An early list of 6 contract comparables for a Nikita Zadorov extension

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
5 months ago
With Nikita Zadorov about to play the tenth game of his tenure with the Vancouver Canucks, some might argue that it’s too early to talk extension.
Others have already been having that conversation since the pending UFA defender started showing interest in a trade to Vancouver.
The headlines have come out in dribs and drabs on this front, but the throughline has been consistent.
His agent, Dan Milstein, has been comfortable talking extension with the local media from the day Zadorov arrived and onward…
…and more recently, the word on the street was that Zadorov and his camp are specifically looking for a long-term commitment from the Canucks.
So, yes, it’s pretty early in the ballgame, but it’s clear that talks are already ongoing, so it’s time to get a little analysis going via a preliminary list of relevant contract comparables.
This is that list.
(A note to keep in mind throughout the list: All of these contracts were signed in the midst of the flat-cap era, but that era is now over, and the cap is going up. That will naturally result in a slight uptick in contract value from here on out, including on any theoretical Zadorov extension. Apply a multiplyer!)
Jamie Oleksiak
LHD, 30, 6’7”, 257lb
Contract Signed: July 21, 2021 as UFA with Seattle
Contract Details: Five years at $4.6 million AAV
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
Pre-contract Season (2020/21)56681420:2952.6%
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why we’d lead off with this comparable. It just takes someone with a measuring tape and a scale.
Oleksiak and Zadorov are the two biggest defenders left in the NHL post-Chara, and they profile fairly similarly aside from that. Both use their size to their advantage and move around the ice well in spite of it, both can defend reasonably well despite occasional mental lapses, and both can contribute a limited amount of offence in the form of more goals than the average D.
Oleksiak, both now and at the time of his extension, had more experience as a dedicated top-four defender, and that probably puts him one contractual tier above Zadorov. Something like Oleksiak signed should be considered the upper limit for a Zadorov extension, with some consideration paid to inflation.
Something a little bit less is definitely desirable.
Joel Edmundson
LHD, 30, 6’5”, 221lb
Contract Signed: September 16, 2020 as UFA with Montreal
Contract Details: Four years at $3.5 million AAV
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
Pre-contract season (2019/20)687132018:2750.8%
We’re jumping back a little in time now, but will keep the list chronological from here on out after starting off with Oleksiak.
Like Oleksiak and Zadorov, Edmundson is a behemoth of a defender with a well-known reputation for plying that big body in his trade. Don’t judge Edmundson by his current, slightly-diminished state: he was a major contributor at the time of his contract signing, having come off a playoff run with the Hurricanes during which he averaged 23 minutes. The year after this contract, he’d average about the same as the Canadiens went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
In most cases, however, Edmundson has profiled fairly similar to how Zadorov does now, as someone with some holes in their game, but who can always make an impact in any number of on-ice areas.
Matt Grzelcyk
LHD, 29, 5’10”, 176lb
Contract Signed: October 17, 2020 as UFA with Boston
Contract Details: Four years at $3.688 million AAV
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
Pre-contract season (2019/20)684172118:0451.7%
See, we’re not just comparing Zadorov to other gigantic defenders.
Grzelcyk might be half the size of Zadorov and a lot harder to spell, but something the two share in common is a career of being stuck on the periphery of the top-four, often due to the quality of the other defenders on their teams.
Take away the physicality angle, and many of Grzelcyk’s on-ice contributions mirror Zadorov’s, including reasonable levels of both offense and defense, along with the ability to play higher in the lineup when called upon.
Carson Soucy
LHD, 29, 6’5”, 210lb
Contract Signed: July 1, 2023 as UFA with Vancouver
Contract Details: Three years at $3.25 million AAV
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
Pre-contract season (2022/23)783131616:1852.1%
The Canucks, conveniently enough, have a handy in-house comparable for Zadorov’s next contract in the form of Carson Soucy.
Soucy is big and rangy, known for open-ice checks, and has traditionally been slotted in as an excellent two-way option at 5D, just like Zadorov.
That said, Zadorov has some distinct advantages over Soucy when it comes to negotiations. He’s got a much longer track record, for one, with 11 NHL seasons to Soucy’s five. And Zadorov has averaged about two minutes extra a night throughout his lengthier career on top of that. Throw in Zadorov’s occasional goal-scoring exploits, and the pending cap raise, and we can safely call the Soucy contract a minimum bar for the Zadorov talks, and one that will almost certainly be cleared.
Scott Mayfield
RHD, 31, 6’5”, 223lb
Contract Signed: July 1, 2023 as UFA with New York Islanders
Contract Details: Seven years at $3.5 million AAV
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
Pre-contract season (2022/23)826182421:0248.0%
Another sizeable comparable. Mayfield was looking for a big contract after spending much of his career on one of the NHL’s best bargain deals, and he got it in the form of a seven-year commitment from Lou Lamoriello. If Zadorov really wants to focus on term, this is the key comparable.
The two trade off back and forth when it comes to their individual qualities. Mayfield is the more reliable defender, Zadorov is more physical. Mayfield puts up more points, Zadorov scores more goals. Mayfield is a natural RHD, while Zadorov can play that side occasionally. Mayfield, it should be noted, was two years older than Zadorov is now when he signed this extension, which could be something that swings negotiations back in favour of the Zadorov camp.
Player-wise, this might be the closest comparable on the entire list, but unless Zadorov is going for the really long term, it might not be the most useful.
Ryan Graves
LHD, 28, 6’5”, 220lbs
Contract Signed: July 1, 2023 as UFA with Pittsburgh
Contract Details: Six years at $4.5 million AAV
 GamesGoalsAssistsPointsAvg. TOICorsi
Pre-contract season (2022/23)788182619:5751.1%
Tall, heavy, smooth-skating, physical, two-way contributor. We’ve obviously got a “type” when it comes to looking for Zadorov comparables, and Graves checks off all of the boxes.
Which might be frightening, looking at that $27 million deal that Graves just signed this past summer as a UFA. But fret not: Graves’ contract, much like Oleksiak’s, should represent an absolute maximum, or more, in any Zadorov-related negotiations, because Graves has some clear-cut advantages over Zadorov.
Graves, simply put, has traditionally played more important minutes on better bluelines than Zadorov has. Few would dispute Graves’ status as a 4D, whereas Zadorov is more properly labeled as a #5.
The term is in line with what Zadorov will be looking for, but if he wants to sign for that long, it stands to reason that he’ll need to settle for a lower AAV than Graves, even with the inflation factored in.

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