The Toronto Maple Leafs have developed an odd off-season habit – announcing transaction news during or after dinnertime.
This time, the Buds announced the signing of RFA winger Ilya Mikheyev to a 2-year, $3.29M contract extension.
The 26-year-old Russian had a short yet impressive rookie season, tallying eight goals and 23 points in 39 games before suffering a gruesome wrist laceration on December 27th, 2019.
His new deal’s AAV ($1.645) comes in a bit richer than most expected, meaning GM Kyle Dubas has some shuffling to do.
Here is a potential lineup that would be both plausible and cap-compliant.
As you can see above, the top-six mix will essentially remain intact – including Mikheyev. He’s the one player in that group who could play lower in the lineup, but it’s almost his job to lose since he gelled so well with his linemates last year.
The third line is similar to many predictions out there. Jimmy Vesey has a lot to prove after last season’s dud and would be a good fit alongside his former Harvard University teammate Alex Kerfoot. There’s a chance of Kerfoot ending up on the wing in the top-six instead, but he has performed adequately in the 3C role.
Wayne Simmonds is the Leafs’ third-best option on the right side, and will add a much-needed mix of toughness and skill to the trio.
The fourth line essentially consists of three players who were promised minutes. Joe Thornton and Jason Spezza didn’t sign one-year deals to sit in the press box, and Alexander Barabanov (also signed for just one season) turned down more lucrative offers elsewhere to play for this team.
Dubas also has a great relationship with Dan Milstein – the agent who represents Barabanov, Mikheyev, and many other players within the organization. It would be foolish to sour that over some roster decisions.
Barabanov isn’t necessarily a lock, but his leash is long and he should stick barring an injury or mediocre play.
Notable omissions include Nick Robertson, Pierre Engvall, Travis Boyd, and Joey Anderson. Robertson could potentially force management’s hand and play – but he’s also still young, raw, and waiver-exempt.
Engvall can also be sent down without waivers, and may even be traded. Boyd was just signed and will likely be the 13th forward/first man called up in the event of an injury. Anderson is an RFA still in need of a contract, but he isn’t eligible for arbitration and is also waiver-exempt.
With the AHL’s plan for next season still in flux (not to mention the NHL’s plan because who really knows anything right now), there may be nowhere for them to go. Alternatively, the NHL could adopt a taxi squad for a condensed season like the MLB.
Denis Malgin may also be in the mix but, well, things just don’t look great for him at this particular moment.
alexander barabanov (RW), who signed with the leafs this spring after 20+ clubs expressed interest in him, is apparently currently training in toronto according to his agent dan milstein pic.twitter.com/pRaeEXz5ad
— witch marney 💫 (@marnylandersen) October 21, 2020
Justin Holl spent much of last season with Muzzin and had success, but Holl has also been inconsistent at times and is frequently mentioned in trade rumors due to his contract. The rise of the Mikko Lehtonen hype has likely contributed to Holl’s trade availability as well.
Similarly to Barabanov, Lehtonen was promised playing time and will get an extended look. Both of these players also have a ‘European Assignment Clause’ in their contracts and can head back overseas should they fail to make it.
Travis Dermott was signed to a deal with a $1.3M AAV in this scenario. That number should be worst case for Toronto as Dermott really didn’t wow anyone last season. If not $1.3M, it will likely be slightly lower. He’s not exactly a lock to avoid a trade, either.
The Maple Leafs are likely open to rostering seven defensemen – as long as they’re cap compliant. Zach Bogosian has some injury risk and may also just need occasional ‘load management’ nights.
Sandin probably isn’t excited about the prospect of being the club’s #8 option, but his path to consistent NHL minutes is cloudy unless there’s a trade or an injury.
Liljegren has shown flashes of the raw skill that had him selected 17th overall in the 2017 draft, but the young Swede still needs some more time to develop – especially defensively.
Rosen seems to have fallen far down the depth chart, although one could argue that he might be ahead of Liljegren. If only Rosen was a right shot. On the bright side, he’s small-ish, skilled, and Swedish so management probably loves him (and brought him back).
As for Marincin…well this seems like a good place to leave things be.
Martin Marincin And Cody Ceci https://t.co/NMg0AUujj8
— 🇨🇦🏒BigRed🏒🇨🇦 #BringBackBowen #BOF (@77kingofthereds) October 19, 2020