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Nikita Zadorov’s nine best quotes from the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Nikita Zadorov became a fan favourite during the playoffs with his play on the ice and quotes off the ice.
Nikita Zadorov became a fan favourite for the Vancouver Canucks during their 2024 playoff run.

Nikita Zadorov made a major impact on the ice for the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

The big defenceman came up with big goals, tallying 4 goals and 8 points in 13 playoff games. Zadorov was also excellent defensively, with only Quinn Hughes on the ice for a lower rate of goals against among Canucks defencemen.

On top of that, Zadorov played a heavy, physical game. Through two rounds, Zadorov finished second among all NHL defencemen in hits with 45 and he dealt out some crushing blows, including one that sent Evander Kane head over heels into the Edmonton Oilers’ bench.

All around, Zadorov was well worth what the Canucks paid for him on the trade market when they sent a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick to the Calgary Flames. The question now becomes, how much will they have to pay Zadorov to keep him?

What will Zadorov's next contract look like?

Zadorov is a pending unrestricted free agent. At 29, he’ll be looking to maximize his earnings on what could be the last big-money contract of his career and his excellent postseason certainly isn’t going to make him any cheaper in free agency.

The Canucks have an exclusive negotiating window ahead of free agency opening on July 1 but that might not matter if Zadorov prices himself out of Vancouver. An avowed capitalist, Zadorov will likely want to test the open market to see what price that market is willing to bear.

That price will likely be much higher than the $3.75 million cap hit Zadorov had this past season. While contract projections from Evolving-Hockey predict a three-year deal worth around $4 million, Zadorov is reportedly looking for a longer, more expensive deal.

Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reported that he believes Zadorov is seeking a six-year deal worth $6 million per year, with ChekTV’s Rick Dhaliwal also saying that he’s hearing that the ask is either over $5 million or over $6 million ask, with term.

That’s a lot for Zadorov, who played a second-pairing role in the playoffs but spent most of the regular season on the third pair, averaging 17:04 in ice time per game. Can the Canucks afford that price? They'll have diminishing cap space thanks to Elias Pettersson's new contract and Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s buyout cost increasing significantly next season and they also have other free agents to sign.

That said, Zadorov has had hefty contract demands in the past. Back in 2021, Zadorov was reportedly looking for a five-year deal worth $5.85 million per year from the Chicago Blackhawks. He didn’t get it, instead signing a one-year deal worth $3.75 million per year with the Flames. Of course, he wasn’t coming off a clutch playoff performance back in 2021.

If Zadorov has played his last game as a Canuck, he certainly left Canucks fans with a lot of fond memories. Those memories go beyond what Zadorov did on the ice; he endeared himself even more to Canucks fans off the ice with his quotes in the media.

Here are nine of Zadorov’s best quotes from the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

9 | “Nothing beats the playoff atmosphere in Canada.”

Zadorov got his first taste of the NHL postseason while with the Colorado Avalanche, but has also played in the postseason with the Flames. The Russian defenceman has the right frame of reference to know that no one does the playoffs like Canadians.

“Nothing beats the playoff atmosphere in Canada. We saw in the first game here, I had tears during the national anthem,” said Zadorov ahead of the Canucks’ second-round series against the Oilers. “Canada is definitely different, just look at how much media [is here]. The city is living it too, the people have flags on their cars, my kids in school, everybody’s dressed in Canucks jerseys and all that. 

“It’s definitely a different culture in Canada compared to the United States in the playoffs.”

8 | “It’s cool when everybody hates you.”

As the Canucks went on the road to face the Predators in Nashville, Zadorov was asked if he relishes playing the villain, to which he said, “Yeah, a little bit” with a laugh.

“It’s cool when everybody hates you,” said Zadorov. “When you’re on the ice, they’re booing you and they’re against you, I think that probably gets me going even more to play on the road than at home.”

7 | “It’s the NHL playoffs — every person on the ice should be sharp, not just the players.”

Zadorov wasn’t a fan of a boarding penalty Dakota Joshua got against the Nashville Predators, suggesting that the player he hit turned into the boards looking for a call. But he had the presence of mind to avoid costing himself some money.

