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The Calgary Flames should take a swing at claiming Filip Zadina off waivers

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Photo credit:Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
9 months ago
The Calgary Flames weren’t active during the first day of free agency, and they didn’t need to be. However, with decisions from Elias Lindholm still pending and the Flames management team still being patient with Noah Hanifin and Mikael Backlund, they’re still in limbo at this point. But there’s one player that just went on waivers from the Detroit Red Wings that Craig Conroy and his team should look at taking a swing on: Filip Zadina.
The story of Zadina’s journey through the NHL is a disappointing one. He was selected sixth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft behind Barrett Hayton by the Arizona Coyotes and ahead of Quinn Hughes by the Vancouver Canucks. Since Hughes, in particular, has found his stride, and the picks from 1-4 have made impacts for their NHL teams (some more than others), all eyes have been on the Czech forward to see if he’ll turn things around.
In 2018-19 after being drafted, Zadina played nine games in the NHL so as not to burn a year off his entry-level contract. He scored one goal and registered two assists for three points before being sent down to the American Hockey League, where in 59 games, he scored 16 goals and 35 points.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019-20, Zadina only amassed a total of 49 games played between the NHL and AHL. In 28 NHL games, he scored 15 points, and in 21 AHL games, he scored 16 points. He was then loaned by the Red Wings back to his home in Czechia to play overseas, where he was almost a point per game with 14 points in 17 appearances before coming back over to America and playing the most NHL games of his career (49). But nothing had changed. He wasn’t scoring as much as many fans wanted, and the team needed, with 19 points. And in 2021-22, he barely improved on that mark in 25 more games played, scoring 24 points.
Last season is where this disappointing saga ends for now, as he scored only 7 points in 30 games and we are now here, with Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman placing him on waivers.
I’m sure you’re asking, “Why in the world should the Flames take a swing on a player that has clearly struggled to make an even decent impact at the NHL level?”
The first reason I think they should is primarily because a change of scenery would more than likely help him. Personally, I find it incredible the way that plenty of professional athletes can change their habits entirely by moving from one city to another and how that, in turn, makes them more effective players. Zadina has gotten all of the opportunity in the world in Detroit and hasn’t made much of it. So, why not try and bring him into a different environment that is trying to instill youth in the lineup, but not as drastically as the Red Wings were at the time of Zadina’s selection?
The second reason is a pretty obvious one, but it costs the Flames nothing. Zadina’s cap hit is very manageable at $1.825 million for this upcoming season and the next, and there’s no asset that needs to be given up to acquire him. If it doesn’t work, then that’s a risk the Flames have to take, and there may be other potential suitors for a reclamation project out there. But if it does work out and Zadina finds his stride in the middle six of the Flames lineup, they have a cheap, reliable, and controlled asset.
The Flames sit in a position where they clearly aren’t going to contend, but they aren’t a bad enough team to fully rebuild either unless management fully commits to it, which is unlikely considering the level of players they have locked up long-term. Finding players in the bargain bin (like Zadina) could be a huge start to turning things around. There’s no need to keep him if it doesn’t work out, but I don’t think in this position that the cons outweigh the pros. We saw what happened to Eeli Tolvanen in Seattle, and even Yzerman compared Zadina’s situation to his and spoke about how he believes the 23-year-old can still be an effective forward at the NHL level.
There are things that Zadina really needs to iron out with his game, especially with his physicality level, and it’s a shame that Mitch Love is no longer with the Calgary Wranglers, or I would have even more faith in the Flames system to help him improve. But nonetheless, I think it’s worth a shot to nab Zadina and put lots of effort into fixing the problems he has and improving his strengths.

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