The Toronto Maple Leafs announced early Tuesday afternoon that the team inked defenceman Nikita Zaitsev to a 7-year, 31.5 million dollar contract extension.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) May 2, 2017
The extension was announced only 1 year after Zaitsev joined the Leafs out of the KHL, signing a 1 year, 1.775 million dollar contract for the 2016-17 season. Zaitsev’s extension averages out at 4.5 million AAV, and will include around 11 million in signing bonuses, as reported by The Athletic. The Athletic also reports that the contract includes a limited NTC, beginning on July 1st, 2019.
— NHLNumbers (@NHLnumbers) May 2, 2017
Zaitsev had a fairly good rookie season for the Leafs, tallying 4 goals and 32 assists through 82 games. He managed to stay healthy for the duration of the regular season, but was sidelined for 2 games in the playoffs due to injury. When he did play, Zaitsev seemed off, and this is likely due to a concussion suffered at the end of the regular season.
The term on this deal is the most questionable aspect of Zaitsev’s extension. He was an important part of the Leafs defense this season, but it is hard to justify giving a 7-year contract extension to a rookie (mind you, a 25-year-old rookie) who is not a part of a team’s core group of players.
Many were quick to point out that Zaitsev’s extension goes far beyond his prime. He’s signed until the age of 32, and will likely see some regression in terms of play before the contract extension runs out.
Despite what most people tell you, evidence shows that NHL defencemen peak around age 24. Zaitsev is signed from Age 26-32. pic.twitter.com/6R97tlJJWw
— Ian Tulloch (@regressIan) May 2, 2017
One final note about this contract:
Interesting to note that Zaitsev's 7 year extension with the #Leafs does not include a signing bonus in 2020-21, a potential lockout season
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) May 2, 2017
More details to come.