It’s still early days, but the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ilya Mikheyev have entered into preliminary contract negotiations, with both sides wanting to agree a deal.
Mikheyev scored a goal and added an assist in his NHL regular season debut, to help the Leafs secure a 5-3 win. He even managed to land himself an endorsement deal with Campbell’s Soup, due to a random comment about how much he liked soup during his post-match interview.
In case anyone thought his debut was a fluke, the 25-year-old continued to prove himself, with 10 points (four goals and six assists) in 14 games during October. His high hockey IQ and ability as a two-way player who could line up on either wing was apparent.
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Unfortunately for Mikheyev, the fun ended in a late-December game against the New Jersey Devils, when he had to leave the ice after suffering a wrist laceration. He was immediately taken to University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, to undergo surgery to repair an artery and tendons in his wrist.
However, the Leafs had seen enough to convince themselves the Omsk, Russia native was the real deal. As per Sportsnet, the team is in preliminary talks to extend the one-year entry-level contract he signed last May.
The news came courtesy of Mikheyev’s agent Dan Milstein on Saturday, during on appearance on Sportsnet Today with Josh Goldberg and Sho Alli. As per Sportsnet, Milstein said:
"“We have had a couple of conversations earlier. I think January 1st was the first day that we were allowed to go and make an offer. So basically, they called to let us know they were interested in retaining Ilya.“Also, we’ve had a conversation maybe about a month or so ago; this was just a cordial conversation. I’ve spoken with Ilya and while he wants to be in Toronto, the best thing for us is to wait so he can play some more games and see what he can do.”"
While it’s still early days, Milstein’s comments certainly provide optimism for Leafs fans. In terms of Mikheyev playing some more games first, this obviously leads to the question of when this would be likely to happen, or if it will even be possible before his current contract expires?
As NHLPA certified player agent Milstein added, his client was ready to return to action on March 19th. However, depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic plays out, there may be no 2019-20 season to come back to.
If this turns out to be the case, both sides will have to attempt to negotiate a deal based on what Mikheyev has achieved up to this point. With a resume which includes 23 points (eight goals and 15 assists) in 39 games and a plus/minus rating of 7, at least he’s already in a good position.
The winger’s development was undoubtedly helped by several years in the KHL, with him leading his team in points during his final two seasons before moving to North America. He has an intriguing upside, with a skill-set good enough to theoretically be a top-six forward in the NHL.
At least the two sides have the basis of a good relationship for discussing any contract extension. Milstein is CEO of Gold Star Hockey and the Leafs have dealt with them previously to bring in the likes of Nikita Zaitsev, Yegor Korshkov, Nikita Soshnikov, and of course Mikheyev for his initial NHL contract.
For now though, Mikheyev is isolating himself in Toronto and still working out. Milstein says his client is in good spirits, something which you imagine will only improve if and when he signs a new deal to remain with the Leafs.
How confident are you in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mikheyev agreeing to a contract extension, especially when considering the team’s salary cap situation? What kind of deal would you offer to the Russian forward? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.