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Leafs complete 7-piece swap to send Zaitsev to Ottawa for Cody Ceci

It had been rumoured and unofficially confirmed over the last 24 hours, but now the trade is official. We knew roughly that it would be Zaitsev for Ceci, but now we know the full details, and it’s much bigger than that. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun has the full details:

Obviously this is a pretty big trade, so we’ll break it down piece-by-piece.

Leafs Pieces

Nikita Zaitsev

Obviously Leafs fan are well acquainted with Nikita Zaitsev and his questionable contract. Today, he was given this year’s signing bonus from the Leafs, clearing the way to send him to a cash-strapped team like Ottawa.

He filled a big role for the Leafs, but with concerning results. The much larger concern was his remaining contract, which lasts for another 5 years.

Connor Brown

Brown is another piece that we should be abundantly familiar with. He was a homegrown depth forward, after getting drafted in the 6th round in the 2013 NHL draft, he slowly worked his way through the ranks and earned a place on the Leafs. His penalty killing skill will be missed, but he’s a player you unfortunately can’t afford to have on a championship calibre team. It’s imperative that you have the cheapest 4th line/13th forward possible, and Brown’s $2.1M contract was just a shade too high to fall into that.

Michael Carcone

This is an asset that Leafs fans won’t be as familiar with. He’s a recent acquisition, joining the team mid-season last year through a trade with the Vancouver Canucks sending Josh Leivo the other way.

Carcone had a really solid year in the AHL last year, scoring 27 points in 42 games with the Toronto Marlies, and 17 points in 20 games with the Utica Comets. He likely isn’t NHL ready yet, but at 23 years old he is just starting to turn the corner into being an NHL depth player.

Given the turmoil in Ottawa, I won’t be completely surprised if Carcone plays for the Senators this year, but I’d file it under ‘unlikely’.

Sens Pieces

Cody Ceci

As a long standing member of the rival Ottawa Senators, Ceci shouldn’t be a complete stranger to Toronto fans. Ceci has been stapled to their 2nd pair RD slot for the better part of 5 years, enduring a lot of torment during that time. He’s been a significantly overpaid defender, as was Zaitsev, and that’s why this change-of-scenery swap made a little bit of sense.

His contract expired this year, a 1 year $4.3M deal given through arbitration, so the Leafs acquired his RFA rights in this deal. This means that he will either negotiate a new contract with Toronto on their own, or head straight to arbitration. It sounds as though he will sign, according to Bob McKenzie:

Ben Harpur

This is another Sens defender that comes with a maligned history, but a thankfully much more friendly contract. He was a 6th/7th defender for Ottawa over the last 2 seasons, mostly playing in that stay-at-home defender role of an older era. Toronto will keep Harpur likely as a depth defenseman in the Marlies, as he only makes $725k and can be buried in the AHL at no cost to the salary cap.

Aaron Luchuk

If you’re familiar with Aaron Luchuk, give yourself a pat on the back. I know I wasn’t, and probably 90% of Sens fans weren’t either. He was an undrafted player who went into the 21-year-old season in the OHL before transitioning to the ECHL for the Brampton Beast on an entry-level-contract with Ottawa. The upcoming season will be the final year of his 3-year ELC.

Luchuk will join the Marlies and add some forward depth to a team that needs it.

Draft Pick

The draft pick in this deal will be a 2020 3rd round pick, from the Columbus Blue Jackets, according to Chris Johnston of Sporstnet:

There’s obviously not much to say about this yet, but the fact that the Leafs were able to swing a draft pick from Ottawa in this cap dump is a pretty nice, if minor, win.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I feel very positively about this trade. Getting out of the long term impacts of Zaitsev’s contract is massive, and shipping out Brown to make room for cheaper depth was smart asset management.

The prospect of Harpur or Ceci playing for the Maple Leafs isn’t entirely thrilling, in fact it’s a little bit terrifying, but at worst it will be on par with the panicked and hot-potato style hockey we saw from Zaitsev previously.

What do you think of the deal? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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