By signing a $ 925,000 entry-level deal with the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, Kirill Semyonov is following the path set by KHL free agents like Ilya Mikheyev and Igor Ozhiganov and, most recently, Mikko Lehtonen and Alexander Barabanov.
Semyonov – a 26-year-old Gagarin Cup champion – will apply for a work visa within the next two weeks with hopes of traveling to Toronto with his wife and two young children by the end of June or early July.
Much like Barabanov and Mikheyev before him, he is an experienced and sympathetic forward, ready to pursue his lifelong NHL dream.
“Kirill is a very intelligent two-way center. It would be a great addition. Play very responsibly [and] difficult, ”Semyonov’s agent Dan Milstein said in a phone call Wednesday.
“It was a dream to play in the National Hockey League, and he thinks it’s the best time to make a change right now.
Undrafted Semyonov has scored 10 goals and 26 points in 60 games for home club Avangard Omsk in 2020-2021, his eighth season in the KHL. The 2019 KHL all-star collected nine more playoff points during Avangard’s run to his debut Gagarin Cup championship.
Semyonov’s first attempt to break into the NHL dates back to 2015, when he was invited to the Chicago Blackhawks development camp.
He’s been on the Maple Leafs’ radar for the past three seasons, as general manager Kyle Dubas and Toronto’s main European scout-slash scout Jim Paliafito were in touch with Milstein.
“There were quite a few other teams interested,” Milstein said. “Over the past two years, a lot. A lot. “
Semyonov wanted to play his contract with Omsk and take the time to consider his next move.
“His game will translate well in North America,” Milstein said. “For the past three seasons Bob Hartley has been his head coach, so he’s also used to North American head coaches.
Kirill Semyonov OT PING
– Here is your replay (@HeresYourReplay) 8 mars 2021
A contract, of course, does not guarantee ice time.
There was a lot of buzz when KHL imported Lehtonen, 27, and Barabanov, 26, arrived in Toronto in early 2020-2021. The two struggled to carve out roles in coach Sheldon Keefe’s competitive roster. They ended up in non-playoff teams.
The first was distributed to Columbus after nine games over the last Toronto duo. The latter was traded to San Jose on the deadline after 13 games with limited teams.
Barabanov is also a Milstein client. The versatile winger has since contributed five points in his first five games with the Sharks – a better fit, a bigger opportunity.
Did Semyonov hesitate to sign in Toronto given the end of Barabanov’s tenure?
“No,” Milstein replied.
Semyonov has a close bond with Mikheyev, which should ease his transition to a foreign city.
The two were born 17 days apart in Omsk. They were classmates and minor hockey teammates until their days with Avangard.
With seven current Maple Leafs forwards playing on expiring UFA contracts, and Dubas’ cap image reliant on excessive bargain results (see: Jason Spezza, Joe Thornton, Alex Galchenyuk) expect Semyonov to be firmly in the mix competing for a spot in the NHL at their 2021-22 camp.
The goal will be to make a good impression and make your way to become a Mikheyev-style staple.