Reports are now surfacing that defenceman Nikita Zaitsev has met with Brendan Shanahan in Toronto.
Leafs talks with Nikita Zaitsev, a young Russian RD, are apparently ongoing, as per @ppanyshev. pic.twitter.com/1AsPINhnlI
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 18, 2015
Earlier today a report surfaced from Russian outlet Sport Express suggesting he had signed with the Leafs to a multi year contract, only for his agent to deny that Zaitsev would be leaving CSKA this season, where he is signed for one more year. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston has confirmed through a source that Zaitsev will be staying in the KHL for 2015-16.
What appears most likely is that Shanahan was attempting to lay groundwork for when his contract expires in 2016.
According to Google Translate, Sport Express’ original report suggested Zaitsev would come over to Toronto after 2015-16, although the translation is, of course, haggard.
The other wrinkle to all of this is that the NHL and KHL are close to arriving at a transfer agreement, according to Elliotte Friedman. Currently such transfers operate under the mutual understanding that the KHL and NHL are to respect each other’s contracts (must either be a free agent or the contract must be voided in order to transfer). That memorandum is in place until June 30. An official transfer agreement including a compensation system could potentially change the options available to the Leafs in a case such as this one.
For the first time since 2004, the NHL appears to be closing in on a transfer agreement with Russia. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final that things were getting close, and it’s apparently a four-year agreement — tying into the length of the other deals with European countries. Right now, the NHL and KHL agree to honour each other’s contracts, but this will allow a per-player fee should a jump be made.
Zaitsev, a 23-year-old right handed defenceman, was a KHL first-team All Star this past season. Read more on him here.