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Dissecting a potential Nikita Zadorov trade to the Canucks after defenceman asks out of Calgary

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
3 months ago
The Calgary Flames are currently teetering on the edge of a total collapse, and defenceman Nikita Zadorov may be the canary in the coal mine.
Almost immediately after scoring a goal and an assist in the team’s 5-4 shootout loss in Toronto, Zadorov reportedly requested a trade out of Calgary, a move which would assuredly kick off a potential teardown and rebuild for the 4-7-2 Flames.
Dan Milstein, Zadorov’s agent and pseudo-Vancouver assistant GM, was not shy about his client’s future on X.com, commonly known as Twitter.
Milstein practically guaranteed that Zadorov wouldn’t be a Flame for long, pointing to his client’s lack of ice time in Friday night’s game as a reason why.
Zadorov’s name has already been linked to Toronto and New Jersey, and CHEKtv’s Rick Dhaliwal added Vancouver’s name to the list last night, mentioning the team’s longstanding interest in the Russian defender. But as teams scramble to put a trade package together, does it make sense for the red-hot Canucks to make a pitch for the pending UFA? Or could he be a smokescreen for a different trade target?
Carrying a cap hit of $3.75 million, Zadorov is a relatively low-cost option by top four defenceman standards. Across the last three seasons, Zadorov has eaten up a ton of minutes for the Flames and, according to Evolving Hockey, skews positively in their Goals Above Replacement model that rates players by their contributions to even-strength offence and defence.
Nikita Zadorov’s advanced stats across his previous three full seasons. Stats courtesy of Evolving Hockey.
Zadorov has scored over 20 points in both of his last two seasons in Calgary but has also collected over 75 PIMs in each of those years, including 80 in 2022-23.
What Zadorov is best known for is the sheer number of bone-rattling hits he throws.

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Last season, Zadorov threw 174 hits, his lowest total since 2016-17. For context, only three Canucks had more last year; Luke Schenn, Dakota Joshua and J.T. Miller. With Schenn now gone and Joshua not earning the same amount of ice time he did last year, a heavyweight like Zadorov would return an extra layer of physicality to the roster.
But crucially, Zadorov is a left-shot who has played on his off-side, a strategy Rick Tocchet has hesitated to give the green light to. Sticking with a “no off-side handedness” deployment would require the team to sit one of Ian Cole or Carson Soucy as the left side would be set in stone. That strategy would also depend on who ends up going back to Calgary in a potential trade, especially if it’s a D-man.
To fit Zadorov under the salary cap, the Canucks have to trade a roster player to make the money work. The only three options on that table right now are Conor Garland, who doused water on a rumoured trade request made at the beginning of the season, Anthony Beauvillier and Tyler Myers.
Of the three, Myers would make the most sense as a defender in the final year of a contract which carries a higher cap hit than Zadorov’s. But Myers has a modified no-trade clause, and whether Calgary is on that list is anybody’s guess. Not to mention that replacing Myers’ right-handed shot with Zadorov’s left-handed one likely wouldn’t go over as well with the coaching staff.
If the Canucks want to make a deal with Calgary to improve the right side, then Zadorov is probably not the answer.
But Chris Tanev might be!
The former Canucks fan favourite has been thriving in Calgary. The expected cliff of his shutdown capabilities never arrived, and he’s been a crucial piece of the puzzle for the Flames across his four years there. Man, time flies.
Tanev doesn’t have the same level of offensive upside that Zadorov does, but the Canucks are, against all odds, not hurting in that department these days. Where the Canucks need the most help is in preventing scoring chances, and that’s where Tanev reigns. Add in the good vibes of a beloved locker room leader’s return, and you have a recipe for success. Assuming, of course, that the bridge wasn’t completely burnt to a crisp following the defenceman’s departure in the post-Edmonton bubble offseason.
So while adding Nikita Zadorov might not be the perfect option for the Canucks based on where their roster is currently at, the Flames moving on the defenceman might indicate a larger teardown is on the horizon. And if that moment comes, a more familiar blue line option might be waiting for them.

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