Flames trade Nikita Zadorov to Canucks for 2 draft picks

After weeks of rumors, Nikita Zadorov is finally on the move.

The first major in-season trade of 2023-24 is complete, as the Calgary Flames have sent defenseman Nikita Zadorov to the Vancouver Canucks.

In exchange, Calgary is receiving a fifth-round pick in 2024 and a third-round pick in 2026.

Zadorov is a crushing open-ice hitter who is capable of providing secondary offense. The 28-year-old reportedly requested a trade earlier this month and was reportedly coveted by the Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils, among other suitors.

Sportsnet’s Luke Fox reported that the Maple Leafs presented a legitimate offer to the Flames for Zadorov but needed Calgary to retain a portion of his salary to make the deal work. Toronto is generally cap-strapped but now has $2.3 million to work with after placing John Klingberg on long-term injured reserve.

Vancouver traded Anthony Beauvillier to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday in an effort to clear cap space. Beauvillier had quietly emerged as one of the best defensive forwards of the early 2023-24 season, so the trade was essentially a cap dump.

Zadorov has recorded one goal and five assists in 21 games in 2023-24. He has spent parts of the past three seasons with the Flames, with nearly 600 games logged throughout his career after breaking into the NHL as a teenager.

Nikita Zadorov is on the move from the Flames to the Canucks. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Nikita Zadorov is on the move from the Flames to the Canucks. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Calgary could be entering a transition period, as Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev are slated to test free agency next summer. Zadorov’s move to the Canucks is the first major domino off the board.

He is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, although this move almost certainly indicates the Canucks will make their best effort to retain him. Zadorov carries a $3.75 million cap hit for the 2023-24 campaign.

At the moment, Vancouver is carrying 23 players on the roster and can add four more professional contracts overall with roughly $2 million to work with. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will spend to the cap limit, but Zadorov’s acquisition is a promising move in the right direction.

This is a major coup for a Canucks team that has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, boasting legitimate Norris and Vezina favorites in Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko, respectively. Zadorov’s addition indicates Canucks’ management is rewarding the team for performing above expectations, and it signifies the front office believes this group is capable of making a legitimate playoff run.

Zadorov was primarily aligned with MacKenzie Weegar this season and despite their minus-three goal differential at 5-on-5, they also carried a 55% share of the expected goals.

It’s unlikely the Canucks will break up the Hughes-Filip Hronek pairing, as they’ve been one of the best duos in the league, but Zadorov should augment the rest of the group and it’s important to note that he’s capable of contributing on both sides of the ice.