Silly brand endorsement tips hand to imminent Leafs signing

The news we’ve all been waiting to hear finally broke – Ilya Mikheyev is officially endorsed by Campbell’s Soup! But, is there more pertinent news on the horizon?

Here it is, the glorious social media post we’ve all been looking for. Ilya MIkheyev holding a spoon up with some tasty, tasty Campbell’s soup at the ready. The endorsement was seemingly inevitable after Mikheyev joined the Leafs with the Twitter handle @soupman65 and declaring his love for the meal.

While the story is cool and endorsement fun to see, is there more than meets the eye here? Two important factors in this add – its Campbell’s Canada, and Mikheyev is wearing a Leafs uniform.

It’s all but clear (to me, anyway) that there is an imminent extension for Ilya Mikheyev with the Toronto Maple Leafs. There are a few reasons why this would appear to be happening:

  • Campbell’s soup wouldn’t jump on a random athlete more than halfway through the season with him only inked until the end of the year
  • The player is also currently injured and hasn’t been on the ice since December 27th
  • Campbell’s simultaneously announced their partnership with the entire Toronto Maple Leafs organization
  • Jack Campbell would have arguably been a better, longterm option for branding

With cap space at a premium within the team, signing versatile forwards that can move up and down your lineup is a key component to staying cap compliant as well as competitive for years to come.

The extending of Pierre Engvall may be the open door for a Mikheyev deal as well. Engvall signed a two-year extension at $1.25m a year in the past weeks, upping himself from the $925k/year he and Mikheyev make. Short term contract, roster stability, and a chance to succeed could get Mikheyev on board with extending his time in Toronto.

It should be noted that Mikheyev was a dark horse in the Calder Trophy race before getting injured against New Jersey back in December. His point production, 8 goals and 15 assists, had him turning heads, largely built on his work ethic, good shooting ability, and relentlessness on the puck.

The Leafs would be wise to have a backroom extension ready to go for Mikheyev as they did with Muzzin, likely ready to be signed after the end of the season. He’s big, can play physical, and has a good conversion rate on offensive chances. A la the Pittsburgh Penguins, support your strong spine with versatile forwards on the cheap.

Not having Mikheyev signed long term with the Leafs doesn’t make sense for all parties included – the Leafs themselves, Mikheyev and his future in the NHL, and Campbell’s soup who have donned the title of Brand Ambassador on the 24-year-old Russian on an expiring deal. No crystal ball needed here.