BUFFALO – The complicated situation involving Sabres defenseman Nikita Zadorov, a healthy scratch all six games this season, could be resolved in the next 48 hours, the Russian’s agent said Sunday night.
The Sabres have essentially been stashing the 19-year-old prospect on their roster.
Here’s the issue: Zadorov, as a European, can’t be sent back to the London Knights, his junior team, because he doesn’t have a release from the Russian club that owns his rights. The Sabres don’t believe Zadorov’s ready to play in the NHL yet. But if they don’t keep him, they lose control of him to St. Petersburg, a KHL team. They clearly don’t want him developing out of their grasp thousands of miles away in Russia.
So Zadorov, the No. 16 pick in 2013, has been left in limbo since training camp ended two weeks ago.
Rolland Hedges, Zadorov’s agent, told the Times Herald by phone the Sabres want to see how their injured defensemen recover before deciding Zadorov’s future.
The Sabres sent Jake McCabe and Mark Pysyk to Rochester on Thursday. Both youngsters suffered preseason injuries. Pysyk played for the AHL club Saturday. McCabe could play this week, according to reports.
The Sabres leave for a three-game California trip today, so Hedges said he was “hoping to hear something” by Tuesday.
“He obviously wants to play,” Hedges said. “He would like to show management what he can do. He just wants to play hockey, whether it’s for the Buffalo Sabres or whoever owns his rights. He knows who owns his rights. He knows he has to go back to Russia. He has no control in that.”
St. Petersburg granted Zadorov a one-year release last season.
“This year,” Hedges said, “we don’t have the release.”
Hedges understands the Sabres’ predicament.
“Buffalo doesn’t want to lose control, in fairness,” Hedges said. “But the rules are the rules. If he was a North American, he would have to go back to junior. Then everybody knows what the rules are.
“When you’re European, it depends on how the release is structured. So if he’s good enough to stay in the NHL, he can stay here.”
The Sabres have a difficult decision looming.
“Even if he did go back to London, is he going to develop better in London or Russia, (in the) KHL playing with men?” Hedges said. “From a development point of view, the issue is what’s best for Nikita Zadorov, London, Russia? Everybody has a different answer for that one.”
As a teenager, the 6-foot-5 Zadorov can’t play in the AHL. But he’s probably outgrown junior. Zadorov played seven NHL games early last season. The Sabres sent him back to London shortly after coach Ted Nolan took over in November.