Why the NY Rangers should make a serious run at Nazem Kadri

NY Rangers, Nazem Kadri (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NY Rangers, Nazem Kadri (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Happy NHL Free Agency Day! The madness starts today and the NY Rangers should be one of the teams in on free agent forward, Nazem Kadri. Now, before we get started, many of you will be screaming that there is no way on God’s green earth that the Rangers will be able to meet Kadri’s salary demands. True, but there could be a way to make this deal work. More on that later though.

Firstly, it is being captain obvious to state that the Blueshirts need to strengthen at center heading into Day One of Free Agency. With Andrew Copp, Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano all set to test the open market, that leaves just Mika Zibanejad and Filip Chytil as the only two recognized pivots on the NHL roster.

As a result, General Manager Chris Drury has to come out of Free Agency with one if not two centers, and there are reports today that UFA Vincent Trocheck could sign with the Blueshirts having put up 51 points (21 G, 30 A) in 81 regular season games with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2021-22.

However, after Evgeni Malkin re-signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night, Kadri is arguably one of the finest centers available on the open market, and he would be a perfect fit for the Rangers.

NY Rangers, Nazem Kadri
NY Rangers, Nazem Kadri (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

NY Rangers should do whatever it takes to bring Kadri to MSG

First and foremost, the Rangers need a second-line center to form a lethal two-headed monster with Mika Zibanejad. They need someone who is going to produce offense at a high level and help to provide matchup nightmares for opponents, but they also need a player who is going to win faceoffs, play responsible defense and play a hard-nosed 200-foot game.

Kadri ticks all of those boxes and more. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, Kadri recorded 357 points (161 G, 196 A) across a 10-year span with the Toronto Maple Leafs, racking up 814 hits and amassing a 48% win percentage in the faceoff circle.

Also known for his ability to be a pest on the ice – occasionally taking it too far and getting in trouble with the NHL – Kadri has been the definition of a true two-way center that can impact games at both ends of the ice.

Having spent the last three seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, Kadri also knows what it takes to perform in the heat of postseason battle having played in 33 Stanley Cup Playoff games during that span, putting up 16 goals and 18 assists for 34 points with an impressive 52.1% winning percentage in the faceoff circle.

He also knows what it takes to win having helped the Avs win the Stanley Cup this past postseason. The veteran played a huge role in Colorado’s success, recording 15 points (seven G, eight A) in 16 games with 20 hits. Kadri even recovered from a couple of serious injuries to help Colorado beat the reigning two-time Stanley Cup Champions the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final, underlining both his durability and his heart and character.

Given that the Rangers are now seen to be in win-now mode, making a splash by signing Kadri would signal the franchise’s intention to take that next giant leap after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021-22.

Kadri would give the Blueshirts a legit second-line center, and he would also considerably boost the team’s overall strength in depth at the pivot position. Able to put up 50 plus points every year, excellent in the faceoff circle, able to get to the dirty areas and play a physical, hard-nosed game and boasting postseason experience, the 31-year-old makes too much sense for the Rangers.

Of course, there is one major caveat at play here…

NY Rangers, Nazem Kadri
NY Rangers, Nazem Kadri (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

Drury would have to get clever to pull off a deal for Kadri

As everyone knows, the Rangers are in what we love to call salary cap hell. Heading into Free Agency, they have around $10 million in cap space per CapFriendly but, with lots to do, that will soon go.

Given that Kadri is expected to get anywhere between $6-$10 million on the open market, that would seemingly take the Rangers out of the chase. However, there are ways a deal like this could be executed, but Drury would have to get clever.

Outside of trying to move pieces to create extra cap room, Drury could look to execute a sign-and-trade with a rebuilding team. As floated by Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the Rangers could get Kadri to sign with a third team which would then assume 50 percent of his salary before sending him to New York for a package of picks and prospects.

That would enable the Rangers to not only sign Kadri but to get him at a respectable AAV that would then give them the freedom to acquire other pieces and address other needs, like maybe re-signing Vatranto and Tyler Motte.

There are a couple of teams – including the Chicago Blackhawks who are in the midst of a huge teardown – that would be interested in acquiring future assets for a rebuild in return for taking on some salary.

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That seems the only feasible way the Rangers could swing a deal for Kadri today and, given everything he would bring to Madison Square Garden, it is a complicated dance that would be well worth taking part in. After all, the prize is well worth giving up some assets for in this case given Kadri’s quality as a legit second-line center. Something this Rangers team needs badly.