Penguins Could Be A Good Fit for Filip Zadina

The Detroit Red Wings selected Czech forward Filip Zadina with the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. He was the third-ranked North American skater entering that draft and arrived in the Motor City with the hopes of a rebuilding franchise on his shoulders. Taken in the same draft class as Buffalo Sabres’ defenceman Rasmus Dahlin and Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov, the sheer amount of talent in that first round meant that Zadina entered the NHL with high expectations. Five years later, he was placed on waivers, subsequently cleared them, and now the Red Wings have terminated his contract.

Filip Zadina Detroit Red Wings
Filip Zadina, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Now that the Red Wings have ended their association with the Czech forward, it may be wise for Kyle Dubas and the Pittsburgh Penguins to acquire his services, as Dubas possesses a track record of turning around wayward players.

Zadina Has Not Played to His Potential During Short NHL Career

Zadina shot up the North American skater rankings as a result of his one and only season with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Halifax Mooseheads. In 57 games in 2017-18, he scored 44 goals and added 38 assists for 82 points, good for seventh in league scoring. He continued the tradition of top prospects in Halifax, following in the footsteps of other European superstars like Nico Hischer, Timo Meier and Nikolaj Ehlers (from ‘Halifax Mooseheads Land Czech Republic Star’ Paul Palmeter. CBC News. 02/08/2017). When he was drafted in 2018, he famously stated that he would become the franchise’s next sharpshooter – a confidence that excited Red Wings’ fans. Despite his assurances, he has struggled since arriving in Detroit. Over five seasons, he only managed 28 goals and 68 total points in 198 games.

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To his own credit, Zadina realized his troubles and asked Red Wings’ general manager Steve Yzerman for a trade, which ultimately yielded no results. Waivers were his next destination, which unfortunately produced the same outcome – no takers.

Kyle Dubas Could Revitalize Zadina’s Career

Although actual negotiations failed to generate significant interest, many pundits have already begun speculating what Zadina could bring to other teams. His history demonstrates that he still has potential, given that he finds the right fit. This is where the Penguins and Dubas come in, as they could serve as a re-launch for Zadina’s career. Not only has Dubas vigorously pursued available players, acquiring Reilly Smith in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights, but he also continues to probe for the San Jose Sharks’ Erik Karlsson. Dubas’ ability to turn careers around first showed when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

When Zach Hyman left to join the Edmonton Oilers in 2021, Dubas replaced him with a platoon of David Kämpf, Michael Bunting, Nick Ritchie, and Ondrej Kaše. Kämpf immediately produced the best statistical season of his career to date, and Michael Bunting was named a Calder Trophy finalist for Rookie of the Year. Kaše also paid immediate dividends, as he became a fixture on the Leafs’ top power play unit.

Kyle Dubas Pittsburgh Penguins
Kyle Dubas, Pittsburgh Penguins President of Hockey Ops (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Dubas was described as a visionary for the productivity and value of these moves, as he was able to acquire the services of four players for about the same cost as continuing to pay Hyman the $5.5 million average annual value (AAV) he had requested. Zadina needs a change of scenery, and the Penguins could be a viable option for him, as both management and the coaching staff have received votes of confidence from coaches and ownership alike (from ‘Yohe: With Kyle Dubas, Fenway Sports Group Makes Its Mark on Penguins’, The Athletic, 6/2/23). In contrast, the Red Wings’ offseason moves have cast doubt on Yzerman’s vision for the club’s future. Zadina has demonstrated his ability to flourish when playing alongside those of his calibre, and a move to the Penguins would benefit him greatly, should they take a chance on him.