The Kontinental Hockey League is not the laughingstock it used to be to the NHL. While there is little question that the top professional league in Russia is an overall inferior product to the NHL, that hasn’t stopped some top Russian players recently from bolting the NHL for their homeland.

There is a chance Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov could be next.

Although sources tell BSNDenver that Zadorov prefers to re-sign with the Avalanche as a restricted free agent, if it comes down to pure dollars (or, in this case, Rubles), he very likely could make more in the KHL in the short term. Zadorov, probably the key addition for the Avs in the trade that sent Ryan O’Reilly to Buffalo in 2015, is just the kind of hometown kid the KHL wants to lure back from North America, to better bolster the product for fans.

Already this spring, the KHL has lured one promising young defenseman back from the NHL – Nikita Traymkin, who spent this past season with the Vancouver Canucks. Traymkin, a 6-foot-7 D-man, stunned the Canucks with his decision. Vancouver also lost another young prospect, Phillip Larsen, to the KHL. Last year, the KHL convinced Detroit star Pavel Datsyuk to forego to the final year of his contract to come home.

While the KHL can’t compete with NHL teams for overall depth of team salaries, it can offer competitive or better offers for top players, preferably from the homeland. Zadorov, while not established yet as an NHL star, fits the bill of the kind of player the league wants.

Zadorov, 22, can be a restricted free agent July 1. He made $894,167 this past season with the Avs. Though his statistics have yet to wow anyone, he did play well for the Avs before suffering a fractured ankle in February and missing the rest of the season. A former first-round selection of Buffalo, Zadorov was seen as the top asset coming back from the O’Reilly trade, though forward J.T. Compher could prove the best player in the deal before long.

The Avs have nearly $20 million in cap space right now, so they should be able to overpay some for Zadorov if the KHL forces their hand. But players such as Zadorov are easier prey for KHL teams to lure back. As an RFA, Zadorov can’t break the bank with the Avs, but the KHL is under no restriction in offering him as much as they want.



Adrian Dater

Adrian Dater is a staff writer with BSNDenver. He started his journalism career way, way back in 1988 as a proofreader with the Concord Monitor as a kid out of college (Keene State College), and has wended its way since with a 25-year stop at The Denver Post, 20 of which were spent as the beat writer of the Colorado Avalanche, from its inception in 1995. Adrian has also worked as a primary hockey writer with Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, The Hockey News, and Bleacher Report. He is the author of seven sports books, including the best-selling “Blood Feud: Colorado Avalanche v. Detroit Red Wings, The Inside Story of Pro Sports’ Nastiest and Best Rivalry of Its Era” and “100 Things Avalanche Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die”, which was published in October, 2016.

  • i2strange97

    That would just be bad… bad… bad….

  • Colorado_Superchronics

    Do you just write shit to throw it out there?
    Have you talked to Zadarovs manager?
    have you talked to any Front office about what a deal could look like for Zadarov?

    For being the Avs press guy you need to do more research, you have the contacts, use them.

  • nemesis44uk

    That would be par for the course. However, Russians wanting to play in the NHL are going to be highly disadvantaged if this stream of players dumping on their NHL teams continues. Russian players already have a reputation of being flighty and the Zadorov rumours were true, would add to GMs being unwilling to throw away a draft pick on any Russian player for fear of them disappearing to the KHL.

    Having said that, this is a “nothing” article. Nowhere does it say that Zadorov’s even considering a move to the KHL. Not his agent, not his family, not even an unnamed source.

    This is not news, it’s a speculative piece that contains no actual information.