Islanders: Nazem Kadri has always been Lou Lamoriello's guy

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders
Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello is known for his loyalty.

He's loyal to his style, committed to his ways, and devoted to the type of players that go to battle for his team. In his 3+ years as Islanders GM, he has re-signed his own free agents with no notable exceptions. He never passes up an opportunity to reaffirm his confidence in his group, even if they are occasionally put on notice.

In his previous role, as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the players he was most loyal to was Nazem Kadri. In 2015, Toronto signed a 25-year-old Kadri to a one-year $4.1 million 'prove-it' type deal as a last attempt to get the most out of the former first-round pick. Kadri's 2015-16 season had bumps along the way, including a suspension and being fined for diving. But he showed Lamoriello and the Leafs enough to earn a 6-year, $27M contract extension and responded with back-to-back 32-goal seasons the next two years.

"I love the way he competes. I’ve seen him get hit at different times and he just comes right back. He’s not afraid to give it, and what you respect the most about him is he can take it. He’s not a retaliatory type of player, but he’ll get you at the right time, and at the right place. He’s one that I wouldn’t mind going in a foxhole with."

Lou Lamoriello in 2016

When Lamoriello went to Toronto shortly after they hired Mike Babcock, it was clear that the original-six franchise was going to undergo a shift in culture and in personnel. But early on, Kadri became a favorite of Lamoriello. He was a 'gamer,' a player Lamoriello could build his culture around. Kadri had yet to achieve his full potential, but Lamoriello believed he would do what was necessary to reach it.

“What I see in Kadri is the type of player that I personally want on my team,” Lamoriello told Sportsnet 590 in 2016. “I want him in a seventh game of the Stanley Cup. I want him out there when the game is on the line because he brings everything and leaves [it all on the ice].”

Ultimately it was the signing of Islanders captain John Tavares that led in part to Kadri being traded to the Colorado Avalanche after the 2018-19 season. The emergence of Auston Matthews further pushed Kadri down to a third-line center and at his AAV, his contract became too expensive. After a 44-point season over 73 games, Kadri would be sent to Colorado for Tyson Barrie, Alex Kerfoot, and a 2020 sixth-round pick.

Three years later, Kadri is a Stanley Cup champion and still an unsigned free agent. Now Lamoriello and Kadri, once together in Toronto have the chance to reunite on Long Island. The GM that believed in his young center and the player that has proved the senior hockey executive right.

"There was one guy that was untouchable. Everybody's up for grabs except Nazem Kadri. He's a gamer...I wouldn't be surprised if this is a great fit for him (with the Islanders)."

Mike Rupp, NHL Network

Kadri would unquestionably improve the Islanders next season. When in Toronto, Lamoriello praised him for embracing the tough matchups night in and night out and already possesses many of the intangibles that the Islanders value. The bonus is he can put the puck in the net.

A Kadri signing combined with the trade for defenseman Alexander Romanov would earn Lamoriello high grades this off-season even if the much-discussed "hockey trade" doesn't materialize. He is loyal to his unconventional ways, but in the end, if he gets his guy, that will be all that matters.