Former Maple Leaf Nikita Zaitsev Leaving NHL For Overseas

Take one unrestricted free agent defenseman off the board, as former Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks blueliner Nikita Zaitsev has decided to take his talents back to his homeland.

It's a four-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg for the Russian d-man, after eight seasons in the NHL. The 32-year-old spent seven years playing in Russia before coming to North America and signing with the Maple Leafs as an undrafted free agent. 

Zaitsev's rookie year, 2016-17, was his best in the NHL, as he recorded career highs of 32 assists and 36 points, marks he never came close to equalling throughout the rest of his career. He did, however, average close to 22 minutes a game for his first five years in the league. 

After three seasons in Toronto, he went on to spend 3 1/2 years with the Senators, and then finished up his NHL run the past year and a half in Chicago. 

He's also faced injury troubles in recent seasons. He'll head to the homeland now, hoping to recapture his earlier career play.  

Photo: © Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports