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The Zadorov trade signalled Canucks’ front office was prepared to go all-in to support team’s fast start: Year in review

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
27 days ago
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With one foot out the door toward free agency, Nikita Zadorov’s time in Vancouver appears to be coming to an end. It’s unfortunate because the big defenceman seemed to find a home on the Canucks blueline and developed into a fan favourite with his stellar playoff performance. While Zadorov will likely have a new place to play on July 1st, the memory of his brief time in Vancouver will endure. Not only will fans fondly recall his timely post-season goals and his bone-jarring hits, but they need to remember the reason Zadorov was brought into the fold in the first place.
His November 30th trade from Calgary for third and fifth round draft picks served notice to the rest of the National Hockey League that the Canucks front office was prepared to do whatever it could to make a team off to a terrific start even better.
As a refresher, the Canucks burst out of the starting gate winning 12 of their first 16 games. On November 15th, they beat the New York Islanders 4-3 in overtime and finished that night with the top three scorers in the NHL in Elias Pettersson, JT Miller and Quinn Hughes all tied atop the league scoring derby with 26 points. Brock Boeser was on fire as the team’s top goal scorer, Thatcher Demko was playing better than any other goalie in the league at that point and the Canucks had turned heads in the hockey world with their surprising start.
While so much was falling the Canucks way at that stage of the season, the team also suffered long term injuries to both Carson Soucy and Pius Suter in a November 12th game in Montreal. And that started the Canucks into a stretch of their schedule that saw them alternate wins and losses for 10 straight games. 
Not wanting to see if the start of the season was a mirage and perhaps wondering if the club could sustain its pace without a key piece like Soucy on the back end, Canucks management didn’t waste much time bolstering the roster with its first of two significant in-season additions. 
After peddling Anthony Beauvillier to Chicago for a fifth round draft pick just days before, the Canucks flipped that fifth (2024) and added a 2026 third rounder and pulled off the first of two deals with division rival Calgary adding Zadorov who proved to be a seamless fit on the blueline. 
The Canucks had reallocated the cap space devoted to an underperforming winger and added a significant piece whose true value wouldn’t be felt until the playoffs. However, there was still more than half a season to go and Zadorov used that to settle into his fifth NHL organization since being a first round pick of Buffalo in 2013.
He added size and toughness and his swagger blended in perfectly to a team that was already feeling pretty good about itself riding high atop the Pacific Division standings at the time of the trade. After a win and a loss in his first two games while he adjusted to his new surroundings and Rick Tocchet’s systems, Zadorov and the Canucks then rattled off a run that saw them go 18-2-4 over their next 24 contests.
The acquisition cost seemed like a bargain to bring in an important piece of the puzzle.
“Nikita is a big, strong and mobile two-way defenceman who will bring more physicality to our backend,” Canucks General Manager Patrik Allvin said at the time of the trade. “We really like his size and reach and his addition to our blueline gives us more depth and better options moving forward.”
One of those options for Allvin was going back to the Flames to pull off his other big in-season trade at the All Star break adding Elias Lindholm for a package of players, prospects and a 2024 first round draft pick.
Lindholm and Zadorov both played key roles for the Canucks as they beat Nashville in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and pushed Edmonton to a seventh game in the second round.
The hope at the time of the two trades was that the Canucks would find a way to keep both of their pending unrestricted free agent additions. Now, it looks like both players will likely make it to the open market on July 1st.
There is no question the hockey club parted with significant assets to bring in two pieces that helped the Canucks play 13 post-season games. The wisdom of those decisions is certainly open to debate if both players leave after just months in the organization.
But as the Canucks go about plotting their path forward and start building their roster for next season, it’s clear this front office is not afraid to pull the trigger on trades it feels can help the hockey club in its competitive window.
And the move to bring Nikita Zadorov to town was a significant indicator that this management group believed it needed to reward the players already in the fold for the way they had started the season. Based on the results – even if only fleeting – it feels like the kind of transaction the front office will be prepared to pull off again next season.
 

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