The Toronto Maple Leafs could find themselves down a top-four d-man in the near future.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Russian defenceman Nikita Zaitsev has requested a trade for personal reasons. The 27-year-old has been with the organization since 2016 and has five years remaining on a contract with an AAV of $4.5 million. McKenzie also noted the Leafs will try to accommodate Zaitsev but are not in a salary cap position to retain much (if any) salary.


After recording 36 points in his rookie season, Zaitsev’s offence declined with 13, and 14 points in his following two campaigns. He’s averaging a career 21:31 minutes of ice per game, however, and proved to be a valuable piece on the back end towards the end of the season. Leaf fans reacted accordingly to the news.


Zaitsev can add his name to a short, but big-named list of players who’s future in Toronto is uncertain. Team scoring leader Mitch Marner will likely be looking for more than $10 million annually while forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson are also in need of new deals. Moving Zaitsev could create some wiggle room, but leave a glaring hole on their back end. Toronto finished 12th in the league with 249 goals against, but gave up the 8th most shots with 33.1.

Let's also not forget that fellow defenceman Jake Gardiner could be out of the 6ix as well.



Leafs management has a very, very interesting summer on their hands.

(H/T Bob McKenzie)