What should the Calgary Flames do with Nikita Zadorov?

Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Munnich
1 year ago
Since arriving in Calgary in 2021, Nikita Zadorov has been a consistent, physical presence on the the Flames third defensive pairing. You could make the argument that the best two years of Zadorov’s career have come wearing the flaming C.
He is 28 years old coming off a career year where he scored 14 goals and has one year left on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
What should the Flames do with Zadorov? Let’s dive into that topic.

Reasons to keep Zadorov

He is a valuable player 

Zadorov is a very effective defencemen when he is slotted properly on the Flames third pairing. He brings a lot to the table using his physical gifts. He is the most physical player on the team and adds an element of toughness and intimidation which is still valuable in the NHL today. He is also a great puck carrier. His ability to rush the puck out of his own zone and either carry it up the ice himself or make an outlet pass is an important part of the Flames game. He also has a tendency to step up and make plays in times when the Flames need a boost of energy.
He also scored a career high of 14 goals last season. He was a threat to score from the point with his shot. That is a skill that was lacking on the Flames blueline last season as the next closest goal scorer was Rasmus Andersson with 11 goals, and then Noah Hanifin with 7 goals.
Finally, Zadorov’s size is of value to the Flames. You look at the defense groups of the past Stanley Cup champions, and they are filled with massive defencemen who can skate. Zadorov is exactly that. Those type of defencemen are becoming more valuable in a copy cat NHL where teams are always looking to get bigger on the back end.

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He loves Calgary 
In a small Canadian market like Calgary, it’s important to reward players who want to play for your team and be a champion for your city. Zadorov is exactly that. In his year end exit interview, he told the Calgary media group that he would love to be a Calgary Flame for life. It is important to have those types of people in your organization.
Zadorov has has a great personality that his teammates and the fans love. He always tells it like it is in his interviews and give refreshing answers to questions asked of him.

What would a contract extension look like for Zadorov? 

Here are some comparable contracts for Zadorov.
Josh Manson4 Years, $4.5 million AAV
Erik Gudbranson4 Years, $4 million AAV
Nick Jensen3 Years, $4.05 million AAV
Brayden McNabb3 Years, $2.85 million AAV
Zadorov would probably be in line to make similar money to what he is making now. He signed a two year contract with an AAV of $3.75 million last summer. If the Flames want to keep him around long term they would be looking at a 3-4 year contracts with an AAV of around $3.5 million.

Reasons to move on from Zadorov

That’s a lot of money to be paying a third pairing defenceman
The biggest, and maybe only reason to trade or move on from Zadorov is because of his future salary cap hit.
Managing your salary cap has become one of the most important parts of a general managers job in todays NHL. It’s a reality of the league. Successful teams do a great job of allocating their cap dollars properly.
With that in mind, we should ask ourselves if it makes sense to be paying a third pairing defenceman over $3M on a long term contact. Could that money be better used in more important positions on your roster?
Zadorov brings a lot of intangibles to the Flames like personality, leadership, size, intimidation, etc. But it has become clear over his two years in Calgary that he is best suited to play third pairing minutes. Any time he gets top four minutes he seems to faulter.

What should the Flames do with Zadorov? 

I think the Flames should cash in on Zadorov’s career year and 14 goals and trade him between now and the 2024 trade deadline to a contender. They should be able to get some solid assets in return for the big defenceman.
The Flames already have Noah Hanifin and Oliver Kylington on the left side in the top four. Zadorov becomes a luxury on the third pairing that the Flames can’t afford.
Zadorov has been an awesome Flame and a great personality around the team. But team building in the NHL can be ruthless. Case and point with Zadorov.
What do you want the Flames to do with Nikita Zadorov? Let us know in the comments section!

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