When I think about the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ilya Mikheyev, it’s too bad the relationship didn’t work out. I love the guy and the player. Sometimes, however, it just doesn’t work.

Related: Snake-bit Maple Leafs’ Ilya Mikheyev Finally Bites the Snake Back

Recalling My First Memories of Mikheyev

I remember when I first “met” Ilya Mikheyev. I had done a post about the Maple Leafs visiting him in Russia and eventually helping him move to Canada. But his personality came through in his first Canadian interview. 

His first challenge was, as he told it, the language. No surprise there. But his second challenge, which took the media by storm, was about the food. He wondered why Canadians don’t eat soup. He loves soup, and at home in Russia, he ate it often. But the culinary habits of Canadians he’d met confused him. Why don’t they eat more soup?

Soup is practical when you spend winters in Omsk. Omsk is Mikheyev’s home city – about a million people. It’s in Siberia, where the average January temperature is -21 C. That’s soup weather.

People reacted to Mikheyev’s comment about culinary differences between his old homeland and his new home and the comments went viral. Maple Leafs’ fans photo-shopped Mikheyev’s face on Campbell soup cans. 

Those were happy days for the young Russian. 

The History In Between

After all the history between Mikheyev and the Maple Leafs, the two parties are now parting company. A number of reports have noted that Mikheyev simply wanted too much money. The Maple Leafs can’t and won’t pay it. Hence, he’s on his way out of town. There’s little chance that Mikheyev will remain on the Maple Leafs’ roster for the 2022-23 regular season.

Obviously, the team would love to have him back on the roster; however, from a salary-cap perspective, Mikheyev is out of reach. There are also other things going that might have led to, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman reported, Mikheyev asking for a trade. 

Ilya Mikheyev, Upper Deck Card

Perhaps some of that rift can be seen in the Amazon Prime documentaryAll or Nothing: Maple Leafs. In that documentary, there were instances and conversations where Mikheyev and the team’s coach and management spoke about his ice time and his skating. The team seemed encouraging but also the coaches and management were critical. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ Mikheyev Arbitration Could End Badly

Mikheyev Wanted a Bigger Role, the Maple Leafs Said Nyet

In the end, Mikheyev wanted a bigger role, but the team didn’t comply. To the management, Mikheyev was a key part of the team. They used him as they felt would further their ability to win. Mikheyev’s confidence was impacted and the team’s choice didn’t sit well. 

Then there was the practical impact of injuries that kept him out of the lineup for long stretches. It didn’t give Mikheyev a chance to show his stuff over a long period of time. Late last regular season, he was able to. However, perhaps it was too little and too late.

The Maple Leafs Have Invited Other NHL Teams to Trade for Mikheyev’s Rights

Recently, Friedman reported that the Maple Leafs informed other NHL teams that Mikheyev’s rights were up for grabs and, if anyone were interested, they can trade for them. Better something than nothing for the young Russian who loves soup.

At this point, the team believes the two sides are too far apart to find common ground. Mikheyev will be gone. The team will lose a great 200-foot player, but ultimately not one worth $5 million in a contract.

Good Luck to Mikheyev, Wherever He Lands

I enjoyed Mikheyev during his time with the team; and, if he really is ready to move on, I wish him well wherever he lands. I hope he gets his money somewhere cold where he can enjoy his soup.

Watch, he’ll end up in the desert of Arizona.

Related: Ilya Mikheyev Wants Free Agency Home Run, Maple Leafs Seek Trade

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