Nikita Zaitsev reached 30 assists here Thursday, but the first-year defenceman from Russia might have much bigger figures coming his way shortly.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported during the game against the Predators that Zaitsev and the Maple Leafs are closing in on a contract extension that could be seven years in length. The speculation was the average could be in the $4.5 million US range, or slightly less than teammate Morgan Rielly’s $5 million AAV.
The 25-year-old Zaitsev has been a huge addition for the Leafs, signing the two-time KHL all-star and right into a starting role in the NHL. He and Rielly were in the same pairing much of the season against some of the league’s best forwards and Zaitsev has shown the offensive flair as well. Thursday was his 10th power play point.
He’s lately been used with Jake Gardiner as coach Mike Babcock changed some pairings around and the Leafs seem the better for it.
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