NHL - US Sports: Where next for Nazem Kadri?
Stanley Cup-winning forward Nazem Kadri is the biggest name remaining on the NHL free agency market and a number of options appear open to the proven performer.
Following a career season in which he scored 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in the regular season and 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 16 games on Colorado Avalanche's run to the Cup it's curious that 31-year-old hasn't been snapped up.
So why is he still available three weeks since free agency opened and where might he end up?
Islanders the favourites
Reports in recent days suggest that Kadri will be heading to New York to join the Islanders.
But before the deal can be confirmed, it appears that the Islanders want to ensure that they can fit his demands of around $7million annually within their wage cap structure.
New York currently have just over $10m in cap space, but need to ensure they have room to sign standout defenceman Noah Dobson, recently acquired Alexander Romanov and 2016 first-round draft pick Kieffer Bellows to new contracts.
The traditionally secretive General Manager of the Islanders, Lou Lamoriello, is said have made players such as Semyon Varlamov, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier available for trade to make the required cap room for Kadri.
The expectation is that New York won't announce any deal until the salary space is created so the waiting game is likely to go if that is indeed his destination.
Role with Islanders
Despite missing the playoffs completely last season, the Islanders continue to believe that they aren't far away from being Stanley Cup contenders after reaching the semi-finals two seasons straight previously.
New York clearly took a step back last season, but the addition of a dynamic talent like Kadri could quickly see them back in the mix again.
The Islanders already have two top-end centremen in Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson, so the fit for Kadri - who excels in the middle - isn't immediately obvious and would likely mean a shift to the wing for either Barzal or Nelson.
Nelson is the more likely, as he scored 37 goals last season and is generally a better finisher than Barzal. But an argument can also be made for moving Barzal wide, which could allow him more open ice to weave his magic, while better hide his defensive deficiencies.
Alternatively, third line centreman Jean-Gabriel Pageau could be moved and a trio of Barzal, Nelson and Kadri up the middle would certainly be amongst the league's best, but that feels a pipedream for Lamoriello.
The Islanders are already one of the oldest teams in the NHL and are clearly in win-now mode.
Despite not fitting perfectly with their needs, Kadri would definitely bolster the line-up and improve their short-term cup chances.
Seeking significant term, it's unclear how the move would play out longer-term though.
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Kadri had been honest that a return to Colorado was one of his top options, which is hardly surprising given what the two accomplished together.
However, like the Islanders and all Stanley Cup champions before them in the salary cap era, a deserved hike on his $4.5m annual wage makes a return tricky, especially given superstar Nathan MacKinnon requires a new deal within the next 12 months.
The Avalanche are also said to have been concerned about Kadri's request for term, not wanting to commit a large sum to a player heading into the latter years of his career.
The Calgary Flames lost two of their biggest stars this offseason, with Johnny Gaudreau signing for the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent and Matthew Tkachuk being traded to Florida Panthers after telling the Flames he wouldn't sign a new contract.
To their credit, Calgary softened the blow by getting forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenceman MacKenzie Weegar in the trade with Florida, but as it stands they are clearly less potent offensively than they were last season.
Convincing Kadri to join appears to be the best avenue to do that and, unlike other interested parties, the Flames have the cap room to make a deal work.
Other fits for Kadri
The Boston Bruins are still yet to announce Captain Patrice Bergeron's return, with the 37-year-old said to be considering his playing future. If the five-time Selke Trophy winning centre was to call time on his illustrious career, Kadri would be the perfect fit to fill his huge shoes.
And finally, the Detroit Red Wings are a team who have decided their re-build is over and that it's time to start making some noise in the league again.
Several veteran players have been added to a core of exciting youngsters and Kadri would be another statement addition for a storied franchise seeking to regain past glories.