As hockey insider Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reported today, multiple sources told him that the Toronto Maple Leafs young Russian forward Ilya Mikheyev came to the organization at the end of the 2020-21 season and asked to be traded. However, the club said No!
Instead, the Maple Leafs made it clear they considered him a “key part of the team” moving forward. As a result, they didn’t accommodate his request.
Related: Why the Maple Leafs Will Beat the Canadiens and the Bruins in 2021-22
Why Would Mikheyev Ask for a Trade?
From Mikheyev’s perspective, you can see why he was frustrated. The 26-year-old had an impressive 2019-20 rookie season where he scored eight goals and added 15 assists in 39 games. However, that season ended suddenly when Mikheyev suffered a horrifying laceration to his wrist from an errant skate blade.
After healing and rehab, Mikheyev returned for the 2020-21 season. However, instead of starting from where he left off after the injury, Mikheyev played mostly in a bottom-six role. In that role, he averaged only about 14 minutes of ice time each game. His scoring was more than cut in half, and he only totalled 17 points in 54 games.
Could 2021-22 Be a New Season for Mikheyev?
With the departure of last season’s top-six left wingers Zach Hyman and Joe Thornton, entering the 2020-21 regular season might spell a change for Mikheyev. There’s a good chance he could become part of the top-six again. Obviously, he’d have to beat out other roster hopefuls for those two jobs. Chief among those with aspirations are newcomers Nick Ritchie (from the Boston Bruins) and Michael Bunting (from the Arizona Coyotes).
There Was No Comment from the Maple Leafs’ Brass About Mikheyev’s Request
In his post, Friedman wrote that neither general manager Kyle Dubas nor Mikheyev’s agent Dan Milstein were willing to comment about the rumor. However, the issue appears to be that Mikheyev’s unhappy with his role on the team and the lack of significant ice-time. Because he’s heading into the final year of his contract, he believed the 14:13 TOI each game last season simply wasn’t enough.
Given that Mikheyev’s a skilled player and signed a bit of a team-friendly salary after it looked as if he were headed for arbitration, he feels he should be treated better. However, his far-below-average shooting percentage (of 6.5 percent) last season didn’t help. He’d be a terror if he could start sticking home some of those shots.
Related: Maple Leafs’ Former Employee Claims: It’s Not Kyle Dubas’ Fault
My Personal Desire as a Fan
It always seemed to me that Mikheyev was one of the great defensive talents on the team and that he had a short-handed breakaway about once a game. I hope he stays with the Maple Leafs and that he has a breakthrough season.
It just seems to me that if he doesn’t have it with the Maple Leafs he’ll have it soon with another team.
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September 10, 2021 at 10:21 am
The guy can’t hit the broad side of a barn and expects to play top 6!! A year and 6 months after the injury, he still couldn’t and it’s only been a couple of months more so still not likely.
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