Nikita Zaitsev of the Chicago Blackhawks
Photo credit: The Score

500-game veteran leaves the NHL and signs long-term deal overseas

Published May 22, 2024 at 1:26 PM

A veteran of close to 500 NHL games with several different teams has reportedly signed a long-term deal in his home country, marking the end of his NHL career

It appears to be the end of the line for a veteran defenceman and his NHL career. Several reports state Nikita Zaitsev is heading home.

Several reports out of Russia state Zaitsev, 32, has signed a three-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. While Zaitsev played in the Russian league before coming to North America, this is his first contract with SKA.


The move shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Zaitsev just finished up a seven-year deal worth $31.5 million that he signed as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs back in 2017. He was also recently spotted in Russia with the head coach of SKA.

"#Blackhawks Nikita Zaitsev with SKA head coach Roman Rotenberg at the Unison Cup tournament. 👀
📸 Pavel Lysenkov"

Zaitsev's contract, which was signed by Lou Lamoriello when he was GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was up there with the worst signings in recent memory. In 2019, he requested a trade out of Toronto, and was sent to the Ottawa Senators in a multi-player exchange. By November of 2022, the Sens placed Zaitsev on waivers after being unable to find a trade partner, and he ended up in the AHL for a handful of games. Four months later, he was dealt to Chicago, where he finished out his contract.

Zaitsev was never drafted, instead signing an entry-level deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a free agent. In 482 regular season games in the NHL, Zaitsev scored 22 goals and 118 points. SKA St. Petersburg is always in the hunt for the KHL's Gagarin Cup, and has been a powerhouse in the league for some time.
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