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Blackhawks acquire Nikita Zaitsev, draft picks for future considerations

The Blackhawks picked up a defensemen and some draft capital Wednesday night.

NHL: DEC 12 Ducks at Senators Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks made their first trade ahead of the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline on Wednesday evening, acquiring defensemen Nikita Zaitsev and two draft picks from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for future considerations. The two draft picks are a second-round pick in the 2023 draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2026 draft.

Nikita Zaitsev, 31, has one season remaining on his current contract with a cap hit of $4.5 million AAV. Zaitsev also did have a 10-team No-Trade Clause, but he did not have to waive to go to Chicago.

This move isn’t particularly surprising for two reasons:

First, the Blackhawks were always going to utilize their massive amount of cap space for assets. According to CapFriendly, the Blackhawks had about $21 million in prorated deadline cap space — and they still have over $16 million left after this trade — a resource that the Blackhawks can leverage to take “bad contracts” from other teams for assets. The Senators may not be in the playoff picture this year, but moving Zaitsev frees up space for next season as well as clearing nearly $6 million in salary.

Second, the Blackhawks will need warm bodies to replace those who are soon going to be traded — like Jake McCabe, who has reportedly been drawing attention around the league.

As for the player the Blackhawks received, Zaitsev is primarily a semi-serviceable depth defensemen at this point in his career, though he is trending downward over the years. He has 108 points (19 G, 89 A) in 426 NHL games for his career, though only five assists in 28 games this season. His games played is low partially because he missed time due to a lower-body injury.

Zaitsev is expected to join the Blackhawks as soon as his immigration issues are resolved:

Also of note, the Blackhawks now have 10 draft picks in the 2023 draft:

  • Two first-round picks
  • Three second-round picks
  • Two third-round picks
  • One fourth-round pick
  • One fifth-round pick
  • One seventh-round pick