What to do with Filip Zadina
The restricted free agent remains unsigned, and his future in Detroit remains unclear
To say that Filip Zadina’s first three seasons in the NHL have been underwhelming would be an understatement. The former sixth overall pick for the Detroit Red Wings was drafted to be a goal-scorer and so far, he has been anything but. His 2021-22 season was a massive disappointment as he managed just 10 goals and 14 assists in 74 games, including an 18-game goalless drought mid-season. While his struggles in 2020-21 could often be attributed to poor luck, this past season was a rough one for the man who once claimed he’d fill the nets of the teams who passed on him.
The question then becomes, what does Steve Yzerman do with the 22-year-old winger? Zadina is currently a restricted free agent and it seems likely that Detroit will bring him back. However, what kind of contract would Yzerman be willing to give to a player that consistently has underperformed at the NHL level?
New Coach, New Fil?
The biggest question around Zadina heading into the 2022-23 season involves how he’ll improve under new head coach Derek Lalonde. It’s been proven time and time again in the NHL that a new head coach or change of scenery can make all the difference for a struggling player. Most recently, the hiring of Martin St. Louis in Montreal played a massive impact on pre-season Calder favorite Cole Caufield’s recovery from his abysmal start to the season.
Can Lalonde do the same for Zadina? That’s certainly something that many Red Wings fans will be hoping for. He has worked with plenty of excellent forwards in his time with the Lightning and one would hope he could play a part in the young winger finding his scoring touch. The biggest flaw in Zadina’s game is his shooting percentage, which was around 13.3% in 2019-20, has plummeted to just above 6% each of the last two seasons. If he at least played solid on the defensive end, that would make up for his poor production. But, he’s far from a Selke contender and if he’s not contributing on either end of the ice, why play him?
The Czech Connection
Another factor people believe will boost Zadina’s game is the return of fellow Czech winger Jakub Vrana to the everyday Wings lineup. Vrana was put on a line with Zadina upon return last season, leading to the latter having three points in the next four games. The two were shortly separated and Zadina’s production once again disappeared. The two are good friends and it’s a connection that certainly has shown results for Fil.
But, if you have to play on a line with elite players to get even decent production, are you worth the roster spot? Vrana performed much better after he was taken off Zadina’s line. In that case, are you willing to hamper Vrana’s production and give other more productive players more ice time to slightly boost Zadina’s production? It would be a much better option to let Vrana play with the Red Wings’ other top forwards, get your most skilled players consistently out there, and let Zadina stay down on the third or fourth line.
What is Zadina Worth?
If Zadina isn’t gonna be more than a bottom-six forward, what kind of deal is it worth giving him? The wait is on for what kind of deal Steve Yzerman will be willing to give him and whether he’ll be staying in Detroit long term. Honestly, it would probably be best to give Zadina a deal similar to what Michael Rasmussen got. three years, a small salary and give him a chance to grow before he turns 25 and eventually ends up having UFA rights. That potential is still there and it’s ultimately up to him to bring it out.