Ozhiganov, as expected, signed a two-year contract with AK Bars Kazan (KHL) on Friday, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports. Ozhiganov's return to Russia was already in the works, though where the blueliner was going to play was still up in the air. Set to be a restricted free agent this summer, the Maple Leafs will almost certainly extend him a qualifying offer in order to retain his NHL rights. At just 26 years of age, it's certainly not out of the question for Ozhiganov to make his way back to the NHL at some point down the road.
Ozhiganov is expected to return to the KHL for the 2019-20 season, Scott Wheeler of The Athletic reports. Ozhiganov was a regular in the Maple Leafs lineup for most of the 2018-19 campaign, notching seven points in 53 appearances, but he clearly fell out of favor with coach Mike Babcock towards the end of the season -- sitting as a healthy scratch for 12 of the final 19 contests, including all seven playoff games against the Bruins. The 26-year-old blueliner only signed a one-year deal with the Leafs, so he'll be free to return to Russia as soon as he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Ozhiganov is expected to draw into the Leafs' lineup Wednesday against the Oilers. It will be his first game since Jan. 23, but it might not be an isolated start. Jake Gardiner is hurting and an announcement about his status is coming later Wednesday. Ozhiganov is the team's seventh defender, and while his fantasy value is limited, he could prove himself over the next while and secure a spot for 2019-2020.
Ozhiganov will likely be relegated to the media box with the arrival of Jake Muzzin in Toronto. Muzzin immediately slots onto the Leafs' top pairing, pushing Ron Hainsey down to the third pairing, where he can mentor Travis Dermott. That leaves Ozhiganov on the outside looking in, barring injury.
Ozhiganov scored his third goal of the season Monday in a 6-3 loss to Colorado. Ozhiganov isn't a scorer, as he has just seven points (three goals, four assists) in 38 games. But he's had a strong nine days -- Ozhiganov has three points in his last five outings.
Last 7 Games
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