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Nikita Zaitsev to be traded to Ottawa — Report

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Elliotte Friedman says this deal could happen soon.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, Darren Dreger casually mentioned this:

And the interesting thing here is that Zaitsev, who has a modified no-trade clause, would have to waive it to go to Ottawa.

Ottawa, who is in danger of not reaching the cap floor this coming season, would be taking on this contract:

Meanwhile the Leafs would get.... well, about that.

Now before you go off the rails here, yes Cody Ceci has had some troubles trying to play over his head in Ottawa, and no he’s not very good. But his contract looks like this:

Ceci was issued a qualifying offer by the Sens, and it would be an astonishing $4.3 million. He also has arbitration rights, but not much of a happy record to base a case on.

As you can see from the tweets, and the contract page on our friends Cap Friendly above, Zaitsev is due a signing bonus on July 1. We absolutely should assume that this deal will take place after July 1.

There’s several possibilities if the Leafs acquire Ceci. He could simply accept his qualifying offer. Which isn’t ideal, but if he does, it’s only for one year. He could negotiate a lower salary and try to reboot his career on the Leafs. Or he could elect arbitration.

On Friday, July 5 two things happen at 5 p.m. The deadline for players to elect arbitration passes, and the period where teams can elect arbitration then opens. It’s one day long. So if he’s going to go the arbitration route, he has to do it right after he arrives on the Leafs.

If the arbitration award is over $4,397,832, per Cap Friendly, then the team can walk away from it, but only if it was a player-elected arbitration. If the club elects arbitration in the second window, the only choice here, the team has to accept the deal. In club-elected arbitration in the second window, the player cannot be awarded less than his qualifying offer.

The only way a clever scheme to have him go to arbitration, and then have the Leafs walk away from it can work is if he elects arbitration himself and gets a high enough award. Never count on clever schemes.

The other thing that could happen is the Leafs could trade either him, if he signs a deal, or his rights. That is, if they can find another team that wants an overpaid player, but on a shorter term to Zaitsev.

If the Leafs do end up playing Ceci for a year, it’s a smaller price than a first-round pick to clear some cap space. And could Ceci play on the Leafs? Maybe. I looked at that here:

I concluded that on a team with real coaching, and better teammates, he could play a depth role, and be fine. You don’t want to pay $4 million for that, and Ceci himself might be legitimately better off with a lower salary if he really wants to continue in the NHL at a level that’s right for him. This could be a win-win.

Kyle Dubas right now: Hey, Dave, I got a job for you...

Update:

Given this it will be interesting to see how much value Ottawa places on saving $3 million in cash over having the ability to trade Zaitsev unfettered at any time. I know what I’m betting.

Confirmation of the deal, and also confirmation that no ones knows yet if there are other parts to the deal.

Clarification: