Once upon a time, the Detroit Red Wings drafted Filip Zadina in the hopes that he would be a lethal scorer. He was the darling of analysts, with a projected high ceiling and as he went through juniors and then the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins it looked good.
Zadina famously warned teams who passed on him upon his path to the Red Wings that he would “fill their net with pucks.” It never materialized.
Zadina was put on waivers by Detroit on Monday, making for an interesting question on teams like the Chicago Blackhawks who are looking for value players as they climb out of what looked like a long rebuild. According to Detroit Hockey Now’ s Kevin Allen, general manager Steve Yzerman was asked to trade him and when that didn’t materialize, he was placed on waivers.
“A couple of weeks prior to the draft, through his agent, he asked whether he could potentially go somewhere else,” Yzerman said. “Looking for more opportunity and a fresh start. I’ve tried to do that. I’ve tried to find a place for him to play.”
The question, though, is if there is space for him.
Zadina Never Could Put it Together
Brought in as a sniper, Zadina eventually turned more into a two-way forward and a distributor. There were times it looked as if he were absolutely snake bitten on the ice. Simply put, if anyone was going to hit both posts and the crossbar with an open net, it would be Zadina. The frustration built, with Zadina at times looking visually baffled as to how he couldn’t find the back of the net.
Former coach Jeff Blashill wanted Zadina to not worry about the goal scoring as much as about being a complete player. But while he made strides, injury robbed him of the first half of his season and the winger, who signed a three-year extension last season, never looked like the player Detroit envisioned him to be.
Now, he’s on waivers and potentially an intriguing option for a team that might want to take a shot.
The Blackhawks went out and got veteran leaders to supplant Connor Bedard as he’s acclimated to the NHL level much quicker. Zadina, though, is in a different mold than those signed. He’s only known a rebuild and one where he was actually brought in with the hopes that he would help lead them out of it.
So where could he potentially fit in if the team that has gotten better now no longer seems him as a logical fit? With a very affordable two-year deal, Zadina’s has a high motor and compete, and improved his playmaking over the seasons he spent in Detroit. But confidence appeared to be an issue at times and even the Red Wings couldn’t unload him via trade.
Where did Detroit’s Coaching Staff Slot Him In?
Back in February, Detroit head coach Derek Lalonde was asked about where Zadina fit in the lineup. It likely provides the strongest clue of how he would slot in with Chicago.
“Tough to say,” Lalonde said. “You’re just hoping on projections, but of course, the way he can skate and shoot, his skill-set, you’d hope for him to be a top-six type. But you see the way teams are designed right now. The old school third checking line, the fourth tough checking line, you don’t see that much anymore.”
Zadina was on the outside looking in during the season opener and found himself in a similar spot in February. An injury in November shelved him and he had yet to register a point in nine games up until that injury. He finished the season with seven points (3-4) in 30 games.
But Lalonde saw the injury as some of what zapped Zadina of any momentum he was gaining.
“He started to get a little rhythm in his game before his injury and that was a really tough injury,” Lalonde said. “It took him a long time to get back from it. Probably a little bit of a start over for him this year, especially with our new staff. You see parts of what translates to skating, shooting. It’s just a matter of him putting it all together.
If Interested–Where Could he Fit in the Lineup?
For a team like Chicago, the risk is small to take him on. Zadina has a cap hit of just $1.825M over the next two seasons, small potatoes for the Blackhawks who have plenty of cap room.
At worst, he’s sent to Rockford if a spot isn’t there. At best, he breaks out into the scorer he was once projected to be. Somewhere in the middle- he produces and turns out to be an asset either for the future or perhaps being flipped to a contender at the trade deadline.
Regardless, the risk is low and Chicago would gain a player who knows exactly what what they’re building for.
But the best part? They wouldn’t give anything up to add him.