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WWYDW: What would you do with Nikita Zaitsev?

HOOOOO BOY! OH, BABY! Everything is happening!

Big Daddy Nikita Zaitsev got INKED up to a seven-year deal yesterday. That’s wild. That’s a lot. You probably are still feeling many different ways about the deal. It’s a hard one to judge considering it’s a very unique deal.

Do you love it?

Do you hate it?

Seriously, there’s nothing you can do at this point that will change the fact that Zaitsev signed a long deal to be a Leaf for longer than head coach Mike Babcock’s contract runs. You can complain if you’d like to, praise it if you’d like to, or do nothing and just enjoy watching him play for a long time.

So what would you do with Nikita Zaitsev next season?

Play him on the top pairing? Shelter him offensively? Convert him to forward? Buy him out already? (I don’t think that’s legal). Play him in the bottom pairing? Give him two sticks? Play him 30 minutes a night? Only play him on the powerplay? Play him with Jake Gardiner? Play him with Morgan Rielly? Trade him for Taylor Hall?

Dumb or not, leave your comments below. The best one wins the prize of my admiration, and that’s the best prize of all.

  • Kevin

    As pointed out in another blog the other day, $4.5 million is borderline 1st pair Dman money. Zaitsev had a good rookie season but is 26 and not likely to improve much going forward. Usually when you add so much term you are expecting the player to improve over that term so the money eventually looks like a bargain (the Morgan Rielly contract is the perfect example). I understand there are some unique aspects to the Zaitsev situation but it seems like a higher risk than reward for someone who might not even be part of the core going forward.

    • Stan Smith

      $4.5 million is low for a first pairing dman. There are many teams that have two, or more dmen making more than that. I have no idea why you would think that a he would be maxed out at 26, especially seeing that he has only played one season in the NHL. I fully expect him to be much better the second go round, and in the long run, just as with Gardiner, Rielly and Kadri this will be another shrewd deal by the Leafs.

      • Kevin

        I agree that $4.5 million is low for a first pairing Dman… the blog I am referencing stated that as signed his contract is the ~53rd highest among Dmen (which may be pushed further down by the start of next season). I do think there is room for growth in Zaitsev’s game, especially when you consider there is an adjustment period coming from the KHL. That being said, I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume his game will improve as much as say Rielly’s game was projected to improve during the course of his contract. It was projected that Rielly may become a #1 or #2 Dman during the course of his contract, so that $5 million would end up being a bargain (whether that actually happens is up for debate). At present, I am fine with the dollar amount of Zaitsev’s contract (if the term was shorter, say 4-5 years), I am just hesitant about the 7 years and think the dollar number could have been a bit lower (say $4 million) for that long a contract.

  • lukewarmwater

    Nah what we do is enjoy a talented defenceman in his prime help solidify our young defence. Or maybe as some people have the Einstein idea, btw great book and series, we go back to the glorious years and resign pylons like Cody Franson, YEAH THATS IT NOT. Or how about former number 5 pick over all Luke Schenn. He would come real, real cheap as he plays himself out of the league.

  • MartinPolak

    You people will learn to love him like you learned to love Hunwick this past year. The key with analytics is to know when to use them (i.e. for kadri’s down year) and when they are not useful (i.e Polak, Martin etc). Our management team is adept at balancing out analytics with watching hockey. This is a good contract. I could see an argument that it is 2 or 3 year long or maybe 0.5M less in cap but it could also be higher or 8 years. Not bad overall

  • FlareKnight

    Play him in your top 4 and enjoy having him on the roster.

    Had a pretty solid year for a guy transitioning from the KHL. He’ll be able to go into the next season knowing what to expect.

  • Cozzy62

    Love it!- Give him 4 years if hes not advancing as a elite Defenseman to the Leafs Liking , he is a tradeable asset – 4.5 mil controllable, mobile d-man at 30-something year old No probs!!