Nikita Zaitsev wants out of Toronto, but with five years left at $4.5 million, is there a real chance the Leafs can move him without having to give up anything substantial in a deal? If there is, it may be in Vancouver for a familiar name on the Canucks back end.
Morgan Rielly’s defensive partner from the 2016 World Championships of Hockey, Chris Tanev could be a candidate for this 1-for-1 swap. Tanev, 29, had terrific chemistry a few years ago with the Leafs Norris-candidate defender and complimented his marauding forward play extremely well for Canada.
Then Ottawa Senator Mark Stone had this to say about Tanev’s game: “On defense, I was pretty impressed with Tanev…You look at his numbers, I think he gets 20-25 points a year, but he does a lot of things that help your team win. He was probably our most steady defenceman from a defensive perspective all tournament.”
High praise from the two-way all-star; he makes a good point, too. Tanev, a Toronto native, has never exceeded 20 points in his nine NHL seasons but has also only ever had a minus rating once in that span. This is extremely impressive considering the nose-dive the Canucks have taken over the past three season.
The real bargaining point on this deal would be term of contract. The players are on almost identical dollar values with Tanev at just $50k less than Zaitsev, but his contract expires next season whereas Zaitsev has five years left.
Why it works for Vancouver
The lack of stability in Vancouver’s defensive core could make the term on Zaitsev’s deal attractive to the team. As it stands right now, the defenseman with the longest term on the Canucks is Quin Hughes who has two seasons left on his ELC.
Zaitsev’s experience, three seasons with the new-look Leafs and three consecutive playoff runs, would help insulate the transition to a young, inexperienced D-core for the Canucks. With projected cap space at just over $30 million, as well, his contract doesn’t really matter all that much outside of term.
Tanev would be a really good foil for Rielly and as a natural right shot defenseman, would help fill out the Leafs natural position defensive ranks. His one-year deal gives Dubas control over the situation, too. If he impresses he would likely be resigned, if not the team isn’t on the hook for a massive deal signed by another GM.
What are your thoughts? Is Chris Tanev not only a good fit for Toronto but is Nikita Zaitsev exactly what the non-cap-stressed Canucks need on their roster, too?