He's going to be one of the key upcoming free-agent defensemen that will be hitting the open market, and he'll have no shortage of suitors. But where exactly are the best potential destinations for Nikita Zadorov?

This will mark the second time in just over a few months that there will be a sweepstakes for his services, as just a few months ago, he was one of the highly coveted players up for grabs via trade. A deal ultimately emerged for him to be dealt from the Calgary Flames to the Vancouver Canucks in late November; the Flames received a third-round pick in the 2026 NHL Draft and a fifth-round selection in the 2024 NHL Draft.

Following the trade to the rival Canucks, he would suit up in a total of 54 games, scoring five goals and nine assists, and later tallied four goals and four assists in 13 postseason games as he helped them to a Round 1 victory over the Nashville Predators before bowing out to the eventual Western Conference champion Edmonton Oilers in seven games.

Zadorov is said to be looking to cash in

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Nikita Zadorov (91) handles the puck against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period in game five of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena
Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Understandably, Zadorov is looking for a hefty contract on the open market. He's coming off a two-year,  $7.5 million pact in which he earned an AAV of $3,750,000. According to Canucks insider Rick Dhaliwal via Heavy.com, the team will be making one final offer to Zadorov, who wants a significant raise.

“A final offer is coming to Zadorov soon,” Dhaliwal said. “The player and his agent would love to re-sign in Vancouver, but this is strictly about money. It’s a tough contract to do because he’s going to get a big raise and he’s gonna want term–and we’re talking big term.”

Meanwhile, Sportsnet analyst Elliotte Friedman indicated that there is still remains a chance that Zadorov could run it back with Vancouver, though those chances are less than 50%.

“I think we’re going to know in the next few days if there’s any hope with Zadorov,” Friedman said. “It appears unlikely (he signs an extension) but someone reached out to me and said that one isn’t over yet. Odds are less than 50 percent. They told me it might be over soon but it’s not over yet.”

In the meantime, let's look at a few potential destinations for Zadorov to consider.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs, fresh off yet another Round 1 exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, now have hard-nosed head coach Craig Berube behind the bench. They also have several pending free-agent defensemen who may not be back with the club next season, including Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, and Joel Edmundson.

Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving, who signed Zadorov to his most recent contract with the Flames, would be wise to show interest in once again getting the veteran blue-liner to agree to sign a deal. The money freed up from the annual salaries of Edmundson ($3.5 million) and Brodie ($5 million) along with Giordano ($800K) would be more than enough to present Zadorov with an offer he'd be hard-pressed to refuse.

New Jersey Devils 

Should Zadorov decide to take his talents to the East Coast, the New Jersey Devils could present an intriguing situation. They're set to enter this offseason with nearly $20 million in available cap space, and new head coach Sheldon Keefe is behind the bench.

Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald previously indicated that he's ready to go “big game hunting” this summer, and Zadorov could be the ideal addition to their blue line – especially considering he plays well on both sides of the puck and is known for his mobile skating. There's also his alleged willingness to accept a trade to the Devils from last season prior to his ultimately landing with the Canucks, via New Jersey Hockey Now:

“Of course, (he’d go to New Jersey),” an unnamed NHL source reported to the outlet this past November. “Who wouldn’t want to be on a contender?”

Colorado Avalanche 

If Zadorov is looking for a bit of familiarity in his next contract, he could also consider a reunion with his former club. Zadorov played four full seasons with the Avalanche after being acquired by the team along with Mikhail Grigorenko, J. T. Compher, and the 31st pick in the draft from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn.

Currently, it looks as though the Avalanche could lose one or more of Sean Walker, Jack Johnson, and Caleb Jones on their blue line. Not only would Zadorov be an adequate replacement, but his style of play has already proven to work perfectly with the Avalanche dating back to his former years with the team.

It would also afford Zadorov a chance to continue playing in the Western Conference, in which he's played for the majority of his NHL career.