When we last checked in on Nikita Zaitsev in November, Jeff Veillette reported
The consensus is that Zatisev’s mind is made up and that it has been made up since June. Zaitsev is personally committed to signing with the Leafs, and while his agent is allowing for other teams to make their approaches, it’s more for the sake of not leaving stones unturned and having a contingency plan if anything falls through. As it stands, he was very impressed by what he’s seen in Toronto and has bought in.
Today, not much has changed as Elliotte Friedman has reported:
Hearing Russian free-agent D Nikita Zaitsev is telling teams his intention is to sign with TOR next season. Would be a one-year ELC.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 22, 2016
So with nothing really changing, and all this being along the lines of what we first suspected when Zaitsev was first rumoured to be joing the Leafs back in June.
The idea of adding a 6’2, 24 year old, right handed shot to the Leafs (or Marlies) blueline is still something we should be excited about for next season, and Zaitsev’s season is going as well as his previous one picking up 24 points in 39 games while playing just under 21 minutes a night. He is the top defenseman on the top team in the KHL.
Elite Prospects has this to say on Zaitsev:
Zaitsev plays a smart two-way game. He is a fine passer and has a good shot from the point. Could improve his physical game and add some bulk.
While importing a defenseman is far from a sure thing for the Leafs, after the Blackhawks success this season with Panarin it’s hard not to be a little excited about landing a highly touted KHL player. Since Zaitsev will be 24 years old when he comes over he will still be obligated to sign a one year entry level contract, so the cap hit and risk associated with that will be minimal.
Like I said, it’s okay to be excited about this. It’s good news.