Reports: Maple Leafs notify teams they are open to pending UFA Mikheyev trading rights

The Toronto Maple Leafs seem to have reached the inevitable when it comes to Ilya Mikheyev’s status.

The club has notified other NHL teams that it is ready to trade the player’s exclusive trading rights before the winger becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 13, according to multiple reports.

Mikheyev reached career highs in goals (21) and points (32) in just 53 games last season. He missed the first two months of the 2021-22 campaign with a broken thumb.

The fast Russian is likely to command a huge raise in the open market. A regular fixture in the Leafs’ midfield forward squad, Mikheyev’s salary cap was $1.645 million. With very little room to accommodate an expected increase in the 27-year-old’s future salary, Toronto is trying to hold on to some sort of asset before his contract runs out in just weeks.

The Maple Leafs have about $6.4 million in salary cap space per with 18 players under contract. Their primary need is in goal with outgoing starter Jack Campbell set to become an unrestricted free agent. Whether they keep Campbell or sign someone else in goal, it’s highly unlikely there was enough money to keep Mikheyev at a number his side would accept.

In addition to their need for a goaltender, the Maple Leafs have restricted free agents to sign. Rasmus Sandin is still unsigned, as are strikers Pierre Engvall and Ondrej Kase.

Friday, July 1 is the last day restricted free agents are offered qualifying offers in order to retain their rights. It’s also the first day teams can buy players back and goalkeeper Petr Mrazek is a potential buyout candidate after his under-par play this season. That could free up an additional $2.8 million in salary cap space if Toronto goes that route.

Garland K. Long