The offseason is in full swing, and some of the activity from around the league has raised some eyebrows. Carey Price waived his NMC so Montreal could expose him in the expansion draft. That’s huge news. So was Chicago trading Duncan Keith to Edmonton. For Blackhawks fans, that was a seismic deal, but Keith wasn’t the only Chicago blueliner discussed among the frenzy.
Pending RFA, with arbitration rights, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Nikita Zadorov’s name came up a couple of times. The big defenseman is still on the team, despite there being rumors of contract negotiations. Anything involving Zadorov is worth scrutinizing. He was acquired in an exchange with Colorado Avalanche that saw Brandon Saad head out to Colorado in exchange for Zadorov.
This deal was criticized as a win for Colorado, and Chicago was mocked for having lost another trade involving Saad. For my part, I thought it was worth waiting to see how Zadorov played out. There was probably hope among Chicago’s top brass that Zadorov would be able to take a step and overcome his defects. That didn’t really happen. With journalists tweeting that Chicago has been trying to trade Zadorov…
… it feels like the team is ready to admit they made a mistake.
Let’s call this deal what it appears to have been, a salary dump. Chicago gave up a talented two-way forward in Saad to roll the dice on a younger, cheaper defenseman. The exchange didn’t work. By leaving Zadorov exposed at the draft, the Blackhawks may have traded Saad away for little more than cap relief.
Many people thought this was a bad trade and that Chicago came out on the losing end of it. A full season later, it’s hard to see how Chicago didn’t come out behind on this one. If Chicago actually ends up re-signing Zadorov, one would have to wonder what his future with the team actually would be. He’s best suited to be a third-pairing defenseman, but the team has a couple of those already. Also, he’s arbitration-eligible, and currently making several million from his last year. Assuming he makes something similar in his next contract, at the price he’s going to come at its just bad business for Chicago.
Worst of all, there’s basically no way out from under this trade. They tried to deal with Zadorov, and it didn’t work. If Seattle takes him in the expansion draft, the Blackhawks lost Saad for nothing. If big Z hits free agency, then it’s no different than losing him in the expansion draft. Sigh…they can’t all be winners.
From a personnel perspective, losing Zadorov wouldn’t be a big deal. A physical stay-at-home defenseman that doesn’t put up many points is fairly replaceable in the NHL. It’s the trade that brought him to Chicago that’s the problem. Trading away Saad was a bad move, and it looks like the team is ready to admit that as well. The sooner this is resolved, the better.