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Ex-Leafs defenseman heading to Europe after being unable to secure an NHL deal


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Mike Armenti
July 4, 2024  (10:52)
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Nikita Zaitsev headed back to the KHL
Photo credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports

Free agency can be tough for players who fail to secure an NHL deal, and for former Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, a return to the KHL was his best option.

Once upon a time, Zaitsev was viewed as a very important piece for the future of the Maple Leafs' blueline. That much was evident by the 7-year, $31.5M deal he was signed to by former Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello back in 2017.
Unfortunately for Zaitsev, a drastic downward spiral in his performance led to the Russian defenseman being traded to the Ottawa Senators, where he toiled away for 4 seasons before ultimately landing in Chicago for his last 2 seasons.
Now, according to TSN's Chris Johnston, Zaitsev is headed back to the KHL, signing a 4-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg.
Prior to signing in Toronto as a free agent back in 2016-17, Zaitsev had spent parts of 5 seasons in the KHL.
Zaitsev produced just 22 goals and 118 points across 482 games in his NHL career. He also added 2 assists in 18 career playoff games, all with the Maple Leafs.
Source: HockeyDB
Nikita Zaitsev stats and bio
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Ex-Leafs defenseman heading to Europe after being unable to secure an NHL deal

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