This week, the Detroit Red Wings terminated their contract with 2018 sixth overall pick Filip Zadina. Zadina is now a free agent who can sign with any team, and the Edmonton Oilers could be the perfect fit. Ken Holland actually drafted Zadina when he was running the Red Wings, so he is definitely familiar with the player and has a pre-existing relationship with him.
Who is Filip Zadina?
Zadina was highly touted in his draft year and was widely viewed as a top prospect. When he fell to the Red Wings at sixth overall, it was viewed as an early steal of the draft as he was projected to go either third or fourth overall. After falling to sixth and being passed by five teams, Zadina vowed to “fill their nets with pucks”. Unfortunately, Zadina’s career hasn’t gone according to plan, but he’s still just 23 years old.
After torching the Czech hockey scene as a teenager, Zadina moved to North America to play his draft season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. He put up an incredible 44 goals and 82 points in just 57 games, and another five goals and 12 points in nine playoff games. He can do it all, from shooting, passing, skating, and two-way play, Zadina has the potential to be an impact winger in the NHL despite that potential not materializing just yet.
In the NHL, Zadina has scored 28 goals and 68 points in 190 games for the Red Wings. Not a lot to like there, but there hasn’t been a lot to like about the Red Wings in general during those five years.
Zadina shoots left but can play both wings.
Can Zadina break out next season?
Looking into Zadina’s analytics, there is lots to love about him as a player and plenty of evidence that suggests he is due to break out at some point.
From NaturalStatTrick.com, Zadina ranks very well in underlying numbers last season. These stats include all Red Wings players with at least 20 games in 2022-23.
Digging deeper, Zadina looks like someone who could benefit from a change of scenery and better teammate talent. Cory Sznajder, one of the premier data trackers in the public NHL analytic world, tweeted about Zadina this week:
If Zadina is put in better spots to shoot lik on a line with one of Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, two of the best passers in the game, perhaps his shot would be better utilized than on a Red Wings team devoid of talent.
Couple a turn in puck luck with better teammate quality and you could have a bonafide top-six winger for pennies on the dollar.
It just makes sense
The Oilers are one of the most cap strapped teams in the league, so adding anyone to the roster is not an easy task. However, for a player looking to rebuild his stock in the NHL with nothing to lose, what better spot is there for Zadina that Edmonton? For him, money is secondar at this point. What he’s focused on is re-creating his image to what it was in his draft year. He needs to put up big numbers and prove he’s a legit NHL player, and playing on a line with McDavid or Draisaitl will do that.
Zadina already has a relationship with the GM here as Holland drafted him back in Detroit, and should be able to offer a guaranteed opportunity in the NHL. With those benefits already locked in, Zadina would surely take a cheap deal with the Oilers, even if it’s just for one season. He’s coming off a contract that with a $1.825M AAV, so his next deal could easily be around the $1M mark.
Teams are allowed to exceed the cap by 10% in the offseason. I say do what you can to sign Zadina in that range, and deal with the roster afterwards. If Lane Pederson, or Markus Niemelainen have to start the season in the AHL, so be it.
This is a gamble worth taking, and it’s one that good teams bet on. The Oilers should step up and take a shot at Zadina; it’s a win-win for the player and the team.