The decision was made earlier today, and Ilya Mikheyev is on his way to the NHL. The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed the Russian forward to a one-year entry-level contract. The deal will cover the 2019-20 season, after which Mikheyev will become a restricted free agent.
Toronto beat out several other teams for the services of the 24-year old Mikheyev, with the Vegas Golden Knights and Chicago Blackhawks reportedly the other finalists. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet recently noted that his sources doubted that there was ever really a decision to be made, and that the Maple Leafs were always going to be the final destination.
Coming off a 45-point season with Avangard Omsk, the talented winger helped his club to an unlikely Gagarin Cup Final appearance with another 11 points in 13 postseason games. While Mikheyev has played mostly right wing in the KHL, that side is awfully full on the Maple Leafs at the moment with Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen and Connor Brown normally drawing in. Jeremy Bracco, the team’s top forward prospect is also a right winger, and is making a case for an NHL roster spot of his own next year.
Regardless Mikheyev, who is a left-handed shooter, will have to battle for a regular spot at all with the Maple Leafs who boast strong depth up front. His acquisition may actually lead to some more speculation about movement this summer by Toronto, who are heading into a tight cap situation with contract negotiations for Marner, Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson. If the team believes Mikheyev can help right away, it may allow them to move on from one of their other young forwards.