Maple Leafs Eye Veteran Free-Agent Defenseman

It was announced on Friday that Nikita Zadorov will be exploring free agency after failing to reach an agreement with the Vancouver Canucks.

TSN’s Darren Dreger shared that Vancouver offered Zadorov $5M, but he believes he can get a better deal in free agency. At least 10 teams, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, are interested in him. Toronto’s general manager, Brad Treliving, is looking for size and grit in their defense this year—qualities Zadorov has plenty of. Before his move to the Canucks, Toronto was among several teams like Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils, and New York Islanders trying to trade for him.

These teams are expected to pursue Zadorov again this summer. The Devils recently drafted Anton Silayev who plays similarly to Zadorov. This could make Zadorov a good mentor but might limit him to a short-term deal as they anticipate Silayev and Seamus Casey joining the NHL soon. Dallas might lose Chris Tanev and needs defensive help; the Islanders also need strong defenders.

Market Dynamics:

Zadorov hopes these teams’ needs will create a bidding war for his services. However, there’s always a risk when buying in a player’s market. Last season at age 29, he scored six points in 21 games with the Flames and 14 points in 54 games with the Canucks while racking up 125 penalty minutes—a career-high for him.

With July 1 approaching fast, Zadorov wants more than $5M despite his low scoring numbers. He remains one of the top defensemen available behind players like Chris Tanev, Brady Skjei, Brett Pesce, and Shayne Gostisbehere. Fans might think it’s smart for him to sign quickly before other defenders set higher market prices.

Toronto acquired rights to pending UFA Chris Tanev from Calgary Flames for Max Ellis and a seventh-round pick but hasn’t started talks yet according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic. They have until weekend’s end to negotiate with Tanev who seeks similar pay as Zadorov for a right-side role on top four defensemen.

Even so TSN’s Darren Dreger notes both Zadorov and Oliver Ekman-Larsson could still be part of Toronto’s plans too.

What do you think? Is it wise for these teams to chase after Zadorov?

Alex Thompson
Alex Thompson
Alex Thompson is a Senior Writer for HockeyMonitor. With a background in Sports Media, Alex joined the team in 2022. He focuses on providing the latest hockey news, game scores, and fresh NHL trade rumors.

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