It took about a month longer than expected, but selective free agent attacker Nazem Kadri is finally off the market.
On Thursday, the Calgary Flames announced they had signed the 31-year-old center to a seven-year contract. The deal has an average annual value of $7 million per season, for a total value of $49 million.
“We are delighted to welcome Naz,” general manager Brad Treliving told media in a video conference on Thursday. “A recent Stanley Cup winner. Put him with the current centermen we do have, we think that will be a formidable group.”
Treliving confirmed that he had been trying to take over Kadri for years. When the London, Ontario native was split from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Colorado Avalanche in 2019, the Flames were rumored to have struck a deal with the Leafs, but Kadri blocked it through his 10-team no-trade. clause.
He then thrived on a very good selection in Colorado. Last season, he reached a career high with 87 points in the regular season, then added another 15 points in 16 playoff games as the Avalanche captured the Stanley Cup.
“He has a unique combination of skill and snarl, and he plays a prominent position on the mid-ice,” Treliving said of why he was chasing Kadri.
And while he turned down the Flames three years ago, Kadri sees things in a different light this time. Although he had other suitors, it has proven difficult for many clubs to clear enough space for the salary cap to have a shot at the big free agents. And the Flames have a well-built roster that should be among the best in the league next season.
“I love the city of Calgary,” Kadri told Flames TV on Thursday, when asked why he signed up. “Obviously I like the direction of the team and the moves we’ve made so far, and I think it’s been a great revival. And I’ve always appreciated the Calgary Flames fanbase.”
The rebound is, of course, the work Treliving has already accomplished this summer.
The Flames looked like the NHL’s biggest losers on Day 1 of the free agency when star striker Johnny Gaudreau turned down their offer to sign big money with the Columbus Blue Jackets. A few days later, the outlook turned even bleaker when another young star, Matthew Tkachuk, told the club he wouldn’t re-sign if he were given unlimited free agency in a year’s time.
Then Treliving started pulling rabbits out of his hat. Though he was forced to explore the trading market for Tkachuk, he got good value when he sent the 24-year-old to the Florida Panthers in exchange for a package that included star winger Jonathan Huberdeau, regular defender MacKenzie Weegar and a first-round pick in the draft. from 2025.
Huberdeau and Weegar each had only one year left on their current contracts, making the solution seem short-term. But within two weeks, Treliving had flown to Huberdeau’s home base in Montreal to meet his new winger in person. On June 4, last season’s leader of assists and second-highest scorer signed an eight-year $84 million contract extension that will take him through age 37.
Thus, Calgary had re-established itself as a sought-after destination. Kadri could look at the roster and see another top striker who would be locked up after the length of his own contract. And the Flames also have the 2022 Coach of the Year in Darryl Sutter, Vezina Trophy runner-up Jacob Markstrom in the net, one of the deepest defense groups in the NHL and a pair of strong established two-way centers in Mikael Backlund and Elias Lindholm, who last played last year. season finished second in the Selke Trophy voting.
One member of the middle group, however, will be missing. To make room for the salary cap to sign Kadri, Treliving traded Sean Monahan with the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
Monahan was selected sixth overall by the Flames in 2013, and jumped straight into the NHL as an 18-year-old. He peaked in the 2018-19 season with 34 goals and 82 points, but has endured a long list of injuries and health problems during his career. Last April, he was shut down to undergo hip surgery.
Monahan turns 28 in October. He has one year left on a seven-year contract with a $6.375 million cap hit.
“Sean is doing well, it’s probably the best he’s felt in ages, and I’m happy for him,” Treliving said. “The child means a lot to me. I’ve been around him for a long time. You won’t find much better kids than him.
“This kid played a lot of stuff that a lot of people didn’t play through, and he wouldn’t say much. A lot of times you didn’t know what was going on – he just went out to play. It shows what kind of kid he is, so I hope he continues and plays well for Montreal. They’ve had a great kid.”
To convince the Canadiens to acquire the final year of Monahan’s contract, the Flames added a first-round conditional selection to the trade in 2025. It’s not uncommon for teams to include a ‘lottery protection’ clause when trading a first-rounder, trying to buy themselves insurance to keep the pick if it falls into the top 10, for example.
Treliving and his counterpart, Montreal GM Kent Hughes, took the conditions to a new level and outlined multiple possible scenarios.
“We’re trying to give up the worst possible choice. They’re trying to make the best possible choice,” Treliving explained with a chuckle. “So there’s just a lot of profanity back and forth and then you keep on layering. That pretty much sums it up.”
After missing the playoffs in 2020-21, Calgary recovered last season with 111 points, first in the Pacific Division. They were third overall in goals against, sixth in goals for and had sixth-best penalty kill and 10th-best power play — but were disappointed when they were knocked out by their arch-rivals, the Edmonton Oilers, in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And while Treliving is in the midst of one of the most dramatic NHL outdoor seasons for a general manager in recent memory, he admitted on Thursday that he had improvised a lot along the way.
“We weren’t really aggressive when we went to free agency,” he said. “We left room to sign our own players.
“Obviously when that changed, we changed.”