The Calgary Flames have already had a busy off-season, and it’s about to get even busier, and it’s not going to slow down any time soon, especially with so many decisions to make ahead of the 2023 campaign, one of which has gone overlooked immensely, and that’s the future of ‘Big Z’, Nikita Zadorov. In two seasons with the Flames, Zadorov has played in 156 games, scoring 18 goals and and 25 assists for 43 points, including a fantastic 14 goals this past season, but now, the team need to make a big decision on their physical defenceman.
Now, after a career best year offensively, the Flames will need to make decisions on plenty of defencemen, and like the others, the result for Zadorov will rely heavily on the outcome of the Flames negotiations with 26-year old phenom Noah Hanifin. At 28-years of age, Zadorov has plenty of quality hockey ahead of him, but it’s likely to come on the third blue line pairing alonside a Michael Stone or Troy Stecher, so if they can get him back on an extension over 2-3 years, it would be a great value move for Calgary.
Ultimately, Zadorov is never going to be play a crucial role for the future of the Calgary Flames, but after a fantastic 2022-23 campaign, he can be a very effective third pairing defenceman for the Flames, and will hold plenty of value going forward. If the team decide to extend Hanifin, then they may be able to get a first-round pick in return for a tall, physical defenceman that finished 14 goals during the 2022-23 season, but the most likely option is a cheap, short-term extension.
Verdict: The Flames have plenty of talent at the NHL level defensively, but their prospect cupboard is bare at the position, and until they can develop some of them, they will need depth, experience and talent, and Big Z brings all of that plus plenty of heart, so look for them to lock him into a short-term deal this off-season.