The Toronto Maple Leafs have finished their season’s abbreviated Stanley Cup run, but they aren’t finished with their business by a long shot. Early in July, when the NHL announced the dates for the rest of the 2019-20 season, some dates are now key for the club. Fans might want to pencil these days into their calendars.
Oct. 2 is the last possible date for the Stanley Cup Final to be completed. Free agency officially opens seven days after the Cup is won, so Oct. 9 might become a key day for the team if general manager Kyle Dubas’ plans to sign free agents. By the way, another date fans shouldn’t forget is Oct. 6, which is the NHL Entry Draft.
In this edition of Maple Leafs News & Rumors, I want to look at Dubas’ potential activity over that time frame especially when it comes to Ilya Mikheyev. He has decisions to make.
I also will look at thoughts about the rumors that goalie Frederik Andersen might be traded from people in the know. Finally, I want to update fans on two new hires – a new video coach and a video coaching coordinator – within the organization.
Item One: Will Ilya Mikheyev Be the Next Order of Business for Kyle Dubas?
Now that Kapanen has been traded, everyone is pointing to Mikheyev as his replacement on the team’s penalty kill and as a regular winger. His contract expires after the 2019-20 season. I imagine Dubas will want to sign the young Russian, and I have a sense that Mikheyev would love to stay in Toronto.
What the final numbers will be on that contract might be interesting. To qualify Mikheyev, the Maple Leafs only have to offer him $874,125. But that’s insulting after his season, including his horrible injury. It’s more likely that the team will offer him around $1.5 million.
Mikheyev does have arbitration rights and if he chooses to use them a contract might not be completed until the end of the calendar year (because COVID-19 has impacted the normal workings of the NHL world so radically). However, I don’t expect Mikheyev’s negotiations to take that long.
That said, although he was one of the most valuable players at the Maple Leafs’ Phase 3 camp, he didn’t have a strong postseason. It will be interesting to see how that might impact his contract.
Item Two: Former Goalie Martin Biron Weighs in On Frederik Andersen Trade Rumors
In a recent article in the Toronto Star, Kevin McGran interviewed former goalie Martin Biron about Micheal Hutchinson’s stellar play with the Colorado Avalanche. During the interview, Biron weighed in on the rumors that the Maple Leafs will trade starter Frederik Andersen. Simply stated, he doesn’t believe they should.
In fact, he was incredulous and stated flatly, “I cannot believe the Leafs would be looking at acquiring a different goalie than Frederik Andersen. The guy has saved their ass more than once. They play a very entertaining style of hockey, but I do believe the Grade A chances the Leafs give up are A-plus, plus, plus, and he’s had to save the day. That’s a tough place to be as a goaltender. Andersen is a really good goalie and there is not a lot of goalies that can do what he has done for the Leafs,” (from “Michael Hutchinson is saving the day for the Avalanche — and making Leafs fans realize maybe he wasn’t the problem,” Toronto Star, 03/09/20).
However, there might be more to the Andersen rumors. No one doubts that he’s been strong for the club, but management might think they won’t be able to keep him after the 2020-21 season. If so, his success means he could demand a substantial raise when his contract ends. Given the Maple Leafs’ redundant salary-cap issues, that might be impossible.
Given Dubas’ penchant for more controllable contracts with term, and the fact that the team is bumping against the upper limit of the cap, it might be difficult to sign any player to a significant increase. If that’s the case, the Maple Leafs might believe they would be better off trading Andersen now and picking up a cheaper goalie or one who’s a more controllable option on the free-agent market.
In short, although everything Biron says might be accurate, Andersen’s days with the team might still be numbered.
Item Three: Maple Leafs Hire Sam Kin as Video Coach and Jordan Bean as Video Coordinator
In a small item of news under the topic that head coach Sheldon Keefe is creating his own coaching staff, the Maple Leafs have hired Sam Kim to be the team’s new video coaching coordinator. Jordan Bean, the team’s former video analyst, will become the video coordinator and statistical analyst.
Related: Revisiting the Nazem Kadri Trade
The 35-year-old Kim was the video coordinator with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors (affiliated with the Edmonton Oilers) for the past two seasons. The team might not be finished putting together Keefe’s staff, so there might be more news coming on that front. It’s also likely that both former assistant coaches Paul McFarland and Andrew Brewer need to be replaced, (from “Maple Leafs add Kim to video staff as off-season changes continue,” Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun, 01/09/20).
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
It’s difficult to say what will happen next with the Maple Leafs. Dubas has more players to sign and a number of long-tenured Maple Leafs are on that list: Frederik Gauthier is one of them, but there are others. Tough guy Kyle Clifford might be interesting to watch. I have no idea what Dubas is thinking about him.
Maple Leafs fans shouldn’t be surprised if Dubas begins announcing several signings soon. Furthermore, fans shouldn’t be surprised if Mikheyev is first on the list.