The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ quest to rid themselves of bad contracts has been well documented for months now, but with the NHL draft soon approaching, rumours around Patrick Marleau and Nikita Zaitsev are ramping up.
Enter the Vancouver Canucks, who, according to Rick Dhaliwal, have checked in on the Russian defender:
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
Ryan Biech already wrote on why acquiring Zaitsev is a bad idea. I mean, there’s got to be something wrong with him if the Leafs, who are already thin on the blueline, are trying desperately to move him.
Zaitsev bleeds shots and chances against while not creating an offence or drawing any penalities. According to Evolving-hockey.com, his wins-above-replacement last season was -0.5, which ranked last on the Leafs and his games-above-replacement was -2.8, which again was last on Toronto. For comparison sake, Erik Gudbranson had a -3.6 GAR and -0.6 WAR with the Canucks last season.
Furthermore, Zaitsev has five more years left on his contract that will come with a cap hit of $4.5M per season. That is a heavy contract that doesn’t generate much offence, gets buried in shot-share, and doesn’t particularly play a physical game.
If the Canucks were going to take on Zaitsev, it would have to be in such a way that they’re weaponizing their cap space in order to get the Leafs to give them something of value in return. That could be RFA wingers Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnsson or possibly a prospect like Jeremy Bracco or Timothy Liljegren. Simply acquiring Zaitsev, whose contract would become a burden for the Canucks quickly, isn’t worth it without a major sweetener.