LA Kings: Does a trade for Nikita Zadorov make sense?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

With the potential for Nikita Zadorov becoming available this offseason, should the LA Kings insert themselves in trade conversations?

Drafted 16th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, Nikita Zadorov looked like he would be a mainstay along the Avalanche blueline for the foreseeable future. Now he looks like he could be on his way out, which could benefit the LA Kings‘ defensive needs. The Avalanche re-signed the Moscow, Russia native to a one-year deal last offseason to buy themselves more time to figure out a long-term plan.

Zadorov, 25, was paired with Cale Makar at the beginning of the year but was eventually unseated by Ryan Graves and saw the majority of his time paired with Ian Cole and Samuel Girard. With 2019 fourth overall pick Bowen Byram likely to see regular playing time in the NHL next season, Zadorov could find himself as the odd man out.

As a restricted free agent, the Avalanche could conceivably sign Zadorov to a long-term extension. After all, they have approximately $22.4M in available cap space, but they need to be mindful that Gabriel Landeskog, Ian Cole, and Philipp Grubauer will all be unrestricted free agents after the 2020-2021 season.

Where do the LA Kings fit in this?

Rob Blake and the LA Kings front office have been deadset on finding a left-handed defenseman this offseason. To this point, they have not addressed anything beyond re-signing their own guys, and a LHD could have just landed into their lap.

Zadorov is extremely versatile in that he can play at both LHD and RHD positions. Before Ian Cole arrived in the 2018-2019 campaign, Zadorov logged a career-high 19:28 minutes of average on-ice time the year prior. And with that playing time, Zadorov scored seven goals with 13 assists for 20 points while also logging 106 blocked shots and 278 hits.

For reference, he lit the lamp four times with nine assists for 13 points while averaging 17:46 of on-ice time this past season. It would seem that more playing time benefits both Zadorov and his team.

At 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, Zadorov is a big, physical presence who can also provide offensive contributions – registering a 0.9 OPS and 3.5 DPS in 2017-2018 – which is sorely needed on the Kings roster going forward.

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Zadorov also posted respectable numbers in the postseason, scoring three goals with two assists for five points while collecting 51 hits in 15 games before being ousted by the eventual Western Conference Champion Dallas Stars.

The Avalanche are without a second-round pick in next month’s draft, so the Kings could conceivably work out a sign a trade deal with Colorado. Zadorov is projected to net a deal at a $3.5M AAV, and with more playing time than he saw the last two years with the Avalanche, he could end up looking like a steal.

Next year, the Avalanche don’t have a fourth-round pick, so Blake could offer a fourth-round pick and a prospect or two. There are several trade scenarios here that could conceivably get it done, but does it make sense for the Kings to do this trade?

I suppose, as a counterpoint, LA could very well use all three of their second-round picks on a defenseman, which would align with the current rebuild plan. Acquiring Zadorov right now may waste his prime, for lack of a better term, given that the Kings aren’t projected to be ready for a deep postseason run for at least a couple more seasons. And that’s assuming everything goes to plan.

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But then again, acquiring Zadorov this offseason to plug in at LHD and making a big free-agent splash signing next year could significantly accelerate the rebuild. I think, if you’re the Kings, you have to at least give Joe Sakic a phone call to get the conversation started.