AVALANCHE

How can the Avalanche fill the huge void left by Nazem Kadri?

Aug 18, 2022, 1:47 PM
Nazem Kadri, JT Compher...
Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

Nazem Kadri is departing Denver after conquering the Stanley Cup.

On Thursday, reports surfaced that Kadri will sign a seven-year $49 million deal with the Calgary Flames. The deal was too rich for the Avalanche’s blood as Colorado faces a salary cap crunch post-Cup.

Now the Avs are faced with the tough task of replacing their All-Star second-line center. While they’re unlikely to get anyone as good as Kadri they may be able to fill in the hole serviceably.

First what did the Avs lose in Kadri? The center spent three seasons in Colorado, the best of which was the 2021-22 season. He played in 71 games, scoring 28 goals and adding 59 assists. In the playoffs, he scored 15 points in 16 games, fighting through a severe wrist injury suffered mid-Cup run. The below stats show how Kadri bounced back last season and was a great top-six forward. Standing out are his primary assists, ranking in the 97th percentile of the league, how many shots he generates, his skills on the rush and puck retrieval on the forecheck. On top of the stats, Kadri’s physical, intense, and aggravating game gave the Avalanche an edge.

Options

Internal
Alex Newhook is a former first-round pick of the Avs who played his first full season in the NHL this past year. Playing in 71 games, Newhook scored 13 goals and added 20 assists. Newhook tacked on four points in 12 playoff games. The five-foot-10 21-year-old is a left-handed shot and may get bumped up to the second line.

J.T. Compher, another former top prospect of the Avs, the 27-year-old is entering his seventh NHL season and is in his prime. The six-footer is 27 years old and had similar stats to Newhook, scoring 18 goals and adding 15 assists in 70 games. Compher played in 20 playoff games, adding on eight points. He may be the most apparent internal solution for now.

Mikko Rantanen is the whacky option here and was the solution when Kadri went down in the playoffs. The natural winger can slide over to center and be productive. At 6-foot-4, the 25-year-old is actually the team’s highest-paid player and led the team by scoring 92 points in 75 games last season. The moose had 25 points in 20 playoff games. Either way, he’ll be in the top-six but do the Avs want to mess with him full-time and slide him to center?

External

Paul Stastny is a former Avs player of eight years and is not only one of the more decorated free agents still out there but the most productive last season. Last season he had 45 points in 71 games, and though he may no longer be a true top-six forward at age 37, he has had a great career and could solidify the Avs center group. Stastny has played in over 1,000 NHL games and is sitting on 800 career points, and he’s made a couple of deep runs into the playoffs but has never won it all. Could he reunite where his career began and gloss over on an ugly exit?

Evan Rodrigues played in all 82 games for the Penguins last season and has played in over 300 NHL games. He’s never really been a top-six forward, but he’s a solid depth center and only 29 years old.

Sam Gagner may be well past his prime, but the 15-year NHL player has had a great career. There’s good skill in the right-handed shot; once a 50-point guy. Last season with Detroit, he had 31 points in 81 games. He’s likely not capable of being a top-six center, but he could be a cheap center to add to the team.

Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews, the two stars of the Chicago Blackhawks, are likely to be moved at some point this season as the team rebuilds. Kane is a better player at this point in his career, still bordering on MVP-level. Toews is a more like Kadri fill for the spot, a rigid two-way center.

J.T. Miller would be a home run swing from the Avs. The 29-year-old had 99 points last season in a career year. The Canucks could move him, and Joe Sakic has shown to be aggressive in the past.

What do the Avs do?

Colorado is projected to have $3.9 million in cap space. Salary cap space in the NHL can work accumulatively meaning the Avs could pick up a player making north of $8 million this next season if they do so at the deadline. The smartest move for Colorado may be to ride it out with their current group, maybe add a depth centerman and then look for help at the deadline if Newhook or Compher are not up to the task.

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How can the Avalanche fill the huge void left by Nazem Kadri?