One of the many things that makes the Nazem Kadri non-signing so interesting is that despite the disappointment and angst around the New York Islanders not being able to execute their desired plan, the fan base was always split on whether signing a soon-to-be 32-year-old center to a 7-year contract was the right move for this team - both in the short and long-term.
Poll: 74% of NY Islanders fans glad the team didn't sign Nazem Kadri to long term deal
In a poll conducted by IslesFix, a daily Islanders newsletter during the season, 74% of nearly 1,000 responders said they were glad that the Islanders did not sign the free agent center to a 7 years, $49M contract with a team $7M AAV.
That number could be inflated by the news of another swing and a miss in free agency being fresh in minds, but there were always complications with a Kadri acquisition that made the potential acquisition polarizing amongst the fanbase.
One too many centers
In the short term, the Islanders would've clearly been better. Kadri was ranked as the league's No. 14 center in a recent NHL Network ranking of the position, and the Islanders would boast arguably the best collection of centers in the league with Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, J.G. Pageau, and Casey Cizikas. But his signing would have likely required Barzal or Nelson to move to the wing. That experiment would've been a fascinating one, but one that had no guarantee of working. For some, adding a 30-goal scorer, even if you are already deep at a position, was a good problem to have.
Most fans, sentiments aside, were on board with trading Josh Bailey in a salary dump scenario. The thought at the start of the off-season was that a team like Arizona or Anaheim would need his $5M AAV ($3.5M actual money) to hit the cap floor, making the still serviceable veteran forward desirable enough.
But if the market for Bailey never materialized or wasn't aggressively pursued, the Islanders were then faced with the sub-optimal option of not only trading 25-year-old Anthony Beauvillier but having to add a sweetener to the deal that would bring back not much in return. The Calgary Flames were able to unload Sean Monahan to the Montreal Canadiens to make room for Kadri by adding a 2025 conditional first-round pick.
Should the Islanders have been willing to add a draft pick in a trade that sent Beauviller elsewhere? That price should be reserved for Andrew Ladd-type contracts, not for a still promising forward with a 20-goal history and potential that still hasn't been fully realized.
Length and cost of the contract
Seven-year free agent contracts rarely end well. In most cases, you are paying for the first three or four years of a deal. That's true for a 27 or 28-year-old player and even more so when the player is going to be 32 the opening month of next season as Kadri would have been. Those willing to accept the term did so with a full understanding that it was to try to get the current group back to Stanley Cup contender status - even at the expense of overpaying for diminishing returns in future years.
The Islanders already have a number of players around and over 30 years old with term remaining for upcoming seasons. A Kadri signing would have further limited the team's ability to reshape the roster in upcoming years and, depending on corresponding moves, complicate an extension for Barzal next season and Ilya Sorokin the year after. It's possible the same cap crunch scenario that hindered them this off-season would be present next year and beyond if Kadri's $7M AAV was added.