Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Could former Leafs trade target Nikita Zadorov be on the market again?
By Alex Hobson20 days ago
Back in November, it seemed like every other article both on this website and in the Toronto media circle alike was about Nikita Zadorov. Between the trade request out of Calgary immediately after their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, his agent tweeting subtle messages linking his client to the team, and a random Leaf player apparently telling Zadorov “You’re exactly what we need here”, it seems like the entire hockey world was manifesting a trade to bring him to Toronto.
But, it didn’t play out that way. There were questions about whether or not the Flames and new general manager Craig Conroy would even be willing to trade with the Maple Leafs due to Brad Treliving’s history with them, and while it was never confirmed why trade talks fell through, the Vancouver Canucks jumped in and acquired him for the very-bearable price of a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick.
Things seemed to be going great in Vancouver for Zadorov, but then again, everything seems to be going well in Canucks land right now. They currently sit atop the NHL, tied with the Boston Bruins for first place with a record of 33-11-5 for 71 points. They’re 8-0-2 in their last ten games, and it’s late enough in the season that the questions of whether or not this is just an early-season hot streak are out the window. The Canucks are quickly moving from “make the playoffs” territory to “win the cup” territory, which begs the question – why would they already be looking to move on from the big, mean defenceman they added to bolster their back end?
Before we go any further, let’s set the record straight – this rumour isn’t coming from nowhere. Sportsnet Insider Elliotte Friedman speculated about it on the Jeff Marek Show Monday, Vancouver radio host Jason Brough mentioned it on his show on Sportsnet 650, and Don Taylor of CHEK media wondered about his fit in the dressing room on Canucks Central. Friedman specifically linked the Zadorov rumour to the Canucks potentially wanting to shoot higher in terms of upgrades – someone like Elias Lindholm and/or Chris Tanev. To do that, they would need to clear cap space. Enter Zadorov and his expiring contract worth $3.75 million.
“I wonder a bit about Zadorov too” Friedman speculated yesterday. “I think they’re going to clear some room to open up the ability for them to do something whether it’s Lindholm, or (Jake) Guentzel, or (Adam) Henrique, or someone I haven’t thought of yet.”
Zadorov has also reportedly found himself struggling to fit in on the Canucks’ revamped blue line. They’ve bolstered their back end over the past year, beginning with the acquisition of Filip Hronek at last year’s trade deadline, and continued with the signings of Carson Soucy and Ian Cole in the offseason. Zadorov was supposed to further boost that back end, but only has four assists in 24 games so far and was benched for the entire third period in their second-last game.
If his name is truly back on the market, and assuming his asking price wouldn’t be more than what the Canucks paid to get him, I’d expect to see the Leafs back in the mix for him. Treliving is familiar with him, the Leafs and Canucks have already made a trade this year (as terribly as that trade looks for Toronto), and while the Leafs might not be all-in at the deadline like they were last year, they can certainly still use an upgrade on the back end. If nothing else, to take some weight off of Mark Giordano and allow him to settle into a seventh defenceman role as he gets older and the games get tougher.
Either way, the Zadorov rumours are going to be interesting to keep an eye on over the next month. The trade deadline is a little over a month away, and while the Leafs probably aren’t going to make any earth-shattering moves, this is a player who is relatively cheap and would be an upgrade even if it’s not the exact upgrade the Leafs need. Depending on how things go over the next few weeks, don’t be shocked to see the two parties connected again.
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