could cause issues down the road. He may have warranted a big enough contract that it's tough to live up to.
So we’ll see how this plays out. Obviously, the Islanders being in on a big-name free agent is exciting but whether or not Kadri is the difference-maker they need remains to be seen.