As summer rolls on for the Nashville Predators, and as we watch the team that eliminated them in the first round gear up for the Stanley Cup Final, there’s plenty of time to speculate on what might happen once free agency opens up.
The biggest question is whether Filip Forsberg will re-sign with the Preds. We still have no word on that front, and we likely won’t hear anything until the Stanley Cup has been awarded.
There are a few other unrestricted free agents leaving Nashville: Nick Cousins, Dave Rittich, Matt Benning, and Ben Harpur. I don’t expect any of those to sign in Nashville.
Several restricted free agents will soon be given qualifying offers, with the hopes that several of them sign longer term contracts in the process. Yakov Trenin, Cody Glass, and Jeremy Lauzon are the key names. Luke Kunin’s qualifying offer would have to be $2.3 million and I can’t see the Preds making that offer.
But what about the ever alluring free agent pool that David Poile can dip his toes into starting July 13th?
Over the next few weeks, I’ll profile some target possibilities.
Today we begin with a player the Preds are very familiar with after the four game sweep: Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri.
Would Kadri fit with the Nashville Predators in 2022-23?
Nazem Kadri an intense player with scoring touch
After being traded from Toronto to Colorado in the summer of 2019, Nazem Kadri had a fairly pedestrian two years for the Avalanche. He collected 68 points over 107 games between 2019 and 2021, a decent stretch for a bottom six forward, but not close to what Colorado expected out of the former 7th overall pick in 2009.
But Kadri’s 2021-22 season has all but made up for that. He put up 87 points in 71 games for the Avs, including 29 power play points, the most ever in a season for Kadri. He was a consistent play maker for Colorado when they were missing key players like Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon, and he didn’t let up once they returned.
His playoff performance has also been impressive, and it’s a big reason why Colorado is headed to their third ever Stanley Cup Final. He has 14 points in 13 games. He was particularly effective against the Blues in round two, where he scored a hat trick on the road in Game 4. That swung the series back in Colorado’s favor, with the Avs winning in six games.
But all this talk of points and scoring ignores what is arguably Nazem Kadri’s most obvious feature: his aggression.
Make no mistake, Kadri is a bully on the ice. He plays an extremely physical game at both ends, often outside of the rules of the game, and often leading to trips to the penalty box for both teams.
This postseason, he landed in hot water after a hit on Jordan Binnington (which may not have been entirely his fault… plus the response from the Blues fans in St. Louis was inexcusable) and Kadri has a history of bad actions in the playoffs.
In fact, Kadri’s style of play put a target on his back, leading to an illegal hit by Evander Kane in the Western Conference Finals. Kadri sustained an injury on that play and is likely out for the rest of the playoffs.
Kadri was a thorn in the Preds’ side (one of many) during the Avs’ four game sweep in the first round. He effectively neutralized the Preds’ toughest players like Tanner Jeannot and Luke Kunin, both by occupying their attention and by putting the puck in the net.
Would Nazem Kadri be a good fit in Nashville?
Honestly? Yes he would.
If there’s any single player the Nashville Predators are trying to match identities with, it’s Nazem Kadri.
John Hynes has clearly steered this team into aggressive waters. He’s overseen an evolution from a timid, soft Preds team in 2019 to one with significant punch and feistiness. The Preds were the league’s most penalized team in 2021-22, and that included a league high 61 major penalties.
Nazem Kadri would fit right in with the team’s identity, especially because he would also help resolve a significant deficit: puck skills.
At the end of season press conference, John Hynes talked about the next evolution of the Nashville Predators. This would involve adding skill and speed to the lineup. This was all a part of the larger plan, according to Hynes. A “Phase Two” in a sense, with “Phase One” being to become a more physically imposing and intimidating team.
Kadri would be a significant upgrade in skill over players like Nick Cousins and Luke Kunin. He would probably slot immediately into the 2nd line Center or Wing role, perhaps even playing alongside Ryan Johansen. Add a “shoot first” winger on the other side (like Eeli Tolvanen) and, along with re-signing Filip Forsberg to reunite him with Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund, you’ve got a seriously dangerous top six.
Having said that, I doubt the Predators pursue Kadri. He will turn 32 years old in October and the Preds have already said they want to get younger. On top of that, he’s due a pay raise from his $4.5 million salary this year. Even though David Poile has over $24 million to spend, I doubt he wants to occupy $5-6 million of it signing a 32-year-old.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —