We are pushing into week three of free agency and all of the Colorado Avalanche fans sit and wonder, ‘When is Nazem Kadri going to sign?’ He produced a career high 87 points (28 goals and 59 assists), so nobody can blame him for looking for a payout. Rumors are swirling as to which team will sign Kadri, ranging from the Avs to the Flames, Islanders, Coyotes, and Jets. It is said that Kadri is waiting for teams to clear cap space for him to sign, but Winnipeg, Calgary, Arizona, and the New York Islanders all have room to sign him immediately.
So what are they waiting for? As a realist, I am looking at the possibility that Kadri will not return to the Avs. He will be one of the hardest players to replace on the roster as the second line center and a special teams player. Let’s take a look at some of the best possible options that are available.
Evan Rodrigues spent the last three seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins and seems like the most logical choice at the moment. During the 2021-22 season, Rodrigues was paid only one million dollars, so this means the most I see the Avs paying him would be $1.25 million or $1.5 million per year. Evan has experience playing as the second line center with Pittsburgh when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were out with injuries and has similar even strength and better defensive numbers to Kadri (see EV offense and defense in graphics).
The 29-year-old Rodrigues has been gradually increasing his overall production on the ice, ending this season with a career high 43 points (19 goals and 24 assists). We all know that Kadri was one of the best faceoff players on the Avalanche (winning 49.7 percent), but Rodrigues isn’t far behind at 47.41 percent. The way I see it, Rodrigues has the best chance to become an Avalanche if Kadri leaves the team.
Hear me out on this one – the Avs could get a winger in Sonny Milano. He would be a great addition to a fast lineup that the Avs already have and they could possibly play J.T. Compher at second line center or even Mikko Rantanen. Both Mikko and J.T. play center and have done it regularly, so it wouldn’t be a stretch. The 26-year-old Milano has spent the last three years in Anaheim making $1.7 million and he tallied a career high 34 points last year (14 goals and 20 assists). I could see the Avs offering him about $2 million per year on a short term deal. The main reason I am looking at Milano is his ability to see the rest of the ice while he has the puck. He can set up plays (92 percent success rate) and is excellent in high danger situations. He has great even strength defensive skills, as well.
And, just had to add this for fun…
Cody Eakin is a player that most people will not even consider putting on the table as an option for the second line center. Wallowing at the bottom of the league the last two seasons in Buffalo, it looks as though the 31-year-old Eakin has failed to make an impact on the team. Cody has produced only 19 points in 115 games in Buffalo, but we all know that he is capable of so much more. His career high of 41 points (22 goals and 19 assists) with Vegas in 2018-19 shows that he can be a contributor.
He has been described as a defensive forward, and from when I have watched him play, he was always one of those annoying players on the forecheck (similar to Logan O’Connor). Best part is that he is a cheap buy, with his last contract at $2.25 million per year. Also, with such low production, I know this would be a risk. The Avs could probably get Eakin for about $1.75 million per year, if not less. Eakin is even better than Kadri at the face-off dot, winning 56.05 percent of his faceoffs last season.
I know that Eakin would be a hard sell, but he has playoff experience too, with 50 playoff games to his name including the 2018 Stanley Cup Final against the Capitals. He may not be the Avs’ best option, but he’s a cheap and experienced one.
We all know there will never be another Kadri, but with the cap crunch, the Avs have to look at cheaper options in the free agent market to keep the team they have intact. An option that I think should be completely avoided is to trade someone with mid-level value to clear space in the salary cap for Kadri. But, that is a whole other discussion in its own right.
Editor’s Note: Brennan Vogt is a guest columnist for Full Press Hockey. He is currently the social media manager for Eurolanche, a European-based Avalanche fan group. Brennan has also published Colorado Avalanche articles through Denver Nose Bleeds.
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