The Calgary Flames have known that a Nikita Zadorov trade was inevitable. At the outset of the season, they had hoped they could avoid it. However, after a rough start and a trade request, that was no longer an option. And on Thursday, it finally happened. The Flames traded Zadorov to the Vancouver Canucks.

It's still somewhat early for notable trades to take place, but this is a special case. Zadorov's trade request was made public following a loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in November. Even before that, the veteran blueliner was rather critical of Calgary's effort level to begin the year. And he didn't exactly hide those criticisms, either.

Now that a trade has gone down, let's take a look at the deal in full. After that, we can break it down from the perspective of both the Canucks and Flames. Here are your NHL trade grades for the Nikita Zadorov trade between Calgary and Vancouver.

Full trade

The Vancouver Canucks acquired Zadorov from the Calgary Flames in exchange for a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick and a 2026 third-round pick. The fifth-round pick was involved in an earlier trade between Vancouver and the Chicago Blackhawks. As a result, the Flames will receive the best of the fifth-round picks owned by the Blackhawks.

Canucks acquire Nikita Zadorov

The Canucks have skill on their blueline. Everyone knows about star man Quinn Hughes, who is top five in scoring in the entire league. Last trade deadline saw them acquire defenseman Filip Hronek from the Detroit Red Wings, as well. And he has shown a lot of promise when paired with Hughes.

However, where Vancouver has skill, it lacks in grit. They have some grit and snarl on their blueline, but there was room for more. That's where Zadorov comes in. The six-foot-six blueliner adds a level of physicality that helps balance out the skill players in the defensive group.

Zadorov isn't a major star or anything. He won't turn Vancouver into Stanley Cup contenders overnight. That said, he changes the dynamic of the team a bit. He ensures they won't be pushed around. And the veteran blueliner has some offensive punch to his game, as well.

Overall, he is a stabilizing presence on the back end. Zadorov fills in for the injured Carson Soucy in the short term. When Soucy returns, Zadorov can pair with him or Tyler Myers to form an intimidating duo on the ice. For the price paid, this is a solid move from general manager Patrik Allvin.

Vancouver Canucks defensemen Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek welcoming new teammate Nikita Zadorov to town after Vancouver and the Calgary Flames received their NHL trade grades on December 2, 2023

Flames trade Nikita Zadorov

The Flames side of things, though, is more complicated. On the surface, it doesn't look like much. Calgary's highest draft pick acquired is a third-rounder two years from now. To put that into perspective, the top prospect in that draft according to Elite Prospects is currently 15 years old.

On the other hand, though, general manager Craig Conroy was in a tough spot. Zadorov made it known he wanted to leave. Furthermore, the veteran is an unrestricted free agent in July. There was a real possibility the Flames could have lost the veteran defenseman for nothing.

As a result, an underwhelming return was a realistic outcome for this trade. Even in saying that, though, this feels underwhelming. Calgary tried being patient, but it certainly seemed as if the team felt this was the best they were going to get.

If that's the case, obviously they have to take the deal. And to be fair, Calgary did clear out his entire cap hit. There was no salary retained in this trade. However, even with that in mind, the Flames didn't get anything spectacular here, at least in the short term.

Grades and final thoughts

The Canucks receive a relatively high mark for their part in this trade. Acquiring Nikita Zadorov at a rather modest price is solid business. Even if the veteran blueliner isn't a star or the final piece to the puzzle. Using a pick from an earlier cap dump to make this work is also rather shrewd on behalf of Allvin.

The Flames, meanwhile, receive an average grade. Conroy was in a tough spot, and it's important to keep that in mind. However, this team appears headed for a retooling at the very least. Having to wait two years for the best pick in this trade to even begin to factor into the team's makeup is rough. Good on them for finding a way to avoid retaining salary, but this is still an underwhelming return.

Vancouver Canucks trade grade: B

Calgary Flames trade grade: C