If Islanders Sign Kadri, Flyers Will Find Themselves in Familiar Position at Bottom of Division
Nazem Kadri was arguably the second biggest name on the open market after Johnny Gaudreau, and rightfully so after the season he just had with the Colorado Avalanche. All he ended up doing was chipping in with 28 goals and 87 points in only 71 regular season games, while also adding 7 goals and 15 points in 16 playoff games en route to the Stanley Cup. Kadri was injured after taking a check from behind in his series against the Edmonton Oilers but made a quick comeback and scored a very important overtime game winner against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Avalanche won the Stanley Cup at the most opportune time with how their contracts were lining up. They just handed Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar, and Gabriel Landeskog lengthy and expensive deals, players like Kadri, Valeri Nichushkin, Darcy Kuemper, and Andre Burakovsky were entering their contract years with all of them eyeing expensive deals that would hurt the Avalanche in the long run considering Nathan Mackinnon is up for a new contract next year. They made the right moves at the deadline and steam rolled through the playoffs en route to their third championship and with that, several players have walked into free agency, including Kadri.
A lot of the bigger names either signed before or on the first day of free agency, including Gaudreau. The Avalanche signed Nichushkin to an eight-year deal, kept Josh Manson around, but had to let Burakovsky and Kuemper walk. Kadri was still in their sights, but they knew they were tight on money so it seemed like maybe the player would wait it out a little to see if the Avalanche could find a way to make it work. However, one team that has been on him since the beginning are the New York Islanders and it is widely believed that they have a deal in place for Nazem Kadri and it’s more of a when versus an if.
The Islanders have a little over $11 million in projected cap space, which would be enough for Kadri, however they need to get RFA defensemen Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov re-signed as well. Dobson exploded onto the scene last year with a career high 13 goals, 38 assists, and 51 points, while Romanov was acquired at the draft in a three team trade involving the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks. Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello traded his first round pick (13th overall), so one has to assume that he views Romanov as a key piece.
In order to get all 3 signed and ready for the season opener, the Islanders will probably have to move a contract or two and some names that have surfaced include Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier, and Semyon Varlamov. Lamoriello is a stingy, hard nosed, old school general manager who seemingly finds a way to get his deals signed and delivered, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if and when the Islanders execute this to perfection. According to Philadelphia Flyers general manager, Chuck Fletcher, trading and moving contracts was really difficult and it provided a speed bump to their offseason plans. Several other general managers around the league have found ways to move expensive and expiring contracts, and there’s definitely a market for a player like Bailey or Beauvillier.
The Islanders are the only team in the Metropolitan Division that haven’t really made a move to try and improve this summer but if this deal with Kadri goes down, then it truly shines a light on how rough and tough this upcoming season is going to be for the Flyers, not only within the division, but within the conference itself.
The disparity within the Eastern Conference last year between the 8 playoff teams and the 8 lottery bound teams was disparaging. By the New Year, the 8 playoff bound teams were essentially set and barring a collapse of epic proportions by either the Washington Capitals or Boston Bruins, the bottom 8 were battling amongst themselves for the best lottery position. The Flyers missed the playoffs by 39 points as they finished with 61 for the season and the 8th playoff team in the East were the Capitals at 100 points.
Carolina took the division crown with 54 wins and 116 points, followed by the New York Rangers at 52 wins and 110 points, the Pittsburgh Penguins followed them with 103 points, and then the Capitals at 100. While in the Atlantic Division, the Florida Panthers won the Presidents’ Trophy with 58 wins and 122 points, followed by the 115-point performance from the Toronto Maple Leafs, the defending Stanley Cup champions in Tampa Bay at 110, and Boston behind them at 107.
To make matters worse, the Flyers, who finished last in their division, were 23 points behind the 5th place Islanders, 20 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, and 2 points behind the New Jersey Devils. Looking into the Atlantic Division, they were 14 points behind the Buffalo Sabres, 13 behind the Detroit Red Wings, and 12 behind the Ottawa Senators. The only team within the Eastern Conference that the Flyers did better than were the woeful and pitiful Montreal Canadiens with their 55-point showing – only 6 less than Philadelphia.
The Flyers urged everyone that changes were afoot, that last season was unacceptable, and that a re-tool was coming because they wanted to contend again. Those are big words from a team that scored the least amount of goals in the Eastern Conference, only bettered the Arizona Coyotes by 4 goals, and gave up the 6th most goals in the NHL. Everyone was perplexed about why the Flyers wanted another re-tool, everyone was criticizing the route because a rebuild made way more sense, and trying to climb back into the playoff picture – one that you missed by 39 points – is almost impossible to accomplish in one calendar year, unless you make the biggest and most monumental changes in NHL history.
