Could now-former Detroit Red Wings winger Filip Zadina become another reclamation project for Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney?
Filip Zadina, the sixth overall pick from the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, became an unrestricted free agent on Friday when he and the Detroit Red Wings agreed to mutually terminate his contract due to what seems to be irreconcilable differences. Zadina wanted a fresh start with another team so badly that he gave up $4.56 million. Zadina had two seasons remaining on a three-year, $5.4 million ($1.8M AAV) contract.
In 128 career NHL games throughout five seasons with the Red Wings, the 23-year-old Zadina had just 28 goals and 40 assists. He was also a -51.
So why would the Boston Bruins, who already lost Taylor Hall and Tyler Bertuzzi up front and likely are about to lose captain Patrice Bergeron and longtime center David Krejci to retirement, want to take a chance on a player that seems like a bust so far?
The NHL betting odds that they do are 50/50 at best, but there is precedent for such a move.
A year ago this Thursday, Sweeney and the Bruins took a chance on another sixth-overall pick (2015 NHL Entry Draft) in then-25-year-old Pavel Zacha. Last July 13, the Bruins acquired Zacha from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for forward Erik Haula. The Boston Bruins then signed Zacha to a one-year, $3.5 million contract. Plenty of NHL insiders, media, and fans (especially Devils fans) wondered what Sweeney was doing taking a chance on Zacha. At that point, Zacha wasn’t quite a bust yet, but, like Zadina, he wasn’t living up to the potential of being a sixth overall pick with 69 goals and 110 assists in 386 career NHL games.
Pavel Zacha came in and made Sweeney look like a genius. The 6-foot-4, 199-pound forward from Brno, Czechia scored seven goals and had 21 assists in his first 43 games with the Boston Bruins. That was enough to sign the then-potential 2023 unrestricted free agent to a four-year, $19 million ($4.7M AAV) contract. Zacha, who played left wing on the frequently-used and successful ‘Czech Line’ with center David Krejci and right wing David Pastrnak, finished the season with 21 goals and 36 assists in 82 games.
By all accounts, from speaking to numerous NHL pro scouts and two NHL Execs, Zadina appears to be a more challenging reclamation project than Zacha was. If this scribe were an NHL betting man, I wouldn’t bet on a significant turnaround for Zadina. However, if the Bruins could get the 6-foot, 190-pound Pardubice, Czechia native on a one-year, in the $850,000 to a million salary cap hit range, contract, it may be worth a shot at forming another Czech Line that clicks.