In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News, I’ll spend some time focussing on the four players who are no longer with the team after yesterday’s first day of free agency. In this case, most of the rumors were accurate. The people expected to leave, in fact, left.
Specifically, in this post, I’ll share the landing places of Ilya Mikheyev, Ilya Lyubushkin, Colin Blackwell, and Jack Campbell. I’ll also take some time to share one of my favorite moments involving each player who’s leaving.
Item One: Ilya Mikheyev Signs For Just Under $20 Million
The Maple Leafs lost Ilya Mikheyev to the Vancouver Canucks yesterday. There was little chance that Mikheyev was going to stay given his projected salary, and those projections were accurate. In the end, he inked a four-year contract with the Canucks for an AAV (average annual value) of $4.75 million per season ($19 million total).
Obviously, Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin believes Mikheyev will fit into the team’s top-six and paid him commensurately. If Mikheyev can stay healthy and can continue to build on last season’s successes, the Canucks will be pleased. Mikheyev scored 21 goals and added 11 assists (for 32 points) in 53 games last season with the Maple Leafs.
Favorite Mikheyev Memory: Obviously, in Mikheyev’s first interview he quickly burst on the scene and made an impression as a young player who wasn’t afraid to engage in a new culture and a new language when he asked “Why don’t Canadians like soup?”
Related: 50 in 50 for Mike Bossy
However, my favorite Mikheyev story and one reason I appreciate Kyle Dubas is that, after Mikheyev’s horrible laceration that put him into the hospital for such a prolonged stay, with the suggestion of Dubas’ wife the Maple Leafs general manager set up camp in Mikheyev’s hospital room in New Jersey. The two watched tons of soccer together, and Dubas was reported to have bought the young Russian clothing and other things out of his own pocket. Class act.
Item Two: Ilya Lyubushkin Lands Well in Buffalo
It was pretty clear that Ilya Lyubushkin was leaving given the lack of buzz around him over the past couple of weeks. The Buffalo Sabres saw value in his play and signed him to a two-year contract. The salary more than doubles his salary per season (from $1,350,000 to $2,750,000). He’ll become a UFA (unrestricted free agent) after the completion of the 2023-24 season.
The Russian Bear was well-liked in Toronto over his short tenure with the team. Interestingly, in his NHL career thus far, he’s played a total of 211 games. Only 30 of those games were with the Maple Leafs. He has scored only three goals in those 211 games, but two of those goals came in his last 30 games in a blue and white uniform. Only one goal came in the 181 previous game.
Favorite Lyubushkin Memory: The celebration after his first goal as a Maple Leafs’ player is my favorite memory. It came on April 14, 2022, against the Washington Capitals. None other than the new Maple Leafs’ goalie Ilya Samsonov was in the net.
Item Three: Blackwell Signs for Two Years in Chicago
Yesterday, Colin Blackwell signed on with a rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks team. The terms of the contract were two years at $2.4 million total (with a $1.2 AAV). It’s a nice raise for Blackwell over the $725,000 he was earning last season.
Blackwell was impressive in his time with the Maple Leafs for his motor, his two-way play, and on-ice smarts. Over the course of the 2021-22 season, playing with both the Seattle Kraken and the Maple Leafs, he scored 10 goals and added 10 assists (for 20 points) in 58 games. He’ll likely get a much larger role with the Blackhawks than he had with the Maple Leafs.
Favorite Blackwell Memory: My favorite Blackwell memory was his first-period goal in his first NHL playoff game in May. The assist came from none other than the now-departed Lybushkin.
Item Four: The Edmonton Oilers Sign Jack Campbell for 5-Years
The rumors about Jack Campbell heading to Edmonton were spot on, and Campbell inked a five-year contract with the Oilers for a $5 million AAV. In his last season with the Maple Leafs, Campbell put up a record of 31-9-6, a goals-against-average of 2.64, and a save percentage of .914 in 49 games.
Given the Oilers’ goalie situation, Campbell will be expected to carry this team to the top. He’ll be joining some former Maple Leafs in the prairie city – Zach Hyman, Cody Ceci, and Tyson Barrie among them.
Favorite Campbell Memory: While there are lots of great Campbell memories, one of my favorites was Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner counting to 10 on Campbell’s uniform to acknowledge the goalie’s winning streak that set an NHL record for most consecutive victories to start a season. The players loved playing with and for Campbell.
What’s Next for These Former Maple Leafs Players?
Good luck to these four players who are moving on to other organizations. From a personal perspective, I’m pleased about their successful landing places and wish them solid seasons.
It’s particularly nice to see a young guy like Blackwell, who’s now engaged to be married, get a nice raise from $725,000 USD to $1.2 million USD. For a 29-year-old and his family from North Andover, Massachusetts, it has to be dream come true. I don’t know his whole story, but I bet like many Canadian kids his parents drove him to practices when he was young.
My research suggests that there are no Tim Horton’s where Blackwell grew up.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf