The Maple Leafs have avoided salary arbitration with Ilya Mikheyev as the team announced they’ve re-signed the winger to a two-year deal with an AAV of $1.645MM. Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic adds (Twitter link) that the deal pays $1.1MM in 2020-21 and $2.19MM in 2021-22.
Yesterday, the two sides filed their arbitration submissions with Mikheyev requesting a one-year, $2.7MM pact and Toronto countering with a two-year deal with a $1MM AAV. With the player filing for the hearing which was scheduled for Wednesday, the Maple Leafs got to choose what the term would have been had they gone through with the proceedings. As is often the case in these, they settled close to the midpoint of the two filings which was $1.85MM.
The 26-year-old signed with Toronto last offseason and played relatively well in his NHL debut, picking up eight goals and 15 assists in 39 games while logging over 15 minutes per night. His rookie campaign was cut short due to a wrist injury which cost him 31 games although the delayed start of the playoffs due to the pandemic enabled Mikheyev to return for the postseason in their five-game loss to Columbus.
Despite the inexperience in North America, Mikheyev was eligible for salary arbitration because of his age which allowed him to earn a decent raise on the $925K he made in his rookie year. Had his case gone to a hearing, it would have been a tricky one to navigate due to the lack of true comparable players in his situation but that’s all moot now.
While the deal gives Toronto a middle-six forward at a decent price tag, it also only buys out his two remaining RFA years, allowing Mikheyev to return to the open market in 2022. That price tag also was originally set to be higher as Sportsnet’s Luke Fox notes that the original agreement was for slightly more but that the team called back at the last minute to ask him to take a bit less to help them stay cap compliant.
With this contract now done, Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas can now turn his focus to his last remaining NHL-level restricted free agent in defenseman Travis Dermott with recently-acquired winger Joey Anderson also needing a new deal but he will likely be AHL-bound. Dermott recently wrapped up his entry-level contract and wasn’t eligible for arbitration. With Toronto likely needing to carry close to a minimum-sized roster and shuffle several entry-level players back and forth with the AHL Marlies as it is to be cap compliant, it’s likely that Dermott’s contract will also be a short one to maintain as much short-term flexibility as possible.