Bring me Nikita Zadorov: Detroit Red Wings a match forged in Heaven or Hell?

As we approach free agency, it seems that Nikita Zadorov is hitting the market, and he should be the first on the list for the Detroit Red Wings to add. Here’s why.
Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks - Game Seven
Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks - Game Seven / Derek Cain/GettyImages

One of my fondest memories of former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jake Walman was the overtime winner, then hitting the griddy celly. 

It’s a silly little dance. Showboating? I suppose. Super fun? Absolutely, if you’re on his team.

A specific Vancouver Canucks player, Nikita Zadorov was none too pleased with his goal celebration. 

Zadorov made it clear in an interview posted on March 10, 2024, to Sportsnet’s Youtube channel. When Zadorov is asked, “you’ve really got to admit, Nikita, Walman’s griddy was pretty good, right?” To which, Zadorov gave a simple answer, “No.”

He elaborated further, "I mean, I think that’s disrespectful to the team, personally, and we beat them next game. That’s all that matters.”

Things might have gone differently in the first matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings if Zadorov wasn’t booted early for a high hit on Detroit Red Wings player, Lucas Raymond.

Rather than playing the victim or making excuses, Zadorov owned the high hit. He accepted his 2-game suspension, agreeing with the penalty and supplemental discipline.

Already speaking volumes to the character of Zadorov, he piles on:

"First of all, I was shocked nobody challenged me. And I kind of feel sad because the league’s changed. I mean, I feel like if a young guy in my team would get a hit in the head and an opponent’s guy would get suspended or whatever, you still have to send a message. So I was, like, shocked nobody actually challenged me or anything. I was ready.

I was ready to answer the bell because it was a dirty hit. Unfortunate hit–I didn’t do it on purpose–but it was dirty on one of their top young [players]. So that kind of shocked me, first of all. Second of all…there’s still a little disrespect when somebody is dancing on you in overtime. I mean people are different. I’m a little bit more old school, so you definitely have to send the message back the other way yesterday."


It was a game where any one of our veterans could have stood up for Raymond. As with countless games and examples previously, Raymond was left alone to stand up for himself.

A guy like Marco Kasper will help. Other young players will help too, but it’s the veterans who set the tone of this team.

I find myself asking, why is a guy like Ben Chiarot here if he’s not standing up for his teammates? It surely isn’t from his offensive play.  Even less for his defensive play.

Why can teammates find room to celebrate by dancing, yet not stand up for a teammate when it matters most?

As our young players take spots on the Detroit Red Wings, other teams will come for them. They’ll go after them harder, faster, and meaner than any of the old guys who are just seeking a paycheck or some faded Stanley Cup dream. 

Adding (yet another) left handed defenseman to the roster isn’t necessary, but Zadorov is for the Detroit Red Wings. It’s not about his position, his handedness, or his play specifically, but his mindset that we need so desperately. 

The biggest thing in this equation, what can the Detroit Red Wings offer Zadorov?

It seems like maybe the Detroit Red Wings need Zadorov more than he needs us.

Something that Zadorov may find with the Detroit Red Wings is a group of young players, mixed with some older players, who want to chase Lord Stanley. Someone like Olli Määttä has done it, as have David Perron and Patrick Kane if either or both return. 

Yzerman has shown he can build the foundations of a contender for the Tampa Bay Lightning, so he has that going for him. 

Another positive about the Detroit Red Wings roster is the flexibility on defense. Yes, there are quite a few warm bodies, but the team has shown they are perfectly fine rotating players in and out of the lineup. It means that Zadorov has a great chance of earning full-time minutes if his game demands it. 

The biggest pull, aside from an attempt to chase the Cup, is the young players. Zadorov mentions his teammates and building with them. He can be part of the leadership group with the Detroit Red Wings who helps drive this next wave of the Detroit Red Wings, and making sure that it’s built the right way. 

Playing and fighting for each other.

Raymond needs him. The Detroit Red Wings need him.

June 29. Detroit Red Wings battle royale: Marco Kasper vs. Nate Danielson. dark. Next