Toronto Maple Leafs' Ilya Mikheyev
Nov 19, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Ilya Mikheyev (65) celebrates after assisting on a goal scored by center Jason Spezza (19) during the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In today’s Leafs Links, we have good news about Ilya Mikheyev’s injury recovery, a report on Kyle Clifford and the Leafs’ mutual interest in keeping the veteran forward in Toronto, and plenty of discussion on the uncertainty around a possible finish to the 2019-20 season and playoffs as well as the 2020-21 cap ceiling.

Leafs Links

Clifford interested in extension to stay in Toronto (Toronto Sun)
Without any certainty around the 2020-21 cap and without seeing whether the 2019-20 season will be played out, there likely won’t be any actual movement on this front, but it sounds like the interest is mutual in keeping 29-year-old pending-UFA forward Kyle Clifford in Toronto past the end of the season. Clifford has recorded one goal, three points, and three fighting majors in 16 games since the trade from LA while playing 9:33 per game on average.

“Kyle has really liked it and enjoyed it so far,” Clifford’s agent, Todd Reynolds, told the Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan of his client’s time with the Leafs. “It’s something we would be interested in and it’s something that the Leafs are interested in.”

Ilya Mikheyev now 100% healthy (Toronto Sun)
Standout Leaf rookie Ilya Mikheyev is now 100% healthy, according to his agent, after a three-month recovery from the wrist laceration suffered in New Jersey on December 27. If the season and playoffs were to resume, it might be one silver lining in a terrible situation that the Souperman would be able to play a full part. Mikheyev racked up 23 points in his first 38 NHL games — fourth in rookie scoring at the time of the injury — while also impressing on the penalty kill (1:55/game).

The Russian winger, who suffered that career-threatening skate blade laceration to his wrist on Dec. 27 in New Jersey, is “100 per cent healthy” according to agent Daniel Milstein in an e-mail to Postmedia.


Ferraro on if he believes Kyle Clifford will re-sign with the Leafs (TSN1050)
Ferraro sees it as a fit but points out the difficulty in forecasting how the team might fill out the bottom of its lineup without any certainty around the cap for 2020-21.

What will the cap be? How many players are going to be in the same spot, where they might be in the team’s plans but all of a sudden, you can’t be in our plans because the cap was flattened right out, which seems likely. How is it going to rise?

LeBrun on next year’s cap, how the draft could be conducted (TSN1050)
Pierre LeBrun provides the latest after the Tuesday conference call among NHL GMs on the future of the season as well as where the cap may go for 2020-21.

The two main takeaways from yesterday’s news cycle: 1) The league asked the 31 teams for their building availability for August. They had already done so for July leading into the pause, but now they’ve asked for August. It mirrors what we’ve been talking about for the last week which is the possibility of August playoff hockey. Again, there is no guarantee of that. We may start to get into a conversation of whether next year is going to be impacted by this terrible virus, but anyway — for now — if you’re the league and the NHLPA, you have to plan and hope that you can salvage this year at some point. 

Don Fehr is very much in lockstep with what the league feels right now as far as next year needing to be 82 games. That is really important to the players, which is what Don Fehr said and what Bill Daly said last week as well. But Don Fehr is saying that it doesn’t necessarily mean it has to start on time. You can have a whole season next year, but if it has to be shifted in order to find a way to complete this season, then that is certainly something that the players might be in line for. Let’s just be honest: A lot of this is about trying to mitigate the damage to hockey-related revenue that has already been incurred and will continue to be incurred through this health crisis.

On the cap for 2020-21:

Once you get through all of the real-life fears, for hockey only, there is probably no question that has been more on the tip of the tongue, both from team executives and on the players’ side, than the cap. It has so many implications. Don Fehr said on our podcast this morning that he confirmed what we had been saying, which is that the league and the PA are just at a negotiated number. They are not going to go off of the actual CBA formula. You can’t. You are not going to go with a figure that is five million lower or six million lower. It would be impossible to ice a full lineup for most teams, so they are going to do that. 

The next question: What is the number? Don Fehr wouldn’t go there, but that is going to be the incredibly difficult and fascinating part of all of these negotiations between the PA and the league, especially if there is no season this year. Even if there is a season, they are going to have to negotiate transition rules. Those transition rules have all kinds of layers to it: The salary cap is one, and the escrow is another. The players are continuing to be paid right now as no cash comes into the teams. The players are in this 50-50 with the owners, so they are going to own it, one way or another.

On the other logistics of a delayed finish to the season:

Even smaller things… A GM pointed out to me yesterday after the GMs call that a Standard Player Contract that is expiring expires on June 30th. What do we do with the deals that expire June 30th if there is playoff hockey in August? You could have a UFA trying to win a Cup at that point. There are so many interesting variables that the NHL and NHLPA have to negotiate one by one when the time comes. It is something that is stressing GMs and players because this is an industry that forever has really been chained to its critical dates calendar. Everyone knows when things are happening — when deals expire, when free agency starts, when qualifying offers are due, salary arbitration. It is all going to be thrown into a blender if there is a season resumption — not to mention the draft.

McKenzie on the staff cuts & layoffs happening throughout the NHL (TSN1050)
Bob McKenzie mentions Claude Julien and Marc Bergevin took 20-25% paycuts to help prevent layoffs within the Canadiens organization, while news broke today that the Bruins have laid off almost half of their full-time staff and the Hurricanes will lay off all of their full-time employees as of next week. ESPN reported today that Dallas Stars’ GM Jim Nill and President Jim Lites have taken 50% paycuts.

NHL employees are taking 20% off to make sure no one has to be laid off at this point. We saw the Montreal Canadiens cut their staff as well as additional reduction in pay for those that are still on, including head coach Claude Julien and GM Marc Bergevin, who I believe had to agree to that separately because they are contract employees as opposed to term or full-time employees. It is going to get ugly all the way around, but we will just continue to take it a day at a time… It is a reality for so many businesses. 

NHL postpones NHL Draft & Draft Combine, NHL Awards (
No surprise here.

The National Hockey League today announced the postponements of the 2020 NHL Scouting Combine, the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Awards, and the 2020 NHL Draft, which were originally scheduled for June 1-6 in Buffalo, N.Y., June 18 in Las Vegas, and June 26-27 in Montreal, respectively, due to the ongoing uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus.

The location, timing and format of the 2020 NHL Draft (and Draft Lottery) will be announced when details are finalized.

With respect to the Bridgestone NHL Awards, the League looks forward to returning to Las Vegas in the future. Las Vegas has been the home of the Bridgestone NHL Awards since 2009.