Having just played nine games in the 2022-23 season before suffering a lower-body injury, Filip Zadina is finally ready to return to the ice. The Red Wings announced just this past week that he was assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins for a conditioning stint before rejoining the team.
Now that he’s healthy again, it’s time to reignite the hot topic of what will become of him come the end of the season. The 2022-23 season is a make-it-or-break-it year for Zadina, and the trade deadline is right around the corner. Here are the top three options for what I think his future could look like by the end of the season.
What Comes Next for Zadina?
Zadina’s return to the ice raises one giant question- what does his future look like? His name has circulated in trade talks, as well as frustrated conversations regarding his lack of production. In short, there are incredibly mixed feelings surrounding him and what the Red Wings should do with him.
Remaining With the Red Wings
In the first nine games, he’s played this season, he had a whopping zero points and a minus-3 rating. However, there is still a roster spot that he’s a top contender for. He has experience playing at the NHL level and has shown flashes of true potential every now and then, which makes him worth the wait. From the toolkit to the work ethic, he has what he needs to make it in the league, but for whatever reason, he just can’t seem to finish the puck. When he can find the back of the net, it is an absolutely beautiful thing.
After two solid games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Zadina is making his return to NHL action. It’s been four months since he’s been with his team, and it’s good to see him back and healthy. During his conditioning stint, he was looking great and giving Red Wings fans something to be excited about for once. With one goal through two games played, it’s looking like he’s finding his stride again.
When he was drafted sixth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, Zadina had the makings of a consistent goalscorer and a solid offensive asset. He’s a smooth and strong skater that is able to take great shots on goal- even if they don’t go in. Through 169 career games, he has 25 goals and 36 assists which is admittedly a lot less than one may have anticipated for him. He has yet to have truly lived up to that potential, but since he’s still so young, there’s some time for him to develop. Now the question remains, is playing with the Red Wings the right place for him to do so?
Flying With the Griffins
There’s a possibility playing at a lower level will help him be the player that he was anticipated to be when he was drafted. Even if it’s just occasional drops down while remaining primarily with the Red Wings, there may be some benefit to this. Sometimes just being able to refine the kinks in your game and not be under the pressure of playing at such a competitive level is all that a player needs to get back on track.
Related: Red Wings: What’s Wrong With Filip Zadina?
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It can be argued that there are more talented players who have been bouncing between the Griffins and the Red Wings that are more deserving of a full-time roster spot. With players like Elmer Söderblom and Jonatan Berggren making their NHL debuts this year, there’s some fresh talent that seemingly exceeds Zadina’s. On another hand, there’s Jakub Vrana, who has been down with the Griffins for some time now and could potentially get the call to return to Detroit at any time.
All that being said, some tough decisions have to be made. He was just recently brought back up to the Red Wings after Adam Erne cleared waivers and got sent down to Grand Rapids. This isn’t a shock by any means, as Erne has been one of the players floating around the fringes of the roster all season, so moving him was a good call to let Zadina return.
However, keeping him at the American Hockey League level is not the most likely option given that he already got the call back to Detroit. Head coach Derek LaLonde seems to be giving Zadina ample opportunities to show what he’s made of while easing him back into the lineup. With a roster plagued by injuries all season, having talented players sit as healthy scratches at times isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, and he just so happens to be one of them.
Traded by the Deadline
I am by no means an expert at trade proposals, but I’ll give this my best shot. Part of me is surprised that he hasn’t been moved already, but hey, if Steve Yzerman sees a reason to keep him around, then so be it. This being said, there is a lot of grey area surrounding trading a young player who has been failing to finish. It could either be the riskiest move another team could make or end up panning out wonderfully.
Although he just signed a contract extension this past August, that doesn’t mean the doors are closed to any potential trades. He has a relatively light contract that would be easy for a lot of teams to take on either short or long-term. His current contract has an annual average value of $1.825 million, and he will be a restricted free agent after the 2024-25 season. The Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, and Anaheim Ducks all have over $13 million in cap space, so they could easily snag a low-ticket value player like Zadina.
Zadina has some upside for teams looking to bring more young talent to their rosters. He’s only 22 years old and has the potential to grow into a stronger player when placed in a new environment. Sometimes all it takes to have a breakout year is getting a change of scenery, and plenty of teams are likely to jump at the chance to get a forward who can shoot the puck for a low price. Whether it be new linemates or a new coaching system, maybe getting traded would be in his best interest.
Now for the fun part- what could he get Detroit in return? It could be a handful of draft picks, a low-level prospect, or even a current player at a similar level. Honestly, he doesn’t have a ton of value right now, so asking for too much in return could be a reason why he’s still with the Red Wings. Jesse Puljujärvi of the Edmonton Oilers has been a name circulating trade talks for quite some time, and that wouldn’t be the most far-fetched proposal. With ten points through 49 games this season, he’s clocking in at a similar spot as Zadina. Again, since his value is so low at the moment, it’s tricky to think of trade scenarios that seem feasible, but that’s where some healthy blind trust in Yzerman comes in handy!
All in all, the future of Filip Zadina is currently a big fat question mark. The trade deadline is coming up quickly, so will he be moved then? Or will he be an off-season decision to help absorb the weight of a new contract? It’s really hard to say what will become of him and his future as a Red Wing, but only time will tell. I hope whatever happens gives him his chance to flourish and become the player he was made out to be when drafted. Whether in Detroit, Grand Rapids, or anywhere else, it will be interesting to see what happens.