In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I’ll report that a number of players were re-assigned to the Toronto Marlies. In addition, four players have been put on waivers for the purpose of moving them to the Marlies. I’ll speculate which one of them might be picked up by another team.
Third, I’ll report that Nikita Gusev has been released from his PTO and is free to sign with any other team. Finally, I’ll speculate whether Ilya Mikheyev will be with the team when the regular season begins.
Item One: Maple Leafs Place Four Players on Waivers
Four players were placed on waivers yesterday. Those players included forwards Joey Anderson and Brett Seney and defensemen Carl Dahlstrom and Brennan Menell. All four will be heading to the AHL Toronto Marlies unless they are claimed.
Anderson played less than 10 minutes (9:36) in a single game last season with the Maple Leafs but didn’t score. The 23-year-old winger, who’s known for his physical play, will likely pass through waivers. He might get into a few games with the Maple Leafs in 2021-22, but he’ll likely spend most of the season with the Marlies.
The 25-year-old Seney is 5-foot-9 and 156 pounds. He’s speedy and scored a really nice goal against the Montreal Canadiens the other night just coming out off a penalty. He, too, will likely pass through waivers and will spend the season with the Marlies. Seney didn’t play in the NHL last season, but he has played 53 games with New Jersey Devils during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.
Dahlstrom didn’t appear in any top-level contests last season, but he’s played in 64 NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets. He’s likely to be a call up if the team experiences injuries during the 2021-22 season.
Menell might be a different kettle of fish. He hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2019-20 season and he might not even get any chances with the big club this year. However, he looked good when he played during the preseason and might not clear waivers. Could the Vancouver Canucks pick him up?
Last season Menell went to play in the KHL and had a strong season. He can quarterback the power play and has a good point shot. The one thing interesting about Menell is that he’ll be paid $400,000 for playing in the minors, and it might be that if he’s picked up by another team it would be to play at the NHL level.
Item Two: Maple Leafs Re-Assign Four Players to the AHL
Also yesterday, the Maple Leafs re-assigned Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Mac Hollowell, Erik Kallgren, and Kristians Rubins to the Marlies. Because they are waiver-exempt, they’re free to join the AHL Toronto team.
Item Three: Nikita Gusev Was Released from His PTO
One player, Nikita Gusev, was simply released by the Maple Leafs. He scored two assists in three preseason games, but likely came in second to another forward Josh Ho-Sang, who was signed to an AHL contract and will report to the Marlies.
Last season, Gusev scored four goals and added six assists in 31 NHL games with both the Devils and the Florida Panthers. He might be signed by another NHL team; however, he’s also had a long KHL career and might return home to play in Russia.
Item Four: Could Ilya Mikheyev Be Traded?
In an email to me, longtime Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith (who often collaborates with me) wondered whether Ilya Mikheyev might be traded before the first puck dropped against the Canadiens on opening night.
Here’s what we know. First, there’s a report that Mikheyev was upset with his ice time and/or deployment and requested a trade. Second, we know that Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas has worked to accommodate players in the past. Third, we know that the Maple Leafs have Nick Ritchie, Michael Bunting, and others who could take Mikheyev’s place at the wing. In fact, the team might even see this as a chance to bring up Nick Robertson at some point during the season.
Fourth, there was a scene in the Amazon Originals documentary “All Or Nothing” where Dubas called Mikheyev into his office to scold him for complaining about his ice time and the way he was used by the team. When Mikheyev left the office, he closed the door firmly.
Fifth, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe gave Mikheyev lots of chances during the preseason to play in the top six. It could be that Keefe was simply looking at his options for top-six left-winger. On the other hand, he could have also been showcasing Mikheyev.
Sixth, during the last preseason game Mikheyev played alongside Tavares and Nylander. While Mikheyev played well, one can argue that Bunting played better. As a result, given Bunting’s preseason success, it would be surprising if Bunting wasn’t on Tavares’ wing when the puck drops on October 13 against the Canadiens.
All these points strung together leaves us to wonder what becomes of Mikheyev? Might he be replaced by eight-year KHL veteran Kirill Semyonov, who the Maple Leafs signed last May? Semyonov had good numbers in the KHL and the team played him 35 minutes during the last two preseason games, including on the penalty-kill unit.
Semyonov is signed to a one-way contract at $825,000, which is about half of Mikheyev’s $1.645 million. If the Maple Leafs traded Mikheyev for draft choices or prospects and replaced him with Semyonov, they’d save over $800,000 in salary-cap space. It might be something to watch for Maple Leafs’ fans.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
After all the waiver moves and re-assignments, there are only three players left on the current Maple Leafs’ roster who are waiver exempt. These are Semyonov, who I mentioned earlier, and the two young defensemen Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren.
There’s a good chance that Sandin will make the team’s roster after the training camp with Liljegren moved down. Liljegrem would likely be called up if there’s an injury to a defensman. Right now, it seems – unless there’s a trade – the Maple Leafs only have enough salary-cap space to start the season with a 21-player roster.
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That means a number of the team’s depth players have to move through waivers. The question will be, who might be snatched off the roster by another team? We will soon see. Regular season action is less than a week away.