Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Liljegren, Kadri, Richardson & Mikheyev 

In this edition of Toronto Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at news emerging mostly from ex-Maple Leafs players. Or, in the case of Ilya Mikheyev, perhaps a player who’s soon to be an ex-Maple Leafs’ player. Today’s post shares news about Timothy Liljegren, Nazem Kadri, Luke Richardson, and Mikheyev.

Although most of us as fans believe Toronto is the center of the English-speaking hockey world; as the news suggests, there seems to be life for hockey players beyond their time in Ontario’s capital city. 

Item One: The Maple Leafs Re-Sign Timothy Liljegren

Good news out of Toronto this morning. The Maple Leafs have signed Timothy Liljegren to a two-year contract extension. Liljegren has been moving up the ranks for seasons now, and the Maple Leafs have both protected his ice time and developed him slowly (too slowly for some). 

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Now the team has signed a two-year bridge deal contract that gives the 23-year-old right-shot defenseman a salary-cap hit of $1.4 million each season. This is a good move for the team and suggests that they see the youngster as part of the team’s plans going forward. 

Timothy Liljegren Toronto Maple Leafs
Timothy Liljegren, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Last season he scored five goals and added 18 assists (for 23 points) in 61 games. Liljegren also was a healthy scratch regularly during the season and postseason. There is room to grow. Good luck to him in the future.

Item Two: Congratulations to Nazem Kadri for Winning the Cup

Among many Maple Leafs’ fans, Nazem Kadri remains a fan favorite. So I take great pleasure in congratulating him on being a huge part of the Colorado Avalanche’s victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. 

It was the first Stanley Cup for the Avalanche since 2001 and the third in the history of their franchise. With the loss, the Lightning’s winning streak of 11-straight series in Stanley Cup play ended.

Related: Toronto Maple Leafs: Revisiting the Nazem Kadri Trade

News today was that Kadri’s broken thumb had to be frozen for the games that he played, but that he still was in constant pain for each game. He’s a warrior. 

Item Three: Ex-Maple Leafs Defenseman Luke Richardson Named Blackhawks coach

The Chicago Blackhawks have officially named ex-Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Richardson to be their team’s new head coach. Richardson was a defenseman with the Maple Leafs from 1987 to 1991. In September 1991, he was traded with Vincent Damphousse, Peter Ing, Scott Thornton, future considerations, and cash to the Edmonton Oilers for Glenn Anderson, Craig Berube and Grant Fuhr. 

Montreal Canadiens Luke Richardson Claude Julien Dominique Ducharmes
Assistant coach Luke Richardson formerly with the Montreal Canadiens talks with players during a stop in play as head coach Claude Julien and assistant coach Dominique Ducharme stand by.
(Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

Richardson takes over a Blackhawks team in the middle of a rebuild. The Blackhawks have only made the playoffs once in the last five seasons and have failed to go to the postseason during the past two seasons. He’s been an assistant coach with the young Montreal Canadiens during the last four seasons. The Blackhawks’ job is his first as an NHL head coach.

Item Four: Item Two: Ilya Mikheyev, Injured But Not Injury Prone

The future of Ilya Mikheyev with the Maple Leafs is currently unknown; and, smart money seems to believe he’ll be gone to another team this offseason. However, if the Maple Leafs don’t re-sign him, it won’t be because they believe he’s injury prone. 

Related: Maple Leafs Lounge: Mikheyev, Ho-Sang, Defensive Pairings

Over his three NHL seasons, Mikheyev has never been 100 percent healthy for an entire season. He’s had two major injuries that have prevented him from showing what he can do over a full season of productivity. In fact, given his critical surgery on his wrists, past notions that he’s not a good shooter have little merit. Quite the contrary, Maple Leafs’ fans saw what he could do over a season where his hands have been mostly healed. He can score.

Of his injuries, one was a freak accident where his tendon and artery were severed by a skate blade that sliced open his wrist. The other was a broken thumb. As a result of those injuries, he only scored 15 goals in his first 93 games played. This season, when he’s been more fully healed, he scored at a clip that would have given him more than 30 goals over an 82-game season.  

Ilya Mikheyev Toronto Maple Leafs
Ilya Mikheyev, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Now at the age of 27, Mikheyev has the potential to grow his game to become an even more productive player. Because he’s played so little in the NHL, knowing what kind of a player Mikheyev will be in the long run is tough to ascertain. 

It’s unlikely that the Maple Leafs would be willing to sign him for anywhere close to the $5 million that’s rumored to be his asking price. But would another team? That’s a question that will be answered soon.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs are covered by what I think is a group of really fine writers. Still, every one of us can make a mistake in something we write. I know I have, and readers of my posts find them and tell. That’s embarrassing, but I invite you to keep doing it. I want to be better at what I do.

Recently, a Maple Leafs’ writer wrote that the Maple Leafs were entering year five of John Tavares’ contract and now it was time for the team to make an overhaul that pushed Tavares out the door and made Auston Matthews the team’s leader.

Related: John Tavares Choosing Toronto Led to Sharks’ Downfall

No doubt a case can be made that Tavares might have been better valued for his contract three seasons ago, but pushing him out the door is wrong-minded. Can anyone imagine how tough it would be for the Maple Leafs to attract free agents on longer-term contracts if they came to believe the team (as a business) would try to renege on those contracts the minute the scales were no longer tipped toward the team’s best interests?