Despite GM Lou Lamoriello's professed disappointment in his forward group, the Islanders have yet to improve their offense up front this off-season. Two weeks after the start of free agency, there is arguably only one impactful forward left unsigned in Nazem Kadri.
Kadri's game is appealing and has attributes that Lamoriello covets. An offensively gifted two-way player, he brings a physical presence and ability to get under an opponent's skin. Coming off a Stanley Cup victory with the Colorado Avalanche, Kadri carries a winning DNA and would fit well with an Islanders group that takes pride in being hard to play against night in and night out.
However, there are underlying concerns for any team that locks up Kadri, and some that are more present when looking at the Islanders as a potential destination.
Age Old Question
Kadri turns 32 in early October. Giving a long-term deal to someone in their early 30's could come back to bite the Isles in 2-3 years' time. And as past and this off-season have proven, shedding unwanted contracts has become increasingly expensive. Further, those contracts may inhibit a team's ability to retain younger players when they are due for a raise in time.
While Kadri is a good offensive player, his track record tells us his 87-point season from last year (28 Goals) was a career year. Keep in mind Kadri has only broken 50 points three times in a season. Can Kadri be a 55-60 point player for the Islanders over the next three years? Even with Lane Lambert behind the bench, the Islanders are still expected to be a defensive first team. Expecting Kadri to put up the same numbers he did with high-flying Colorado would be unrealistic.
Not a Wing Man
Kadri is a center, a position of strength for the Islanders across all four lines.
The Isles are set down the middle so does that mean Kadri moves to the wing? If not then the candidates to move to the wing seem to be Mathew Barzal or Brock Nelson. Whoever moves to the wing if Kadri was to be signed would that make them less effective? These are all key concerns.
Let's not forget that Kadri with both Toronto and Colorado has had lengthy suspensions in the playoffs due to his improper - arguably dangerous play on the ice. For both teams, he missed critical games during the post-season. The old saying goes "availability is the best ability" and Kadri has yet to prove he has learned his lesson. Some thought he should be suspended this past post-season after being involved in a collision with St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington.
Adding Kadri would check the box as something to get excited about but would it would work at a high level and make the Isles a contender? The only guarantee is that there would be a lot of unknowns around how Kadri fits with the team and how his presence changes the construct of the lineup moving forward.