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THE MOJ: Zadorov should mean the hits keep coming for the Canucks

Big defenceman pleases fan base, looks like the right player at the right price
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The Vancouver Canucks acquired defenseman Nikita Zadorov from the Calgary Flames on Thursday in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft and a third-round pick in the 2026 NHL Entry Draft. Photo courtesy of Calgary Flames

The Vancouver Canucks addressed a pressing need by acquiring defenseman Nikita Zadorov from the Calgary Flames on Wednesday in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft and a third-round pick in the 2026 NHL Entry Draft.

Canuck Nation filled social media with positive reviews on the trade as the deal not only surprised Canuck fans but people around the league as well.

I talked to one NHL executive from an Eastern Conference team who was shocked that the Canucks landed Zadorov.

“First off, I’m shocked Calgary traded him this early. I’m shocked that they also traded him within the division and I’m shocked that they settled for what they did,” the individual told me.

Zadorov gives the Canucks some badly needed depth on the back end and – at 6’ 6” and 250 pounds – some size as well.

He will also bring an element of skill according to Canucks defenseman Ian Cole, who was a teammate of Zadorov’s in Colorado during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.

“Z is a very good player. He was my D-partner for at least a full year if not longer and we played really well together. He’s a big dude, he’s thick and he skates well. He’s got good skills and he has good offensive instincts for being a more defensive guy. He’s a monster out there. When he’s playing well, he’s a huge asset to a team. He’s going to be really good for us and a guy we can rely on going forward. It’s just a really good addition to this puzzle,” said Cole after the Canucks lost 4-1 to the Vegas Golden Knights Thursday night at Rogers Arena.

Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet was also thrilled to have the 28-year-old Russian join the hockey club.

“We’re really excited. He’s a big guy who can skate and shoot. I talked to him an hour before the game and he’s really excited to come here. I think our environment can really help him and I’m sure he’s going to be fired up to play,” noted Tocchet in his post-game media availability session.

Zadorov’s arrival also gives Tocchet some more flexibility in managing minutes for his blue line. That has become an issue with the absence of defenseman Carson Soucy, who is expected to be out another five to seven weeks with a lower body injury.

“We need minutes. We’re playing some other guys too much and you can tell it’s starting to wear down our defense, so he’s a much-needed guy. It’s a great trade for us,” added Tocchet.

As for the loss to Vegas, the Canucks were outclassed by the defending Stanley Cup champions.

The Golden Knights combination of speed and skill posed problems for the Canucks – especially on a night where Vancouver didn’t bring their ‘A’ game.

“I thought we had nine or 10 guys that played hard and played well tonight. We just had some guys that really had tough nights – coverage-wise (and some) going the wrong way at the wrong time. I don’t think the coaches really have to say anything to these guys. We didn’t talk to them after the game - they know. Some guys have got to be better. In 48 hours we have a game against Calgary and hopefully some of those guys can find their legs and find a better game for us,” said Tocchet.

OVERTIME:

* The Golden Knights were led by Jack Eichel, who recorded a goal and two assists in his 500th NHL game. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Vegas.

* In his second game back since being benched for a pair of games, Andrei Kuzmenko scored the Canucks lone goal of the game and impressed Tocchet in the process. “His third period is the best I’ve seen (of him) this year. He drove the net and it was nice for him to get a goal,” said Tocchet.

* CHEK TV’s Rick Dhaliwal is reporting that the Canucks are still planning to pursue free-agent defenseman Ethan Bear despite landing Zadorov. Bear is still recuperating from off-season shoulder surgery but would be a welcome depth option as a right-shot d-man.

* The Canucks pre-game notes had Zadorov listed on the roster as #16 - his number with the Flames. I guess someone didn’t get the memo that the number is retired for Trevor Linden. Zadorov will wear #91 when he makes his Canucks debut in Calgary on Saturday night.

* To make room on the active roster for Zadorov, the Canucks dispatched defenseman Cole McWard to Abbotsford of the AHL.

* 2019 U.S. Open Women’s tennis champion Bianca Andreescu was in attendance at Rogers Arena Thursday night.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

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