Toronto Maple Leafs: Rodion Amirov signs entry-level contract

Russia's Rodion Amirov celebrates a goal during the Ice Hockey Karjala Tournament as part of the Euro Hockey Tour. (Photo by VESA MOILANEN/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images)
Russia's Rodion Amirov celebrates a goal during the Ice Hockey Karjala Tournament as part of the Euro Hockey Tour. (Photo by VESA MOILANEN/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images) /

It seemed like it was only a matter of time before the Toronto Maple Leafs got Rodion Amirov to an entry-level contract.

The team announced the agreement Thursday morning and now the big question on everyone’s mind is when can we expect to see the 2020 first-round pick in North America? Well according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, that is the next step the team is trying to figure out.

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Similar to what the Montreal Canadiens did with Alexander Romanov, the Leafs are looking to bring Amirov to Toronto so that he can work with the development staff. As Johnston reports, securing a Canadian visa during the COVID-19 pandemic will be challenging and that will likely delay his arrival to Canada.

It also looks like the chances of seeing Amirov remain in North America are rather slim as Amirov will likely report back to the KHL next season, according to his agent Dan Milstein. Obviously, having Amirov stay with the organization would be preferred but there are benefits to having him remain in the KHL.

The closer he is to the NHL, the more pressure it puts on having a fixed timeline to join the Leafs. At the same time, the 19-year-old can feel more comfortable with his decision to leave home as some Russians have struggled to make the adjustment to North America full time.

By signing him to an entry-level contract, Toronto can at least have more say in his development since he will be loaned to Ufa rather than waiting for Amirov’s contract in Russia to end. This was something the team did with William Nylander when he loaned to Modo after he was drafted but was later recalled to the Toronto Marlies later that year.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Rodion Amirov’s development crucial to sustaining future success

What allows any contending team to keep their window open as long as possible is by maximizing the value of their draft picks and ability to develop players to play key roles.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been a model franchise for doing this over the last decade and it’s allowed them to remain in the position they are for as long as they have. This is something Toronto is trying to accomplish and seeing how they navigated this past trade deadline proved that.

Kyle Dubas said he would consider trading a top prospect if the deal made sense but in the trades they made, not a single prospect or roster player was moved. Instead, they traded a first, third, two fourth-round picks and a fifth-rounder.

Toronto hasn’t been shy to trade away prospects in past deals but there is a core group of prospects that will need to be a factor either as a contributor in the NHL or a piece that lands that player.

Considering the Leafs are willing to be patient with Amirov shows that they are committed to the potential he has. Let’s not remember that when he was drafted, a lot of eyebrows were raised until we got a better sense of his skillset.

He is a player with great skating, vision and hockey sense and when we finally saw him at the world juniors, he showed a willingness to shoot. What he still needs to build is some strength so that he can be an effective top-six forward at the NHL level.

Add him to a group that includes Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, Nick Robertson, Mikhail Abramov, Filip Hallander, Topi Niemelä, Nicholas Abruzzese, Roni Hirvonen, Mikko Kokkonen and the Leafs should be encouraged with what they have in the pipeline if they maximize the development of their prospects.

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What are your thoughts on Amirov signing with the Leafs? How long until you think we see him in the NHL? Let us know in the comments below.