It appears as if the Toronto Maple Leafs could be close to shedding Nikita Zaitsev’s $4.5M AAV salary off of their payroll.

Moments after Elliotte Friedman came out with his report that the Leafs and Ottawa were discussing a deal, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston tweeted that it’s believed that RFA defenceman Cody Ceci would be coming back the other way.

What Does This Mean?

Ceci’s perceived value in Ottawa, like Zaitsev’s in Toronto, is a point of contention within the fan base and, with that in mind, many in Leafs Nation could be scared away by this potential trade. The thing is, however, it’s more likely than not that the Leafs will flip Ceci to another team immediately upon acquiring him. Right-handed defencemen are a hot commodity these days, and surely the Leafs would have no shortage of suitors for Ceci.

In fact, Ceci probably has a higher trade value than Zaitsev at the moment, given how he’s a pending restricted free agent and two years younger, and as the Leafs try to add more right-handed defenceman to their blue-line (right now, Justin Holl is the lone right-shot on the backend), Ceci could conceivably garner them more than Zaitsev.

If the Leafs were to trade Zaitsev for Ceci, and then flip him for, say, a depth defenceman and some sort of pick or prospect, that would be a heck of a lot better than having to staple some sort of hot commodity with Zaitsev in order for a team to take on his contract.

If this deal does come to fruition, and Toronto (inevitably) finds a suitor for Ceci, this could turn out to be a huge win for the Leafs. Stay tuned.