Behind Ilya Mikheyev’s last minute RFA deal with the Maple Leafs


TORONTO – Less than 24 hours before the arbitration scheduled for Wednesday, restricted free agent Ilya Mikheyev and the Toronto Maple Leafs found common ground on Tuesday night – although that meant a last-minute financial concession from the player.

The Russian winger and the club have agreed to a two-year contract worth an average of $ 1.645 million annually which will see Mikheyev in blue and white throughout the 2021-22 season and lead him to free agency. unrestricted at 27 years old.

“Ilya has decided to step away from an already agreed number to help the team get under the cap,” Mikheyev’s agent Dan Milstein told Sportsnet after tweeting the news of the signing.

“For Ilya, it was less a question of money, but more of a role in the organization. He wants to win the Stanley Cup. It was a dream of a lifetime.

Mikheyev’s two-year pact features a salary of $ 1.1 million in 2020-2021 and $ 2.19 million in 2021-2022.

According to Milstein, the parties initially agreed to a cap of just over $ 1.645 million.

The agent was on the phone to explain the terms of the transition deal to Mikheyev when the Maple Leafs quickly called back to ask for a little less up front grip so they could be in compliance with the cap for 2021 opening night. .

The Leafs and Mikheyev discussed the sophomore’s position in a roster filled with winger during negotiations, which had gone on for weeks.

“We know what they have to do. We know what the goals are. Toronto and both camps communicated very clearly, ”Milstein said. “We feel very comfortable for next season, and Ilya is also very excited about next season.”

Mikheyev, 26 – quickly a fan favorite – played just 39 games as a rookie with the Maple Leafs in 2019-20, scoring eight goals and adding 15 assists.

Returning for postseason action after sustaining a horrific wrist injury in late December, Mikheyev failed to score a point in the club’s five-game playoff qualifying series against Columbus.

“He would have loved to help the team get past Columbus, but overall it was a good first year experience for him,” said Milstein. “It’s adjusted. It is suitable. And I expect him to have a better season next year.

He chose to file a salary arbitration request to save time and time for out-of-court negotiations.

Mikheyev filed for one year at $ 2.7 million; the Leafs asked for two years at $ 1 million.

But, Milstein argues, the strongest efforts on both sides have long been directed towards making a two-year pact that has provided Mikheyev and his family with a little more certainty in uncertain times.

The player affectionately nicknamed “Mickey” for his teammates and “Souperman” for the fans stayed until the wee hours in Russia, where he trains, to sign the papers.

“The first season didn’t go as well as expected, due to the injury, but it was never a question of whether he was coming back or not,” Milstein said. “He stayed up all night and we took care of business.

Milstein has a close working relationship with general manager Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs.

The agent quickly notes that 12 of his players have been welcomed into the Toronto system in the past three years, including winger Egor Korshkov (currently on loan to KHL’s Yaroslav Lokomotiv), 2020 first-round pick Rodion Amirov and the new KHL. import Alexander Barabanov.

“While we were negotiating (Mikheyev’s contract) and maybe we were a little bit at odds, I had to stop and talk (to the Leafs) about another player,” Milstein said. “We try to have a good relationship with everyone, but the customer comes first.”

Barabanov, 26, will join Mikheyev in trying to get ice time from coach Sheldon Keefe in a competitive attacking squad that added Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton, Jimmy Vesey, Joey Anderson and Travis Boyd to the mix since the opening of free agency.

Barabanov flew to Toronto in early September and is preparing for his first North American campaign this side of the pond.

Make no mistake: like Mikheyev before him, Barabanov is aiming for the NHL, not the AHL.

“I feel good about his outlook. He’s a world-class player, ”said Milstein. “I am not a coach. I won’t make any predictions. But I feel good. You can quote me on that. I feel good. Barabanov is an Olympic champion.

“He’s a phenomenal player and I expect him to do well here in North America.

With the signing of Mikheyev, the Maple Leafs only have to make deals with calls for demands Travis Dermott and Anderson.


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