The Chicago Blackhawks have 13 players with contracts expiring this offseason. A few will walk, but most will receive new deals, so long as the money makes sense for the Blackhawks. One player-situation that will be interesting to watch unfold is arbitration-eligible restricted free agent defenseman Nikita Zadorov.
On a terrible Blackhawks defensive group this season, Zadorov was far from worthy of his $3.2M cap hit. It appears, though, that maybe he’s still in the plans for the future with Chicago.
Bowman says they've started the process of negotiations with Zadorov and other players needing contracts.
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) May 12, 2021
Zadorov was brought over from the Colorado Avalanche in the trade that sent Brandon Saad back the other way. That was already strike one against the 26-year-old Russian before he even stopped foot on the ice for Chicago. The 2021 season did him almost no favors in the eyes of many Blackhawks fans, myself included.
Ten Blackhawks defensemen played at least 60 minutes this season, here is where Zadorov ranked at 5v5 among them, according to Natural Stat Trick –
• Chances-For%: 44.76 (7th)
• Shots-For%: 44.73 (6th)
• Goals-For%: 50.82 (3rd)
• Expected Goals-For%: 44.90 (6th)
• PDO: 1.018 (4th)
• Penalties/60: 0.71 (4th)
• Hits/60: 11.31 (1st)
• Blocks/60: 3.92 (7th)
• Minutes per game: 19:12 (3rd)
Coming over from the Avalanche, his player card read that he was big, slow, and hit a lot of people. His season in Chicago was highlighted by him being big, slow, and hitting a lot of people. But for the $3.2M price tag, the return on investment wasn’t tipping in the favor of Chicago. You can find a lot of NHL-caliber defensemen who are big and hit people for much less than $3.2M per season.
Zadorov: "I was thinking last night, it was probably the most solid season of my career. Not the best if you look at the stats…but I was really solid defensively. I improved in that area a lot."
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) May 11, 2021
Now a restricted free agent with arbitrations rights, the Blackhawks will have to come in with a qualifying offer above the $3.2M hit.
In my eyes, he did nothing to warrant that kind of raise and in arbitration, he’ll of course be looking for more money. The Blackhawks will go under that offer as a counter and the two sides would meet in the middle somewhere. Is it worth it to Chicago to pay that much money for a big, slow, physical player? I say no.
Nikita Zadorov, respectfully, did not comment on whether his agent and GM Stan Bowman have discussed a potential extension yet.
He said he'd like to remain in Chicago and wants to be part of future. #Blackhawks
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) May 11, 2021
Add in the fact that Chicago gave Riley Stillman, a player who plays a similar style to Zadorov but is three years younger, a three-year contract extension almost immediately after coming to the Blackhawks from the Panthers at the trade deadline and it looked like the writing was on the wall for Zadorov. We’ll have to see how the process plays out, but it would be entirely a surprise to me if the Blackhawks would bring him back for the 2021-22 season and beyond.