Colorado Avalanche: Judging the Nikita Zadorov Contract Negotiation

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 03: Nikita Zadorov
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 03: Nikita Zadorov /

The protracted negotiations between the Colorado Avalanche and defenseman Nikita Zadorov were needlessly long and contentious.

The Colorado Avalanche signed defenseman Nikita Zadorov to a two-year bridge contract worth $4.3 million total. He’ll make $2.1 million this season and $2.2 million next season.

That might already be old news for you by now. You’ll also know that Zadorov has been a restricted free agent since July 1, 2017. Naturally, both parties were aware Zadorov would be a restricted free agent this summer, and there would have to be a contract negotiated.

And yet the deal got done day before yesterday, September 15, during the first day of on-ice training camp for the Avalanche. Zadorov is currently working on his immigration paperwork, so he hasn’t been allowed to join the team yet. That means he’ll have missed all of training camp and, most likely, the intrasquad scrimmage of the Burgundy and White game.

This seems less than ideal for a team that, by its own admission, didn’t showcase good chemistry last season. This is inideal for a team struggling to find its identity — one that has to resort to a motto (Why Not Us) from four seasons ago. (I’m also not relishing that question being answered… again.)

Zadorov is supposed to represent the immediate future of the Colorado Avalanche’s blueline. At the time of Zadorov’s trade to Colorado, GM Joe Sakic stated that he expected Zadorov to be a force in the NHL for “10 years.” I’d say he, along with Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie, form the identity of the defensive corps.

So why didn’t this deal get done more quickly?

It was widely reported at the time that the two sides were stuck on about $500,000 annually. That’s a lot of money for me. I daresay it’s a lot for you. That’s a good chunk of change for Zadorov.

You know who wouldn’t be phased by that amount? Kroenke Sports Entertainment, who would have to fork it over. Before signing Zadorov, the Colorado Avalanche had in the neighborhood of $11 million in cap space, so that wasn’t an issue either.

The rationale at the time was that Zadorov hadn’t proved he was worth $2.5 million. They’d agreed on the timeframe — two years — but that $500,000 was the big sticking point.

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A lot of fans were suggesting the two sides split the difference. Indeed, it was suggested that Zadorov would accept $2.25 million. Now the sticking point was just $500,000 total. Chump change for men like Stan and Josh Kroenke.

People are always talking about how the NHL is just a business. This wasn’t a business situation. A foundational tenet of business is the law of supply and demand. Young, talented defensemen are in short supply in the NHL — they’re in demand. That means you have to pay more for them the way you pay more for, say, gold over silver.

What’s more, who had the most to lose in this situation? Usually, it’s the player. However, this was a situation that’s becoming all too familiar. Russian players are willing to return to their native Russia to play for the KHL. Why not? They’ll make more money and get to be at home.

Granted, there’s no chance of winning the coveted Stanley Cup in Russia. However, the Colorado Avalanche aren’t in danger of doing that this year or next anyway. What’s more, Zadorov already had a KHL team that wanted to sign him.

And what would the Avalanche have done without Zadorov? They would have had to make do with this defensive corps:

That’s a sorry blueline. In other words, the Avalanche had the most to lose.

So, why the foot dragging? I think it was to set a precedent. It’s the same reason the team to Tyson Barrie through the arbitration process last year only to settle with him without hearing the arbiter’s decision. They want the players to know who’s in charge.

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Because in the end, they forced Zadorov to accept $2.3 million instead of $2.5. Really? That $200,000 was really worth Zadorov missing training camp and the Burgundy and White game? It was really worth the bad taste left in his mouth.

Because now the Colorado Avalanche are going to have to do it all over again in two years — with the defenseman who was supposed to be a force on their blueline for 10 years.