Canucks clear cap space and send second-rounder Ilya Mikheyev and Sam Lafferty to Blackhawks

By Mark Lazerus, Scott Powers and Chris Johnston

The last time the Blackhawks convinced a second-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks to accept a supposedly bad contract, they landed Jason Dickinson, who quickly became one of their best players and is coming off a sophomore season of Selke caliber in Chicago. .

Kyle Davidson is apparently hoping for a similar coup with Ilya Mikheyev.

The Canucks are sending Mikheyev, pending unrestricted free agent rights Sam Lafferty and a 2027 second-round pick to Chicago for a 2027 fourth-round pick. Athleticism‘s Chris Johnston reported that Mikheyev waived his amended no-trade clause to finalize the deal. It’s purely a cap hit for Vancouver, and the Canucks retain 15 percent of Mikheyev’s $4.75 million cap hit for two more years. For Chicago, it’s stealing a player who could once steal.

Mikheyev, 29, is an intriguing reclamation project for the Blackhawks, who have both salary cap space and patience to spare. Once one of the league’s fastest skaters and a solid producer – 21 goals in 53 games during the 2021-22 season and 13 goals in 46 games in 2022-23 – with solid defensive stats, Mikheyev doesn’t hasn’t been the same since ACL surgery cut his season short in 2023. He’s played 78 games this season, his first since surgery, but has just 11 goals and 20 assists. Ten of those 11 goals came in its first 28 games of the season, as its offense dried up over its final 50 games. He had no points in 11 playoff games.

According to the NHL’s Edge tracking system, Mikheyev was still a good skater, in the 69th percentile in top speed and the 70th percentile in speed accelerations above 20 mph. But in 2021-22, he was in the 95th percentile in both categories.

“To me, guys who just had surgery don’t come back to play until the second year after their surgery,” said one Eastern Conference scout. “I would take the gamble if I got it in an undervalued deal.”

The Blackhawks were the league’s worst-scoring team last season with 2.17 goals per game, and general manager Kyle Davidson promised his team would be more competitive this season. Chicago has significant interest in high-end players such as Jake Guentzel and Martin Necas, but those are somewhat distant plans. Mikheyev is not at their level, and the Blackhawks envision him more in a third line and penalty kill type role. But he could provide some scoring depth, which Chicago sorely needs.

As for Lafferty, he carved out a nice role for himself during his two seasons in Chicago as the final shorthanded player before being traded to Toronto at the 2023 deadline. The Blackhawks now have negotiating rights exclusive with Lafferty until free agency opens Monday. They hope to sign him and, with Mikheyev, significantly improve their bottom six.

(Photo by Ilya Mikheyev: Bob Frid / USA Today)

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