“Ilya decided to step off a little bit from an already agreed number to help the team fit under the cap,” Dan Milstein told Sportsnet's Luke Fox on Tuesday night. “For Ilya, it was less about the money, but more about the role in the organization. He wishes to win the Stanley Cup. It's been a lifelong dream.”
The Maple Leafs and Mikheyev initially agreed to a cap hit exceeding the $1.645 million that accompanied the two-year contract the two sides announced Tuesday, according to Milstein.
However, the club then called the agent back - while he was on the phone with Mikheyev outlining the original deal - and asked if he'd be willing to take a slight decrease in pay to accommodate Toronto's cap situation.
The 26-year-old forward signed his new pact fewer than 24 hours before he was scheduled to have a salary arbitration hearing. He reportedly filed for a one-year contract at $2.7 million, while the team offered two years at $1 million.
Mikheyev became a fan favorite in his rookie campaign while posting eight goals and 15 assists over 39 games in 2019-20. He returned for the playoffs in August after his regular season came to an early end when his wrist was cut by a skate in December.
The Russian winger spent four years with the KHL's Avangard Omsk - his hometown squad - and signed a one-year, $925,000 deal with the Maple Leafs in May 2019.
Toronto's projected cap hit for 2020-21 is now $81,675,200, according to CapFriendly. The cap ceiling will be $81.5 million next season. Defenseman Travis Dermott is the lone remaining restricted free agent on the club's NHL roster.