As far as likely destinations for Nikita Zaitsev go, we probably should have penciled the Canucks in from the very beginning due to their puzzling attempt at a rebuild on the fly. If you’ve kept up on trade rumours over the last few years, it seems Jim Benning has been in on just about every “available” name out there at some point, even going as far as tampering for then-Canadien P.K. Subban when he hit the block before being dealt to the Predators. He’s always looking to make a move, good or bad.
So yeah, it shouldn’t come as much surprise that a team with one defenceman locked into a contract beyond this upcoming season might be looking to add to their back end. And given Benning’s questionable track record, the idea of an overpay to get the mobile but ineffective Zaitsev seems like it could be in the cards. The report of Vancouver’s supposed interest comes from Sportsnet 650’s Rick Dhaliwal this afternoon.
Source : #Canucks are busy working phones on the trade market. They checked in on the price for Toronto defenseman Nikita Zaitsev who is getting lots of interest.
— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) June 4, 2019
Outside of the Canucks connection, the last part of that report about “lots of interest” is also plenty encouraging and something we’ve seen emerge from a few in-the-know types over the past day or so.
Pierre LeBrun, who is plugged in to the Hurricanes via GM Don Waddell, has floated the idea of the Leafs packaging up Zaitsev with Kasperi Kapanen to try and squeeze a right-handed defenceman (Pesce, Faulk, Hamiltion) out of Carolina. And while that may be a bit far-fetched given the Canes are one of the more analytically-savvy teams in the NHL, there is a theme here that the Leafs have a few people on the phone for Zaitsev, signalling the market for him may be better than originally thought. Bob McKenzie echoed something similar in his usual radio rounds in Toronto this morning:
“They’re not going to give Zaitsev away, or if they are going to give him away in a soft deal, then obviously there has got to be a corresponding other move that would bring in an experienced defenceman to pick up his minutes, but that can be accomplished in a lot of different ways.”
It’s still hard to believe the Leafs will get much of value for Zaitsev given his albatross of a contract and weak boxcar numbers, but perhaps there is more available than just a late-round pick in a pure salary dump deal. I think most people who follow the team closely realize that anything beyond that would be found money for Toronto.
Should the Canucks trade for Zaitsev? (CanucksArmy)