Islanders: Could Lamoriello's interest in Kadri lead to trading a center?

Colorado Avalanche v Edmonton Oilers
Colorado Avalanche v Edmonton Oilers / Codie McLachlan/GettyImages

Another day passes and the New York Islanders remain the only team not to have made a transaction since the opening of free agency, Calle Odelius aside. The Matthew Tkachuk situation seemingly presented opportunity for Isles GM Lou Lamoriello to become a beneficiary of the team that acquired the 24-year-old winger until the Florida Panthers swooped in for a blockbuster. With the structure of the trade, it's unlikely either team has a corresponding move coming for Lamoriello to sink his teeth into. The only inkling we have about what Lamoriello plans to do next is the idea that the door isn't closed on the Islanders signing Nazem Kadri. If that is the big off-season acquisition, how does the soon-to-be 32-year-old fit?

Before signing off social media for the weekend, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz gave Islander fans insight on what he's hearing about Kadri and the Islanders:

"My final thought before the weekend is after texting with a few sources around the league today, I do believe there is still a *chance* that Nazem Kadri ends up with the Islanders. I can’t give odds, and they might be slim, but I don’t believe the door is closed on that yet"

Kevin Kurz

Although slim, it appears Lamoriello is lurking in on the Kadri situation. The London, Ontario native centered the Colorado Avalanche's second line last season scoring 28 goals and 59 assists. After winning the Stanley Cup, Kadri came into the 2022 free agency period as the second-best player available next to Johnny Gaudreau.

It's now 10 days after the free agency window opened and Kadri is still unsigned. If history tells us anything, Lamoriello already had Kadri put pen to paper and locked the signed contract in his top drawer. If so, could there be a corresponding move that follows? It feels unlikely that Lamoriello signed Kadri up to play out of position on the wing. However, the Islanders have four solid centers already, so it raises the question of where Kadri will play.

Some have speculated as to whether or not the Islanders would move Mathew Barzal or Brock Nelson to the wing. It feels rather unlikely that the Islanders want to move their star player in Barzal out of position, and after an excellent season in which Nelson scored 37 goals, why move him out of position - or better yet his comfort zone?

That leaves J.G. Pageau. Pageau is the definition of a Swiss Army knife for the Islanders. He does it all from winning faceoffs, to killing penalties, and scoring goals. He's played up and down the lineup and occasionally played on the wing when the Islanders found themselves shorthanded mid-game. Kadri may command upwards of $7 million on the open market which means Lamoriello will need to shed some salary. So a few things come to mind here. If Kadri comes on board, Josh Bailey certainly could be the odd man out. If so, there's a spot on the wing that someone needs to fill. However, it still feels unlikely one of Pageau or Kadri would play out of position.

So what's left? Could Lamoriello be contemplating trading away a center? Both Nelson and Pageau have modified 16-team no-trade lists. That cuts half of the NHL in half in terms of landing destinations, however, there are still 16 teams left for one of the centers to be traded to. After hearing about "hockey trades" and now an elongated silence from Lamoriello, could the Hall-of-fame GM be conjuring up something big? Trading from a position of strength seems plausible if Lamoriello can convince Kadri to sign on Long Island, opening up the opportunity to acquire a top-end winger to play with Barzal on the top line in a "hockey trade." Despite Nelson and Pageau having somewhat large contracts, they're still both excellent centers that some team is bound to covet.

It's all speculation of course, but it seems strange to hear about "hockey trades," and now we're sitting halfway through summer with no changes to the roster other than Alexander Romanov. With nothing else except whispers of a possible Kadri acquisition to hang our hats on, it makes you wonder if something big could be brewing behind the scenes, and it might be the Islanders' best bet to acquire that scoring winger they've been looking for.