What might Nikita Zadorov’s ‘discounted’ price tag be to stay with the Canucks?

Photo credit:Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
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Who doesn’t love a good mystery? And when it comes to Nikita Zadorov and his demands in contract talks with the Vancouver Canucks, the dollar figure it’s going to take to keep the big Russian defenceman on the payroll is very much a mystery.
With reports this week that Zadorov’s camp may be willing to accept a slight discount to get a deal done to stay in Vancouver, now it’s all about trying to solve the mystery of the amount necessary to get the deal across the finish line.
Certainly Zadorov and his agent Dan Milstein know their number, and it’s a pretty safe bet the Vancouver Canucks front office does, too – even if they don’t like it. That’s all part of negotiations and the Canucks still have more than three weeks to negotiate with Zadorov before he’s eligible to hit the open market. The 29-year-old has played out the final season of a two-year deal that paid him $3.75M annually. As an unrestricted free agent coming off a solid season and a strong playoff performance, Zadorov is in for a raise. Of that, there is no doubt. And he’s going to want term, too.
Consulting firm AFP Analytics projects Zadorov’s next deal in the five-year $26.5M range which would carry an annual average value of $5.3M per season. Using that as a baseline, what exactly qualifies as a discount?
An educated guess suggests the Zadorov camp is pushing for any new deal to start with a five. Is that the sticking point? Should the Canucks entertain the idea of going to $5M annually with a defenceman who slots in behind Quinn Hughes and Carson Soucy on the left side of the depth chart? And if they’re willing to commit to $5M per season will they offer that over a five year contract? That would make for $25M total compensation, which is slightly lower than the aforementioned projection. However, Zadorov may be willing to test the free-agent waters to see if he can get a sixth year on that type of deal, and that’s certainly something the Canucks will have to consider.
It was clear by the club’s usage in the playoffs that Zadorov is seen internally as more than just a third pair guy. In 13 post-season outings, he was third among Canucks defencemen in TOI, logging 20:09 of ice time per game. He was also the third-most utilized defender on the penalty kill. On top of that, Zadorov tied for third on the team with four playoff goals and was even deployed at times as a net-front presence late in games when the Canucks were down and looking for the equalizer with the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker.
Term shouldn’t really be a sticking point. Or at least it shouldn’t be the deal breaker here. As both Ian Cole and Tyler Myers have shown this past season, veteran defencemen can play into their mid-30s and maintain a relatively high-level of performance – especially ones who focus more on the defensive side of the game. There’s every reason to think that Zadorov can continue to thrive for years in a structured system like the Canucks have in place under Rick Tocchet and Adam Foote.
The Canucks need to figure out if Zadorov at $5M is a want or a need. Could they prioritize a new deal for restricted free agent Filip Hronek and bring back Tyler Myers at a discounted rate and run things back with a top four of Hughes, Hronek, Soucy and Myers while finding a different way to fill the third pair spot on the left side to play with Noah Juulsen?
Or is it imperative to keep Zadorov’s size and intimidation factor in the fold?
Sifting through the noise that is out there and trying to make sense of it all, it feels like a six-year $30M offer would be enough to get Zadorov to stay and play in Vancouver.
The Canucks have the money to make it happen. But they have to decide if that’s the best approach to take this off-season in order to have money to spend to address needs elsewhere in the line-up.
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