Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Mikheyev, Jarnkrok & Reshaped NHL

Calle Jarnkrok, Column, Ilya Lyubushkin, Ilya Mikheyev, News & Rumors, Toronto Maple Leafs

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at ex-Maple Leafs’ player Ilya Mikheyev and consider how he might do with his new team the Vancouver Canucks.

Second, I’ll look at Calle Jarnkrok’s signing as a free agent and comment about what it might mean for the team – even after this season. Finally, I’ll look at a trend that the Maple Leafs are facing but that other winning teams in the NHL face as well. How has the flat salary cap come to reshape rosters?

Item One: How Will Ilya Mikheyev Do This Season in Vancouver?

I’m sorry to see Ilya Mikheyev gone; but, I get it. I hope he has a good season with the Vancouver Canucks. The big question the Canucks are facing is whether Mikheyev’s season in 2021-22 was an anomaly or whether it will become more the norm for this speedy young Russian forward? 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Kadri, Campbell, Mikheyev & Kid Line

The Canucks are betting large that Mikheyev’s season was not a one-off. They signed him to a $4.75 million contract for the next four seasons. That’s top-six money. Last season, Mikheyev set career records by scoring 21 goals and adding 11 assists (for 32 points) in 53 games. 

The Canucks are also betting that Mikheyev’s injury history is an aberration rather than that he’s injury prone. Given the freak nature of his injuries (sliced by an errant skate blade, for example) it would seem a good bet. If Mikheyev is able to play a full 82-game schedule and if his shooting percentage does not dip like it did two seasons ago, he would be an addition to the Canucks’ roster.

Ilya Mikheyev Toronto Maple Leafs
Ilya Mikheyev, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andrew Bershaw /Icon_Sportswire)

Betting on his shooting skill, too, seems like a good bet. Mikheyev has had horrible luck with injuries. In addition, those injuries have been to his hands and wrists, which have impacted his ability to shoot. Last season was the first time his hands were close to normal; and, he put up 21 goals. 

Related: Top 10 Best Undrafted NHL Goalies

Can he score upward of 30 goals? If he can, things bode well for Vancouver.  I have enjoyed writing about him and wish him luck next season. Likely, this will be my last mention of Mikheyev in relation to the Maple Leafs – unless the two teams play. (But I probably said that about Zach Hyman, as well. I do love following former Maple Leafs’ players I rooted for when they were in Toronto.)

Item Two: Calle Jarnkrok Is a Good, And an Interesting Signing

I’m not completely sure yet what the Maple Leafs’ signing of Calle Jarnkrok means for the rest of the team’s roster. It suggests to me that there’s more to come. That said, I like the signing. Jarnkrok is the definition of reliable. Head coach Sheldon Keefe will know what he’s going to get game after game.

Pierre Engvall looks to take another step in his game after signing one-year deal with #Leafs and is pumped about the Jarnkrok signing: “I would love to play with him, I think he’s a smart player.”

Jarnkrok obviously knows and plays to his own skills. He’ll be a nice addition to the shutdown third line of center David Kampf and winger Pierre Engvall. He’s 34 years old, but watching how Andrew Cogliano played for the Colorado Avalanche during the Stanley Cup run suggests that players like Jarnkrok never lose their value. 

It’s hard not to believe that Alex Kerfoot won’t be moved this summer. If he does, Jarnkrok might even be given a space on the second line. But personally, I’m hoping some young player will emerge – like Michael Bunting did last season – to take over that space. (Come on, Nick Robertson – show your stuff!)

Related: 10 of the Best Duos of all Time in NHL History

One thing Jarnkrok’s signing says is that general manager Kyle Dubas is not cowed by the pressure and is planning for a number of seasons after this season. At the same time, he’s planning to put a strong roster together for this season.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

Finally, an interesting phenomenon is happening with the Maple Leafs that is also happening to other winning NHL teams. I think it’s a sign of the times. That phenomenon is that there are a large number of Maple Leafs’ players who will reach free agency after the 2022-23 season.  

Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs
Michael Bunting will hit free agency after this season. What will the Toronto Maple Leafs do?
(Photo by André Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

I believe that change is the result of the flat salary cap. Free agency in this era can drastically change how rosters of winning teams and teams lower in the standings might be changing they build their teams. 

With a flat salary cap, winning teams lose good players to free agency every offseason. Winning teams can’t be sellers at the trade deadline, because they want the strongest team heading into the playoffs that they can ice. In fact, they actually pick up players on expiring contacts of players they know will leave. Ilya Lyubushkin was an example this past season for the Maple Leafs. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Dubas Pulls Bear Out of His Hat

The salary cap will continue to have a huge impact on rosters from the top of the NHL’s elite teams to the bottom. Fans seem to critique the Maple Leafs for losing players to free agency but that’s the lot for almost every winning team in today’s NHL.

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