Ottawa Senators trade defenseman Nikita Zaitsev to Chicago Blackhawks

According to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, the Ottawa Senators traded defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, a 2023 second-round pick, and a 2026 fourth-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for future consideration.

The deal frees up additional space for Ottawa before the NHL trade deadline. Zaitsev is signed through 2024 on a $4.5 million AAV contract.

Zaitsev, 31, was in his fourth season with the Ottawa Senators, collecting five assists in 28 games. He also spent time retiring healthy and even played three games with the AHL’s Belleville Senators after going on waivers earlier this season.

Zaitsev has been in the rumor mill all season after struggling to find a regular roster spot. He averaged 17:14 of ice time this season, the lowest of his career and four minutes shy of his career average. He spent the first three years of his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, his best season being his 36-point rookie campaign in 2016-17.

The Russian defenseman signed a seven-year, $31.5 million contract with the Leafs in 2017-18 after just one season in the NHL. The deal included a 10-team no-trade slate that began in 2019-20. He requested a trade in 2019 and was eventually traded to the Senators in a deal that sent Cody Ceci the other way.

The Blackhawks are currently in the thick of battle for the 2023 first overall pick with a chance to land Connor Bedard. Zaitsev is the team’s second highest-paid defenseman behind Seth Jones, who holds an AAV of $9.5 million. According to Capfriendly, the Hawks have $13.442 million in current cap space with Jonathan Toews ($10.5 million) leading on injured reserve.

It will be interesting to see what the Senators do with their extra space. They currently have $17.998 million of cap space to work from, while Josh Norris ($7.95 million) and Anton Forsberg ($2.75 million) sit on injured reserve. The team is currently missing Jake Sanderson, who hopes to return to the roster this week.

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