Nikita Zaitsev signs 1-Year Entry Level Contract with Leafs

It’s the moment we’ve been waiting an eternity for; Nikita Zaitsev is coming to what has typically been his summer home. The Moscow-born 24-year old defenceman signed a one-year entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs today.

From the official press release: 

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Monday that the club has signed defenceman Nikita Zaitsev to a one-year entry level contract.
Zaitsev, 24, collected 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) and 20 penalty minutes in 46 regular season games with CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) this past season, before adding 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 20 playoff games. His 13 points in the post-season were tied for the most among KHL defenceman. Zaitsev was twice selected to play in the KHL All-Star Game and was named a KHL first-team all-star in 2014-15. The Moscow, Russia native collected 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists) and 156 penalty minutes in 317 career regular season games in the KHL. Zaitsev also registered 24 career KHL playoff points (seven goals, 17 assists) in 51 games.
Zaitsev will participate in the 2016 IIHF World Championships with Team Russia.

Zaitsev will make $925,000, 10% of which comes as a signing bonus. 

The CSKA Moscow point man has been in negotiations with the Leafs since last season but was unable to get out of his KHL deal to make the jump a year prior. As reported here on, Zaitsev made his intentions clear in November and has been unwavering about the process since.

Speculation regarding teammate and former NHL star Alexander Radulov remains ongoing, though most reports don’t have him connected to Toronto just yet. In the meantime, you’ll find a wealth of information on the team’s latest addition in our post “Last Train To Zaitsev” from Saturday evening.

  • Harte of a Lion

    We will look back on this signing one day, as being as important as the lottery win. Zaitsev is a stud!

    Radilov is best buddies with Zaitsev…. So I wonder if with Lamoriello Shanahan and Babcock running the show, Radulov would behave within team guidelines. They all have vest experience dealing with Russians

    Radulov says money is not an issue at this time… He wants adulation and to win, management should convince him that he will become royalty, a true rock star IF he helps the Leafs win. The question will always be “can he focus on the front of the jersey and not the name on the back”. Could he become an important instrument in the orchestra or will he try to be the conductor?

    By adding Radulov, Matthews and Zaitsev to the stable of talent we had a glimpse of last year, Lupul gets Robidas’d…the team could surprise people next year. Maybe not the playoffs but a 15+ point gain?

    Picking around 10-11th in next years draft and who knows, maybe Shanahan is lucky x 2

    Anyone who doesn’t think this team is headed in the right direction is an Oilers or Habs fan.

  • Mitch92

    Happy that Zaitsev signed as expected. One more box crossed off on our way to building a playoff caliber team. With Nikita signing a one year ELC deal does that mean he will be an RFA after this deal expires? If he has a strong rookie campaign he could be very difficult to resign if he become a UFA.

  • Capt.Jay

    What do we do with Kapennen, Lypsic, Brown, Soshnikov and Lingberg? Can we package some of them plus Bozak and our pick from Pittsburg for something in the 8-12 range? Would there be any takers? I don’t think Phoenix cares to get another draft pick that they have to wait years on. I think they want help now as their young team starts to take form

    • Mitch92

      Without naming names I highly suspect that some of our present prospects along with some roster players and future draft picks will be moved in quantity for quality deals. We have 12 draft picks this year and there are enough players to ice two teams on the Marlies as they stand(although we know that anywhere from four to eight of them could be Leafs come October). Sadly we will see some players who we have grown fond of moved in order to fill specific team needs. That is the way it goes and we will only get closer to contention for it.

      • Jeremy Ian

        Yes, I think this is exactly what we’ll face. But it was foreseeable, and planned. Accumulate good young players and use them in trades with teams that want youth (and are on budgets) to replace our quantity with quality.

        The names that will probably swirl on the trade market are Brown, Leipsic, Percy, Sam Carrick… They may not all be bundled off, but a good number I suspect will.

  • SEER

    *Note: Date typos at the end of the video.. All of the last 4 goals are from 2016… Apologies..

    (a.k.a. “Nikita Zaytsev” ) / BIRTHYEAR: 1991-10-29/ BIRTHPLACE: Moskva, RUS/
    AGE: 24 / NATION: Russia /
    POSITION : D /
    SHOOTS: R /
    HEIGHT: 189 cm / 6’2″/
    WEIGHT: 89 kg / 196 lbs /
    YOUTH TEAM : Krylia Sovetov Moskva


    2013-14 CSKA Moskva – KHL
    33 Games… 4 Goals… 8 Assists… 12 Points… +1
    2014 – KHL Playoffs (Gagarin Cup)
    7 Games… 1 Goal… 0 Assists… 1 Point… -4
    2014-15 CSKA Moskva – KHL
    57 Games… 12 Goals… 20 Assists… 32 Points… +27
    2015 – KHL Playoffs (Gagarin Cup)
    16 Games… 1 Goal… 7 Assists… 8 Points… +6
    2015-16 CSKA Moskva – KHL
    46 Games… 8 Goals… 18 Assists… 26 Points… +21
    2016 – KHL Playoffs (Gagarin Cup)
    19 Games… 4 Goals… 9 Assists… 13 Points… +8

    Zaitsev’s Comin’: Nikita Zaitsev Extended 2012-16 Highlights – TML


  • Spinner_Spencer

    So I’m listening to TSN Radio in Vancouver where David Pratt, a mindless bag of wind if there ever was one, is hammering the point that the Canucks should “do just like the Leafs” and rebuild.

    Pratt is virulently anti-Leaf/Toronto so, for him to say anything like that, he either:

    A. woke up with a new brain

    B. has no choice but to admit the Leafs must be doing something right

    It’s like Bizarro World. But I’ll take it.