The Toronto Maple Leafs have been able to find depth contributors from the KHL as a means of cost-effectively supplementing their young core group. The signing of forward Ilya Mikheyev has to be considered a success story and GM Kyle Dubas is hoping for similar results from the addition of 25-year-old forward Alexander Barabanov.
Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported that the uncertain status of the NHL’s schedule due to the COVID-19 shutdown may be giving KHL free agents second thoughts about heading to North America for 2020-21 and this month forward Konstantin Okulov, goalie Timur Bilyalov and former NHLer Dmitrij Jaskin have opted to re-sign and stay in Russia.
That is not the case with former Los Angeles Kings blueliner Slava Voynov. Hockeybuzz KHL reporter Aivis Kalnins reported on Thursday that the two-time Cup winner has renewed his interest in returning to the NHL after four seasons in Russia.
The 30-year-old had his best statistical season in the KHL with Avangard Omsk last season (11 goals, 30 assists in 59 games), won the Gagarin Cup with SKA St. Petersburg in 2017 and the gold medal for Russia at the 2018 Olympics.
Commissioner Gary Bettman suspended Voynov for the entire 2019-20 season (later reduced to 41 games by an arbitrator) due to domestic violence charges in October 2014 and in the ruling his eligibility to play in the NHL was to be restored on July 1st.
The Kings indicated last year that they had no interest in bringing Voynov back to Los Angeles (because of the obvious negative PR), but they still retain his NHL rights, so any team interested in signing him would have to trade for him.
The Leafs have a number of needs and items in their favor that would make them a good fit for Voynov. The club appears vulnerable and in need of a veteran on the right side with pending UFA’s Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci likely not returning next season and potential replacements Travis Dermott and Rasmus Sandin having to play the opposite side.
GM Kyle Dubas currently has nearly $77 Million allocated against the salary cap next season (which at best will stay at $81.5 Million) and could potentially get Voynov from LA for a reasonable price based on his prior dealings with Kings GM Rob Blake if he was amenable to a short-term deal.
Toronto could also have a leg up in attracting the veteran righty, with former Kings teammates Kyle Clifford and Jake Muzzin and fellow Russians Mikheyev and Barabanov (his teammate for 3 years in St. Petersburg) on their roster, but the overriding question is whether the Leafs believe the benefits of adding Voynov outweigh the obvious press scrutiny and blowback associated with him.
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