Once again, the Colorado Avalanche faced a disappointing end to the season, bowing out in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This year was different, though. There were legitimate Stanley Cup hopes, and when a team faces disappointment like that, some changes will need to be made. One name that has come into question quite is Nazem Kadri, who was suspended seven games after an illegal hit to the head took him out in round one.
Now he is heading into the final year of his contract and will likely be looking for at least a partial raise, leading to many questions for the Avalanche now and going forward. Should they re-sign him, play it out or trade him? Let’s take a look at the arguments both for and against trading Kadri.
Arguments For Trading Kadri
Is He Reliable?
This is the biggest question on everyone’s mind coming out of the postseason. Can Kadri be trusted to be in the lineup when you need him? Sure, his suspension is a first for him while in Denver. However, ask the Toronto Maple Leafs what it’s like to lose their depth center in round one of the playoffs. It happened in back-to-back seasons and was the leading reason Colorado got such a good deal when acquiring him.
Sometimes accidents happen. It’s possible to have bad luck three years in a row. However, the Kadri incidents aren’t accidents. In Toronto, he purposefully targeted players when he felt a hit was unwarranted, leading to two brutal plays that saw him miss the rest of his team's playoff run. While his hit wasn’t out of rage this season, it was still incredibly reckless and dangerous. Not only that, but it came in a game and series the Avalanche were already dominating.
This all leads to the question: Can Kadri be available when you need him? Or will teams get under his skin and cause him to be suspended yet again? If the Avs feel the answer is the latter, the only option should be to move him. The only thing that matters to this team is playoff success. If you can’t guarantee help from a player, they shouldn’t be there.
This may be the strongest argument to move on from Kadri. Ignoring his lack of playoff action, Kadri struggled in the regular season this year compared to normal. His raw point totals took a dip with 32 in 56 games this year, down from 36 in 51 last year and 44 in 73 the year prior. As players get older, they may naturally start to produce less. However, to remain effective their overall game needs to change.
Examining this can be difficult, but advanced stats can help. From EvolvingHockey, here is Kadri’s performance this year compared to the three previous seasons combined.
From above you can see that Kadri’s game has declined in a few areas. This season his production in actual G/60 and CF/60 dropped, which stays in line with how his points dropped too. However, his defensive game didn’t quite grow enough to balance it out, with him still showing as an average or below average forward in xGA and CA/60.
The power-play production dropped aggressively as well, but that isn’t as much of a concern for the Avs given all the other options available. The downward trend since entering Colorado should be of some concern, though—more so for the next contract, but also in terms of what to do in a competing window right now. We can also see from HockeyViz Kadri’s impact at 5v5.
Kadri’s isolated 5v5 impact shown above has gotten worse over the past few years. He remains very similar on the defensive end of things, but the offense is slowing down. Keeping this in mind going forward is critical. If the Avs feel this will only continue to decline, this may be the highest value he has left. Therefore, moving on from him would be the logical option.
Cap Space and Asset Value
The final area to examine when arguing for trading Kadri would be what can you do with the cap space, and how do you value losing an asset for nothing? Ideally you never lose assets without getting something in return. However, the salary cap in the NHL makes it so that almost every team moves on from a player or two each year that they’d maybe not want to.
Sometimes teams can’t afford this. Those rebuilding need all the assets they can get to become good again and can’t afford to let UFAs walk for nothing. But the Avs are not in that position. They have a win-now mentality, and one year of added value may be more than what can be received in a trade. In fact, they look to acquire players on one-year deals, such as Brandon Saad. Still, the 2C of your team isn’t an average player to lose. Sakic has a big decision to make. Do they run it back for one more year with a good chance he leaves for nothing? Or do they try and find a partner to swap with now? This might depend on the options available.
For example, you can get back a lesser, cheaper piece. The Ottawa Senators have been linked to Kadri lately. The biggest question is would they want someone like Chris Tierney back, who also has one more year at a lower price? Ottawa would have to retain, but Colorado could get a lesser player and a pick plus cap space. Or, would the Avalanche rather get a pick and a prospect, and try to replace Kadri either internally or via free agency? It’s hard to give an answer one way or another without knowing exactly what the options are.
One thing is for sure is Colorado needs to be mindful of the cap this year and going forward. Cale Makar is in for a massive raise, and Gabriel Landeskog will very likely be getting one too. Evolving Hockey has its most likely contracts as 8 years at 10.3 million for Makar and 8 years at 9.9 million for Landeskog. Even if the numbers aren’t quite that high, there will be a significant increase regardless. If the Avs think Kadri’s production can be replaced by someone cheaper, moving his cap hit would be the smart thing to do.
Arguments Against Trading Kadri
Don’t Sell Low
Now, let’s take a look at why Colorado shouldn’t sell Kadri. The biggest may be that it’s almost always a bad idea to sell low in the NHL. We’ve examined Kadri’s results and have seen that he is declining. However, given what happened with the suspension, this may still be his lowest possible value. Making a trade just for the sake of change is never a good idea. If that’s the only option, it’s better for the Avs to stay put.
Maybe they try to recoup his value to start the year, and if there is a better option at the trade deadline, they pull the trigger then. However, one thing is for sure, if the deals out there aren’t up to what the front office deems fair, trading Kadri should be off the table. Too many times teams have been burned by trading someone when they are at their lowest point. Ryan O’Reilly and Taylor Hall are two names that come to mind. If the value Kadri will bring on the ice is greater than what the Avs can get in return, keeping him is the right call.
Must Win Now
The next argument is that the Avs are in win-now mode and should be putting all their cards on the table. Yes, it’s been a disappointing end to the recent seasons, but this team will only continue to get more expensive as players, such as Nathan MacKinnon, are due for raises, too. If the cap fits, keeping all your pieces pushing to win now is the important thing. If the Avs feel they may take even a slight step back from trading Kadri, you can argue it doesn’t make sense to do it.
Depth Needed Come Playoffs
Finally, the last reason you keep Kadri is that regardless of his decline, you need all the depth you can get in the playoffs. Colorado knows this all too well, as it has been eliminated because of a lack of it before. Sakic has done a good job surrounding the team with talent, but more can always be done.
Even if Kadri walks for nothing in free agency, having him somewhere in the lineup may be his most effective use. Whether that’s at the second-line center position, third-line or even on the wing, having him means you’re likely bumping someone else who isn’t as good out. Every point is critical come playoff time, and having veterans like Kadri may prove helpful—even after other failed attempts.
Sakic’s decision on what to do with Kadri will be a tough one, but it may ultimately be out of his hands. It will likely come down to how other teams view what Kadri has left to offer and what they want to give up for it. If the market is still there for him, Kadri is a player the Avs could win a trade with. However, if the league is as low on him as it looks right now, the best thing to do is to stay the course.
One thing is for sure, this will not be a quiet offseason for the Avs. Not only is the Seattle Kraken expansion draft looming, but they have Makar’s and Landeskog’s contracts to negotiate and Saad to touch base with, too. Kadri will only be one domino in a busy summer for Colorado.