Should the Blackhawks sign Zadorov? His numbers stack up nicely with fellow Blackhawks blue-liners

  • Blackhawks defenseman Nikita Zadorov clears Florida's Radko Gudas from behind the net in the April 29 game at the United Center.

    Blackhawks defenseman Nikita Zadorov clears Florida's Radko Gudas from behind the net in the April 29 game at the United Center. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/17/2021 12:37 PM

Should he stay or should he go?

With apologies to The Clash, that might just be the question Blackhawks management is mulling when it comes to defenseman Nikita Zadorov.

 

Acquired in a trade with Colorado for Brandon Saad last October, Zadorov will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this off-season.

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Russian gave the Hawks much needed physicality by dishing out 190 hits, good for seventh-best in the NHL. He averaged more than 19 minutes while matched against some of the best forwards in the league on a nightly basis.

While many fans have blasted Zadorov, they may be surprised to find out that his 5-on-5 numbers are as good or better than most of his fellow blue liners (minimum 300 minutes).

To wit, according to naturalstattrick.com:

• The Hawks outscored opponents 31-30 while Zadorov was on the ice, giving him the No. 1 goals-for percentage of 50.82. Adam Boqvist (47.50) and Connor Murphy (47.22) were next.

• Zadorov's high-danger chance percentage of 45.39 was third out of seven.

• His high-danger chance goals percentage of 48.84 was No. 1, beating out Murphy (45.65), Boqvist (40) and Wyatt Kalynuk (40).

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As most of you know, I don't delve into these numbers often because they can be misleading, especially over short periods of time. In this case, however, they do a good job of illustrating how Zadorov compared to his teammates in some key categories.

Two areas he didn't fare as well were scoring chances-for percentage (43.14, fifth) and Corsi-for percentage (44.76, fifth).

"He was playing against good players often, and if you're just a little bit off your game when you're matched up against top players, that can be a challenge," said GM Stan Bowman. "He did some good things defensively."

There's little doubt Zadorov struggled at times, and especially down the stretch.

He's underwhelming as a skater, a mediocre passer and has a tendency to get confused in the defensive zone at the wrong times.

Still, his long reach makes up for a lot of flaws and he can be a valuable asset in the coming years. For the right price, of course.

Zadorov's cap hit this season was $3 million. He'll no doubt be looking for a raise, but also understands he's not Roman Josi or Victor Hedman.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"For sure I would like to re-sign," Zadorov said "We're going to have a really good team in a couple of years. It's really big for me to re-sign here and be a part of it. ...

"I don't need (a) $15 million contract."

During his final media availability last week, Zadorov said this "was probably (the) most solid season of my career." Ten days earlier, however, he was a bit more critical.

"I have (had) some ups and downs during the year," Zadorov said. "Playing well; also had some not great games. But all of us make mistakes. All of us have those bad games or you're a little bit down emotional(ly) because you're playing eight teams all the time.

"It's hard with the schedule, as well as sitting in the bubble still. Can't go anywhere. Can't do anything. ... But I grew a lot and (am) looking forward to getting better."

One place Zadorov hopes that happens -- even if it's just a little -- is offensively as he managed 1 goal and 7 assists in 55 games. Zadorov had 18 goals in 211 games in his final three seasons with the Avs.

"I'll be more offensive definitely," Zadorov said. "Definitely I would like to improve on that area. ...

"But there's not many 'D' in the league who are carrying the puck into the zone, dangling guys and then go score coast-to-coast. There's only a few of them. I'm not (Colorado's) Cale Makar.

"My job is a little bit more simple to win the puck, win the battle, give it to our forwards' hands and join the rush when I can."

If Zadorov does return, he'll have no shortage of competition as Boqvist, Wyatt Kalynuk, Nicolas Beaudin and others continue to improve. Not that Zadorov is worried about them eating into his minutes.

"Yeah, it's fine, I'm confident," he said. "I know what kind of player I am and I know what I can bring to this team. I wouldn't have any problems with that."

Now we'll just have to wait and see if there are any problems getting Zadorov to sign on the dotted line.

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