The concept of “market inefficiencies” has become synonymous with Kyle Dubas in recent years. The bespectacled executive’s love for trotting down the paths less travelled is certainly quite apparent, and when it comes to which of these routes can be deemed his favourite, well, the answer is pretty obvious: the European free agent pool.
Boy, the Maple Leafs sure do enjoy fishing in foreign ponds.
Even before Dubas took over as GM roughly 18 months ago, Leafs management consistently made a habit out of plucking potential contributors from leagues such as the KHL, SHL, or Liiga, signing them to ELC-money, and then crossing their fingers in the hope that they managed to strike gold. Most of the time, they didn’t. Then again, that’s not really the point of a transaction labelled with “low-risk; high reward”. If even one foray proves successful, go ahead and pat yourself on the back.
Something tells me Ilya Mikheyev‘s performance had led to a whole lot of back-patting. And, in typical Dubas fashion, reports now indicate that he’s wasting no time weeding out his next overseas gem.
Meanwhile Kyle Dubas spent last 2 days in Russia talking to players he could sign next year #LeafsForever
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) October 12, 2019
That the report from Igor Eronko today surfaced so soon after Elliotte Friedman listed the Maple Leafs as possible favourites to sign coveted KHL winger Alexander Barabanov in his 31 Thoughts column means there is something afoot here. Rumblings, if you will — likely hinting that Barabanov is not Toronto’s only target.
They do seem to have a type, though. Like Mikheyev, Barabanov was born in 1994, plays the wing, and finished his most recent KHL season in the 0.70-ish points-per-game range. Barabanov is decidedly smaller than Mikheyev — a full five inches shorter, in fact — but it’s not as if size has stopped Dubas before.
Regardless, the Maple Leafs are clearly doubling down on their ability to recruit top European talent. They’ve had mixed results in that realm to this point, what with each of Zaitsev, Rosen, Lindholm, and Borgman being jettisoned over the summer, but the circumstances are different now. Dubas has both hands on the controls. What comes next will be his vision, and his vision alone.
What does that look like? All we can do is wait and see.