The Penguins found a way to keep their core together as they were able to re-sign Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, brought back Kasperi Kapanen, and then traded for Jeff Petry. The Carolina Hurricanes traded for Max Pacioretty and Brent Burns, the Washington Capitals signed Darcy Kuemper and Dylan Strome, while trading for Connor Brown. The Blue Jackets signed Johnny Gaudreau and Erik Gudbranson, while re-signing Patrik Laine. The Devils re-signed Jesper Bratt, signed Ondrej Palat and Vitek Vanecek, and traded for John Marino. That leaves the two New York teams, with the Rangers standing pat after making it to the Eastern Conference Finals and the Islanders standing pat as well with the exception of a trade for Romanov and possibly finalizing a contract with Kadri.
The top 4 teams in the Atlantic Division didn’t necessarily add at the same pace as some teams in the Metropolitan Division but they’re still stacked up the wazoo. The Presidents’ Trophy winning Panthers went through some changes as well as they weren’t able to retain their trade deadline acquisitions in Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot and then traded Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, and Coke Schwindtfor Matthew Tkachuk. The Lightning lost Palat but were able to extend Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev, and Erik Cernak to 8-year deals, while also bringing in Phil Myers from their trade of Ryan McDonagh and then signed Ian Cole.
The Toronto Maple Leafs traded for Matt Murray as they let Jack Campbell walk, signed Ilya Samsonov, and then added depth pieces like Nicolas Aube-Kubel, David Kampf, and Calle Jarnkrok. The Bruins were very quiet but it is believed that they have deals in place for Patrice Bergeron and a return of David Krejci. They also traded Erik Haula for Pavel Zacha, but have a slew of injuries to worry about before the start of the season that include Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk.
Meanwhile, two lottery bound teams from last year made some pretty big moves this summer. The Senators traded for Alex DeBrincat and Cam Talbot and then signed Claude Giroux. The Detroit Red Wings signed David Perron, Dominik Kubalik, Ben Chiarot, Andrew Copp, and Ville Husso, while still having $10 million in projected cap space heading into the regular season. The Sabres stood pat this summer and were pleased with how their season ended, but are also looking ahead to next year where they will have upwards of $40 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly, and a slew of prospects churning through their system.
These are the teams that the Flyers will be competing for when it comes to a playoff spot, with the exception of the Montreal Canadiens who are still going through with their rebuild. I think it’s safe to say that trading for Tony DeAngelo and then signing Nicolas Deslauriers and Justin Braun doesn’t really push the lever. They should have Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes returning to full health, which is big news, but is it big enough to turn things around at a historic pace?
Even without Kadri, the Islanders represent a better team than the Flyers, the Devils are poised to make a jump with their young studs, and the Blue Jackets added the biggest free agent while keeping their best goal scorer. Add in the fact that the Flyers aren’t close to the Penguins, Capitals, Rangers, and Hurricanes in the Metro and the Panthers, Leafs, Lightning, and Bruins in the Atlantic, where is this perceived playoff push going to come from. The Wild Card race will come down between the Bruins, Senators, Red Wings, Islanders, Capitals, Bue Jackets, and maybe Sabres and Devils. Who are the Flyers going to edge out to grab one of the two coveted spots?
The Flyers dealt new head coach John Tortorella a tough hand this year. He is going to have to light a fire under every player from day one, have them invigorated, needs career years from almost every important piece they have, and then somehow fix the anemic offense, abysmal defense, and porous special teams all at once. The Flyers at the very least still have their first round pick for next year but no second round pick for the 2nd consecutive year. You can’t rebuild that way, can you?
The Athletic ranked teams based on contract efficiency and the Flyers were the 5th worst team in the NHL with a D+ showing. According to CapFriendly right now, the Flyers are 6th in the NHL in terms of lack of cap space, surrounded by playoff teams like Tampa Bay, Washington, Florida, Edmonton, and Toronto – all teams they don’t stand a chance against. At season’s end they are projected to have $16.5 million in projected cap space, so maybe something will happen with the sudden influx in cap space but with the current front office still in charge, let’s not hold our breath.
2022-23 will be a step up from last year, no doubts. However, we are more likely in store for a third consecutive disappointing season unless things really trend in the right direction from puck drop on the 13th of October. Without Ryan Ellis and Joel Farabee to start the year, as well as the five-month absence of Bobby Brink, this summer hasn’t gone the way the Flyers had hoped for, nor has it gone the way the fanbase was expecting either.