The Toronto Maple Leafs have received a great contribution from young Russian forward Ilya Mikheyev this season and may be looking to add another forward from the KHL before long. On last night’s Sportsnet broadcast, insider Chris Johnston explained that Konstantin Okulov is the latest overseas player to be linked to the Maple Leafs, though also noted that the Montreal Canadiens are the other interested party.
According to Johnston, other teams are hesitating to even invest any time in the recruitment of Okulov because of his connection with the Maple Leafs and Canadiens. The 24-year old scored 20 goals and 31 points last season and is off to a blazing start in 2019-20.
For a team like Toronto that has so much money tied up in a few players, finding talent elsewhere is absolutely imperative. Mikheyev has given the team another legitimate NHL winger for an entry-level salary, scoring seven points in his first nine games—all of them at even-strength.
Montreal meanwhile doesn’t have the intricate cap problems that Toronto deals with on a daily basis, but are building a deep forward group to rival their Atlantic Division opponents and won’t pass up an opportunity to improve it. Montreal has 12 picks in this year’s draft, a good young core and cap space to make moves, a situation that makes them dangerous in any free agent situation.
Okulov is scheduled to become a free agent after this season but would be held to the entry-level system on any contract. While Toronto and Montreal are the front-runners, this is surely not the last time we hear his name throughout the year.