We asked you after Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly were signed, who would be next -- and 2,835 of you picked Nikita Zaitsev. You were right!
It's official: defenceman Nikita Zaitsev is a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has been signed to a one year entry-level deal.
Zaitsev had an excellent regular season in the KHL and a better playoffs that just didn't quite end with the win he must have wanted. He was a huge part of his team's success, playing top pairing minutes and always the man-in-demand in tough situations.
He comes to the Leafs a seasoned pro with three full years playing for CSKA Moscow, and four mostly complete seasons before that playing for Sibir Novosibirsk. He'll turn 25 this year, and that makes him more than a year younger than Jake Gardiner. It also means he's waiver exempt for one year only.
He's one of only three right-handed defencemen in the Leafs organizaion, along with Frank Corrado and Connor Carrick.
Lou likes to make everyone wait on the money details, so we'll update you when we know, but an entry level contract has a base salary capped at one million.
Zaitsev is expected to be named to Russia's final roster for the World Championships, and may well be a player considered for their World Cup team in September too. We'll keep you up to date on opportunities to see the newest Leaf in action.
Zaitsev's been wearing number 22, will he keep it? Previous players who wore 22 for the Leafs include: Ken Baumgartner, Francois Beauchemin, Boyd Devereaux, Forbes Kennedy, Kin Klee, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Rick Vaive, Glen Wesley, Tiger Williams and most recently, Zach Sill.
Welcome to the Leafs, Nikita!
Lou Lamoriello discusses the draft pick and Zaitsev here. (1:53 for the Zaitsev talk.)
Mark Masters @markhmasters 22m22 minutes ago Toronto, Ontario Lamoriello on Zaitsev: "We all feel in the organization that Nikita can play in the top-4 next year ... we've all spent some time with him"
You can watch his highlights over here.