Making sense of the Nikita Zadorov trade rumours

Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
4 months ago
One new name in the rumour mill has popped up over the last two days: Nikita Zadorov.
The same Zadorov who the Canucks spent a third and a fifth round pick to acquire from the Calgary Flames exactly two months ago. That guy is the latest name in the rumour mill.
You probably have a lot of questions about why that is, because frankly, so did I. That’s why we’re going to break down where this rumour came from, how legit it truly is, and whether or not it even makes sense for the Canucks to go down this road.
Wait, Nikita Zadorov is on the trade block already? Since when?
He might be, since Monday morning.
A few insiders have brought up Zadorov’s name unprompted this week when discussing the Canucks’ trade deadline plans. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned Zadorov alongside Andrei Kuzmenko as a potential option for clearing cap space in advance of acquiring a big trade target on the Jeff Marek Show Monday morning.
After Friedman’s hit, Donnie and Dhali‘s Rick Dhaliwal reported that Zadorov’s agent Dan Milstein didn’t buy into the notion of the Canucks shopping his client. But his co-host Don Taylor threw an extra match on the rumour fire during Sportsnet’s Canucks Central that afternoon.
Couple that with Sportsnet 650’s Jason Brough also saying he’s heard Zadorov’s name around trade circles on Tuesday morning, and you’ve got yourself a full-blown rumour.
Why would the Canucks even want to trade Zadorov so quickly?
The short answer is cap space, but the long answer might have more to do with team chemistry than anything else.
The Canucks’ intention of going all in on a Stanley Cup run this spring is the worst-kept secret in hockey. But with next to no cap space left, somebody has to go to make room for an Elias Lindholm or a Jake Guentzel.
Making trades with a successful team is essentially the sports equivalent to a Jenga Tower. Which blocks can you pull out and replace at the top without the whole thing falling over?
If guys like Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes are your foundational blocks at the tower’s base, then Zadorov is a new one near the top. Since arriving in Vancouver, the big Russian defenceman has four points in 24 games and has struggled at times to find his role on Rick Tocchet’s blue line.
Zadorov has already seen his ice time take a dip in the last couple weeks. In the Canucks’ second-to-last game before the All-Star break against the Blues, Zadorov was benched for the entire third period after bad coverage led to an Alexey Toropchenko goal late in the second.
If the team doesn’t see Zadorov as a long term fit, there’s no reason not to consider shopping him around to make space for help in the top six or even a new blue line option.
So the Canucks lost the Zadorov trade already?
Not at all!
The price of a couple of mid-round picks to acquire a big, minute-eating defencemen was well worth it, even before considering the Canucks were on their way to the top of the NHL standings. Even if the team decides he’s no longer a good fit heading into the postseason, odds are they’ll be able to recoup similar assets by flipping him elsewhere.
There’s also not much reason for concern even if the team elects to hang onto Zadorov as a playoff rental.

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