The Colorado Avalanche have come to an agreement with restricted free agent Nikita Zadorov, signing him to a one-year contract according to agent Dan Milstein of Gold Star Hockey. Zadorov was eligible to file for arbitration before today’s deadline, but instead will re-up with the organization for one more year. A.J. Haefele of BSN Denver reports the deal will be for $3.2MM.
Zadorov, 24, was a huge part of the package that sent Ryan O’Reilly to the Buffalo Sabres in 2015, and has suited up for 225 games with the Avalanche since. An incredibly imposing figure on the ice, the 6’5″ 230-lbs defenseman is one of the most feared open ice hitters in the league and doesn’t hold back when he sees a chance. In those 225 games, Zadorov has totaled 712 hits for the Avalanche while adding 46 points.
It’s that offense that many hoped would come around when Buffalo selected Zadorov 16th overall in 2013, but he has never been able to add that side of his game. While he does have a good shot, his skill in breaking the puck out of his own zone is still lacking and he doesn’t have the playmaking upside to be involved on the powerplay. With the Avalanche adding top prospects Cale Makar and Bowen Byram in recent years, it will be imperative for Zadorov to improve his all-around play if he wants to remain a big part of the Colorado blue line. Already the team shipped Tyson Barrie out of town because of their strength on the back end, and still has at least eight capable NHL defenders on the roster.
Zadorov though now represents the third-highest paid defenseman on the team, and will be an important part early on in the season. Ian Cole and Erik Johnson are both doubtful to be ready for the start of the season due to injury, meaning that the big left-handed defender may get more ice time to show just how much of an impact he can make.