“It’s the NHL playoffs — every person on the ice should be sharp, not just the players,” said Zadorov. “I don’t know what Dakota is supposed to do. He’s backchecking, he finished the guy. The kid’s been dodging hits for five games straight…You’ve got to protect yourself, it’s a men’s league. I’m trying to find the words to not get fined $25,000 here but everybody saw that. Obviously, the players are responsible for what they do on the ice but the other people on the ice, they have to be responsible too.”

Zadorov’s carefully couched concerns about NHL officiating continued into the second round against the Oilers.

“I have a lot of questions after every game about officiating,” said Zadorov. “Nobody’s going to answer those questions. We can stand here and cry about that but nothing’s going to change.”

6 | “I mean, there’s a rulebook.”

As much as he had issues with the officiating at times, Zadorov was actually complimentary of the officiating throughout the playoffs, noting at one point, “The refereeing is pretty good in this league, there’s so many experienced referees, they know when to give you the green light to be hard and when you cross the line, they’re going to call it.”

When asked later on if it’s hard to know where the line is, especially at the start of a game or series, Zadorov had a quick retort.

“I mean, there’s a rulebook,” he said. “If you stay inside the rulebook, you should be fine.”

5 | “We all watched the Real Madrid game today.”

The Canucks staged an incredible comeback in Game 1 against the Oilers, scoring four unanswered goals to erase a 4-1 deficit. Zadorov’s explanation for why they were able to do it was priceless.

“We all watched the Real Madrid game today,” said Zadorov. “They came back, scored two goals at the end to make the Champion’s League finals. That was our inspiration; at least, it was mine.”

CP reporter Gemma Karstens-Smith joked that Canadians might not be happy with that comment because Canadian star Alphonso Davies plays for Bayern Munich, who Real Madrid eliminated.

“Well, he scored a goal, he was happy,” said Zadorov.

4 | “He’s not in a nightclub in Riga, Latvia”

When J.T. Miller pranked Arturs Silovs by wearing his pink paisley shirt at practice, it sparked a full-blown meme in the Canucks fanbase. The shirt, from Hugo Boss, was quickly sold out online as fans picked up the shirt to wear at games and the Canucks even produced their own knock-off version, which also sold out.

Before all that, Zadorov got in on the fun, roasting the rookie goaltender with a deadly one-liner.

“He’s got to know better,” said Zadorov. “He’s not in a nightclub in Riga, Latvia.”

3 | “I guess I don’t make that much money for the league.”

After Zadorov was fined and Carson Soucy suspended for crosschecking Connor McDavid, Zadorov suggested that the decisions from the Department of Player Safety were influenced by the victim being McDavid, saying, “They have to protect their investment.”

“Unfortunately, that’s the world we’re living in,” said Zadorov. “Sometimes, social media and the public views can create some hard decisions for specific people and they might make questionable decisions. At the end of the day, that’s how I look at it. 

“At the end of the day, they have to protect their investment, so that’s my understanding in this situation.”

Zadorov was also crosschecked in the face by Zach Hyman on the same play, leading to stitches by his left eye. So, why didn’t the NHL protect Zadorov the way they protected McDavid?

“Well, I guess I don’t make that much money for the league,” he quipped.

2 | “Wah! Wah!”

One of Zadorov’s best quotes actually came on the ice. Technically, we never actually heard what Zadorov said to Evander Kane after he saw the Oilers winger in an extended conversation with a referee but this is one occasion where it’s not hard to read his lips.

Yeah, that's pretty clearly a baby's plaintive cries: "Wah! Wah!"

1 | “Pretty much nothing else to do in that city except watch hockey.”

Zadorov may have endeared himself to Canucks fans but he certainly wasn’t a favourite of Oilers fans. He slipped in a devastating diss of the city of Edmonton during one interview in the second round when talking about the atmosphere for Oilers playoff games.

“It’s fun. They have good fans, die hard fans,” said Zadorov. “I mean, there’s pretty much nothing else to do in that city except watch hockey…That’s why they love their team, for sure, and support them so hard.”

Now hang on, Nikita, that’s not fair. Edmonton also has a really big mall.