The Maple Leafs and Zaitsev are working together to "find him a fresh start," Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports. Zaitsev was pretty good for Toronto during his first season with the club in 2016-17, notching four goals and 36 points in 82 games while averaging just over 22 minutes of ice time per contest. That performance prompted the Maple Leafs to sign him to a monster seven-year, $31.5 million contract extension ahead of the 2017-18 campaign. However, the 27-year-old Russian simply hasn't lived up to that deal over the past two seasons, totaling a meager 27 points in 141 games, so it makes sense for the Leafs to try to cut their losses and ship him to another team. However, any club willing to take on the underperforming blueliner's $4.5 million annual cap hit will undoubtedly be looking for Toronto to sweeten the deal with prospects, draft picks or another NHL-ready player.
Zaitsev (rest) was back at practice Monday preparing for Game 1 versus Boston on Thursday, Paul Hendrick of the Maple Leafs' official site reports. Zaitsev was given the night off for the regular-season finale versus Montreal on Saturday, but appears to be back and ready to go for the playoffs. The defenseman should continue to log right around his 20:28 season average for ice time during the opening-round matchup with the Bruins. The Russian's lack of consistent offensive contributions, combined with his absence from the power play, limits his fantasy viability.
Zaitsev will not play in Saturday's regular-season finale against the Canadiens, Scott Wheeler of The Athletic reports. Zaitsev hasn't missed a game all season, but he will fall one short of a complete season as he rests up for the Leafs' upcoming playoff run. Although he's reached nowhere near the 36 points he tallied as a rookie in 2016-17, that's in part due to his absence from the power play. Zaitsev should be good to go when the playoffs begin next week.
Zaitsev has two points in his last 13 games. Zaitsev continues to log a lot of ice time, including heavy minutes on the penalty kill. That helps the Leafs, but does not do anything for fantasy owners.
Zaitsev skated with Jake Muzzin at practice on Wednesday. Coach Mike Babcock had juggled pairings Tuesday in a win over the Avs and shifted Muzzin to a spot beside Zaitsev. The righty has just seven points in 56 games this season and has been weak defensively, so a move to skate with the strong Muzzin would certainly solve that worry -- or showcase Zaitsev for a trade. Even it that was to happen, he's not fantasy worthy at this point.
Last 7 Games
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