Defenseman Nikita Zaitsev will take to the ice tonight in the familiar confines of Scotiabank Arena tonight, but there’s of course something VERY different about tonight’s matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. Zaitsev, of course, was traded from the Leafs to the Sens this past offseason after requesting a trade in July.
The 27 year old Russian quietly requested a trade from Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas and had his request granted by way of a massive six player deal between the two Ontario rivals.
Heading to Ottawa with Zaitsev were Connor Brown and minor leaguer Michael Carcone in exchange for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a third round pick. After a full training camp and preseason with his new team, Zaitsev is finally opening up about his reasons for wanting out of Toronto. Well… kinda…
Check out Zaitsev’s comments from earlier today regarding his offseason trade request:
So… it’s not the players. It’s not the team. Could this mean he had a falling out with head coach Mike Babcock? At one point in time, Zaitsev was one of Babcock’s most trusted blue liners, but that changed considerably over the past calendar year to the point where many fans and analysts believed there was a rift between the two.
It’s no secret that the Leafs fanbase and media were brutal on Zaitsev this past season as well, so it’s possible that he was simply “over it” and wanted to move on.
In any case, Zaitsev will get his chance to prove his critics wrong tonight when the Leafs and Sens go head to head to open the NHL regular season.