It never did look like the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to be able to afford Ilya Mikheyev this summer and now they’ve basically made it clear that an extension is off the table. Both Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet and Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic are reporting that the Maple Leafs’ front office has made it clear to teams around the league that Mikheyev’s rights are available for trade if they want to try and sign him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 13.
The 27-year-old winger had a strong season for Toronto, scoring 21 goals in just 53 games including four short-handed tallies. The 6’3″ Mikheyev has blinding speed and a long reach, making him a perfect penalty-killing option that is dangerous on the counterattack. His offensive skill sometimes leaves something to be desired, as Maple Leafs fans will tell you he can’t always finish on his chances but there is still a valuable player to be had this summer.
In fact, a recent report suggested that Mikheyev is looking for somewhere between $4-5MM per season, something that the cap-strapped Maple Leafs just wouldn’t be able to afford. If they can get back an asset–any asset–before he hits the open market in two weeks, it would seem a win for Toronto.
Alternatively, getting Mikheyev before he gets a chance to talk to the whole league might also save a team some cap space, especially if it comes with a long-term deal. The undrafted winger carried a cap hit of just $1.645MM in each of the last two seasons and will be looking to cash in on his strong season.
There has been the suggestion that the Maple Leafs could do the same thing with Jack Campbell, given a similar contractual impasse. The netminder will likely be too expensive for Toronto to retain, meaning getting an asset for him by trading him before free agency might be the best option they have at the moment.