Discover more from Shap Shots
Could and should anyone even trade for Nikita Zadorov right now?
The defenseman has requested a trade, how should teams react to this?
If you’ve paid any attention to the larger hockey world in the past week you are well aware Nikita Zadorov has requested a trade.
The Calgary Flames defenseman, who is a pending UFA, wants out, and his agent, Dan Milstein, has made sure anyone and everyone knows his client is ready to move to another team.
Milstein is good at his job. He gets his clients paid well and he’s one of the most media-friendly agents there is. Milstein understands this is an entertainment business and in entertainment it’s best to keep your name in the headlines.
So when he starts using Maple Leafs hashtags in a post on Twitter/X about Zadorov, he’s intentionally riling up the hype train and media conversation in hockey’s most-discussed market.
We’ve heard that Zadorov wants to go to Toronto, it also has been reported that the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks are interested in landing him via trade.
Which is all well and good, and Zadorov will be traded this season. But this feels like, to me, that Zadorov will be this season’s Jakob Chychrun, the defender on the market seemingly forever who finally gets dealt close to the deadline.
I bring this up because I had a listener on the Spits & Suds podcast, ask about Zadorov and his potential fit with Dallas. And honestly, this is a story to better answer that question in writing.
Shap Shots is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Zadorov, even as a UFA, isn’t easy to trade right now.
He makes $3.75 million against the salary cap this season and with the Flames seemingly pivoting and getting ready for a rebuild, they are going to wants picks and prospects.
As of today, only seven NHL teams even have cap space to fit Zadorov in a pure pick/prospect trade. And those seven teams include the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Arizona Coyotes.
A collection of teams that are a mix of struggling and hoarding their own prospects and picks in current franchise re-builds or re-loads.
Zadorov also isn’t nearly as good as the hype surrounding him right now, which is credit to Milstein as he pumps his client’s trade value in the media.
For his career, Zadorov has never been more than a third-pairing defender on a good team. He’s stepped up in spurts into top-four roles, but has never held that spot and stabilized a defense in that way.
He was a top-four defender in Chicago and Colorado, both during some downtimes for the franchises, and struggled to prove he could be a lynchpin on defense. In Calgary he’s been good, but sheltered and if you watch the Flames closely, you’ll notice he isn’t facing the toughest competition — he also takes a ton of penalties against that competition.
But Zadorov is big and he hits, two things that as teams build toward the playoffs they start to put more value on. And for certain teams, like Toronto and Dallas, big hitters are high on the fan/media wishlist for teams that need to be tougher against Carolina and Vegas in the spring.
And this is where teams need to tread lightly with Zadorov, because he’s the perfect example of a luxury purchase rather than a necessary one.
There are many teams Zadorov would make better, a team, like Dallas, could really solidify their third-pairing with him on it. But that’s also a role that Zadorov isn’t overly interested in, once again, Milstein has been selling this as a top-four acquisition.
And if you’re Calgary, you take your time with this. You lean into that over-inflated value Zadorov’s agent is selling, and take your time for a team to panic after an injury on the defensive end.
At the trade deadline, Zadorov probably moves for a mid-level pick and a B-level prospect. At Thanksgiving, it probably takes a much better asset to get the Flames to give in to the trade demand — at least that’s the smart play.
Maybe I’m wrong, but it feels like this Zadorov saga is going to drag on to a point where it’s uncomfortable for everyone involved. Eventually he’ll be a quality deadline add, but any team jumping to bring him in now is going to overspend.