The consistent carousel of Russian free agents for the Toronto Maple Leafs might continue next summer, with reported interest in winger Konstantin Okulov.
During the second intermission of the game against the Bruins on Saturday night, Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston reported that both the Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens are vying for the interest of the Russian forward.
The 24-year-old winger has garnered a lot of interest around the league, but as the two reported on Saturday night, some are not even attempting to reach out and ask.
“Other teams believe that Montreal and Toronto are the two favourites for this forward, who’s playing with Red Army this season,” said Johnston. “Some of these teams are, you know, wondering if it’s even worth engaging with his camp about trying to bring him over next season.”
Montreal has been on the Okulov hype train for a while now, but Toronto has had recent success luring in European free agents with the whole ‘play with elite players and compete for a championship’ thing.
It’s still undecided who will get the forward’s services next season but according to Igor Eronko, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock has already spoken to Okulov.
Not sure if the #LeafsForever land Konstantin Okulov next year, but he already had a chat with Mike Babcock by phone
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) October 21, 2019
Similar to how Ilya Mikheyev was convinced to sign with the Leafs, Babcock most likely gave Okulov all the reason to sign with Toronto and be able to play with a skilled group of forwards.
The winger can certainly add his own skill as well. Through 48 games last season, Okulov was able to score 20 goals and 31 points for CSKA Moscow; so far this season, the forward has five goals and 13 points in 17 games played.
Standing at 6-foot, he might not be the physical presence of a Mikheyev, but he has certainly shown his ability to score goals in the KHL.
Since the Leafs are in a bind with the salary cap, they might need all the cheap, skilled forwards they could get and Okulov would certainly add more of that dynamic to the club.