Nazem Kadri could be fit for glaring Rangers need

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Maybe Nazem Kadri returns from his eight-game suspension (that is under appeal), leads the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup and is rewarded with a contract extension that would prevent the center from becoming an unrestricted free agent a year from now.

Or, returning to a much more plausible universe, regardless of what the Avalanche or the recidivist do the rest of the way, Kadri is thereafter immediately dangled on the trade market as a depressed asset and sent away following his third suspension in the last four playoffs and sixth overall in nine full NHL seasons.

The question in front of Chris Drury — the Rangers’ president-general manager who is holding his coaching search open to accommodate candidates who might become available upon first-round defeats — is whether Kadri represents too much of a gamble on whom to make a short-term wager or whether the veteran’s profile fits the club’s needs to such an extent that the potential reward would be worth the risk.

Because in Kadri, who will be 31 at the start of next season and carry a $4.5 million cap hit, the Rangers would be getting the type of nasty, jagged-edged, checking-type center who can score — an average of 24 goals per 82 games over nine full seasons — and is proficient at faceoffs. The organization only has a crying need for that.

Of course the cost would be paramount in arriving at the ultimate decision. You wouldn’t recommend that the Rangers exchange any of their brightest prospects for a guy with one year left on his deal leading to free agency. That wouldn’t make sense. But not everyone under the age of 26 can be walled off, either, if the intent is to bolster the lineup.

Kadri has the type of unsavory on-ice reputation the Rangers seem to make a business of staying away from at least since Daniel Carcillo’s brief 2013-14 run. He may not be of the Tom Wilson grade when it comes to lack of conscience, but each one of Kadri’s six suspensions relate to some sort of an illegal blow to the head. That includes this current one for when he blasted St. Louis’ defenseless Justin Faulk into smithereens.

But the man sure has some value in the middle beyond — or that mitigates — his recklessness. His offense has dipped a bit in his two years in Colorado following seven in Toronto, with Kadri going 11-21=32 in 56 games this season, and he was the only regular on the Avalanche to be on for more goals against than goals scored (29/31), but his possession numbers remained strong and so did his xGF%.

And so did his work at the dots, where Kadri won 52.8 percent of his draws this season and he ranks 26th in the NHL at 53.2 percent over the last four years among players taking at least 3,000 faceoffs. The Rangers rank last in the league over that span at 47.1 percent with Mika Zibanejad’s 49.2 percent the club leader.

And he can be a pain in the, uh, on the ice.

There has been way too much talk lately about the Rangers’ need to bulk up in order to act as a deterrent to Wilson and to prevent the type of incident in which the unhinged Washington winger went WWE on Artemi Panarin. But let’s be serious, there is no deterrent for that kind of behavior other than strict league sanctions. The Rangers should not react to Wilson. That is not what the offseason reconstruction should be about.

Rather, the Rangers must finally react to Carolina under the bubble. They must react to being humiliated by the Islanders three times within 12 days with the playoffs on the line. They must become less homogenous, more diversified in style, able to create and win battles, and tougher to play against. And they probably could use a hard edge or two as much in the room as on the ice. These guys just seem too nice. Seem too vanilla.

There are vivid red flags with Kadri, who has left two of his own teams in a hole three times in the last four years in the playoffs. Who knows? His lack of discipline may have cost the Maple Leafs both of their first-round, seven-game series against Boston in 2018 and 2019. This is certainly something to consider.

Also to consider is that Kadri would fall under the NHL’s repeat-offender definition and would be watched more closely than ever playing for the franchise that excoriated the Department of Player Safety for its failure to suspend Wilson.

But the Rangers need someone who doesn’t always have to wear the white hat and doesn’t always go to work wearing a white collar and doesn’t approach opponents wearing white gloves.

Kadri may not be the guy — heck, he may not be available, he may cost too much, he may just be too unreliable — but it would be remiss of Drury not to consider it.

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