The Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to extract a little value from an asset expected to be on the move.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Maple Leafs and general manager Kyle Dubas have made the rights to pending unrestricted free agent forward Ilya Mikheyev available through trade for teams who may want to “jumpstart the process.”
Mikheyev is coming off a career season for the Toronto, which secured the forward’s rights three summers ago in the European free agent market. He more than doubled his career total with 21 goals this past season, while collecting 32 total points in 53 games. A reliable two-way forward, Mikheyev also authored very strong underlying numbers from the middle six, finishing the season with over 56 percent marks in possession, expected goals and total goal share. His on-ice share of high-danger chances was over 60 percent.
Despite being relatively unproven, Mikheyev was believed to be somewhat unsettled, at times, across three seasons in Toronto. There were reports that he was unhappy with his role, and even a suggestion that he asked for a trade.
The issue between player and team was apparently that Mikheyev wanted a much larger role, which he’s expected to pursue when the free agent market officially opens on July 13.
All things being equal, the Leafs would have certainly liked for Mikheyev to remain with the club. He’s dealt with injuries, some of which were very serious, in each of his three NHL seasons, but did emerge as a valuable asset almost immediately upon arrival.
He played on both wings, was a big piece of the penalty killing teams, and often paired with the high-end forwards on the roster. The Leafs will most certainly be looking to replenish the asset the moment he officially walks.
Dubas has routinely been forced to let valuable members of the middle class of the Leafs lineup depart in free agency, and sometimes via trade, in his continued efforts to build around Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander. Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and Zach Hyman are among the supporting cast members that moved on from Toronto in recent seasons, with Mikheyev and others potentially joining them.
The positive is that his biggest strength as an executive is his ability to replenish forward talent, which is a bucket he’ll have to fill again this summer.
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