Canucks may have a ready-made replacement for Nikita Zadorov

With Nikita Zadorov seemingly too expensive for the Canucks, pending free agent Brenden Dillion represents a cheaper and overall comparable alternative.
Winnipeg Jets v Boston Bruins
Winnipeg Jets v Boston Bruins / Richard T Gagnon/GettyImages

As we wrote on Saturday, the Vancouver Canucks will apparently find out within the next few days if they have any chance of getting Nikita Zadorov back next season. The news came courtesy of Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, during Friday's edition of the 32 Thoughts podcast with Jeff Marek.

The overriding belief is that the odds of Zadorov returning to Vancouver are at less than 50 percent, especially after talks between the two sides apparently stalled. The bottom line is money, with the 2013 16th overall draft pick speculated to be looking at between $5 million and $6 million per season over five years.

Given the Canucks have nine unrestricted and two restricted pending free agents to negotiate with, it seems unlikely they can find/justify the money Zadorov is apparently after. As such, you imagine general manager Patrik Allvin and the rest of the front office are already considering alternative options.

Brenden Dillion is the perfect replacement

Along these lines, they may well be a player out there who can be favourably comparable to Zadorov, and at a cheaper cost. With due credit to Tyson Cole of Canucks Army for suggesting the player, that alternative could be Brenden Dillon, who is another pending unrestricted free agent.

Zadorov is renowned for his physical and intimidating presence on the ice, which is something you can also say about the 6 foot 4 200 pound Dillon. In fact, Dillon has averaged 2.43 hits and 1.32 blocks per game during his 13 seasons, compared to 2.75 and 1.03 respectively from Zadorov over 11 seasons.

In recent seasons Dillon has actually proved to be more involved in the physical side of the game compared to Zadorov, with more hits and blocks in each of the past three seasons. For what it's worth, as per, Dillon also has considerably more fights during his NHL career with a 87-30 edge.

Both players are considered leaders, with the latter having been an alternate captain during his time in Winnipeg with the Jets. This is of course an invaluable and intangible attribute to have, when it comes to motivating your teammates.

Neither plays is considered much of an offensive threat from the blue line now or at any time during their respective NHL careers, so that's a stalemate. Zadorov's career high is 22 in 2021-22 and he has averaged 0.23 points a game, compared to Dillon's career high of 23 in 2022-24 and averaging 0.22 per contest.

Factoring in age and cost

The main thing that goes against Dillon is his age of 33, compared to 29 by Zadorov. If the Canucks are looking to shore up their defence for the next five seasons, the latter is clearly a better option.

However, when it all comes down to it, as per one of the main reasons for Cole suggesting Dillon, it's about the financial ramifications. As much as Dillon is only realistically a short-term solution, he's also a more affordable one for the Canucks.

Using AFP Analytics, Cole notes that Zadorov is projected to have a salary worth $5.32 million in 2024-25. By comparison Dillon is projected to make $2.87 million, which for all intents and purposes is just more than half the amount.

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Overall, let's be clear in stating the Canucks would love to have Zadorov back next season, but it seems that despite him talking about how much he loves Vancouver, the reality is that money ultimately talks. As such, while there are of course no guarantees Dillon would actually agree to move to the west coast, he at least represents a more than reasonable potential replacement.

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