Russian free agent defenseman Nikita Zaitsev has told teams he will sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. He will reportedly sign a one-year entry level contract.
The Leafs have expressed interest in the 24-year old puck-moving defenseman for some time. The Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings also expressed interest in Zaitsev after his agent stated that he would be coming to the NHL next season.
Zaitsev has 24 points through 40 games this season in the KHL while playing with CSKA Moscow. Elite Prospects’ scouting report says he plays a “smart two-way game,” and is a “fine passer with a good shot from the point.”
The 6’2”, 196-pound blueliner was part of Russia’s 2011 World Junior Championship Gold Medal team and has also represented Russia at the World Championships.