Canucks clear cap space, sending Ilya Mikheyev, Sam Lafferty, second-rounder to Blackhawks

By Mark Lazerus, Scott Powers and Chris Johnston

The last time the Blackhawks coaxed a second-round pick out of the Vancouver Canucks to take on a supposedly bad contract, they landed Jason Dickinson, who quickly emerged as one of their best players and just had a Selke Trophy-caliber second season in Chicago.

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

The Canucks are sending Mikheyev, the rights to pending unrestricted free agent Sam Lafferty and a 2025 second-round pick to Chicago for a 2027 fourth-round pick, per Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli. The Athletic’s Chris Johnston reported that Mikheyev waived his no-trade clause to complete the deal. It’s a cap dump for Vancouver, pure and simple. For Chicago, it’s taking a flier on a player with two years left at a $4.75 million cap hit who could once fly.

The 29-year-old Mikheyev is an intriguing reclamation project for the Blackhawks, who have both cap space and patience to burn. Once one of the fastest skaters in the league and a strong producer — 21 goals in 53 games during the 2021-22 season and 13 goals in 46 games in 2022-23 — with strong defensive metrics, Mikheyev hasn’t been the same since ACL surgery cut his season short in 2023. He played 78 games this season, his first since the surgery, but had just 11 goals and 20 assists. Ten of those 11 goals came in his first 28 games of the season, as his offense dried up over his final 50 games. He didn’t have any points in 11 playoff games.

Per the NHL’s Edge tracking system, Mikheyev was still a strong skater, in the 69th percentile in top speed and 70th percentile in speed bursts over 20 mph. But back in 2021-22, he was in the 95th percentile in both categories.

“For me, guys coming off that surgery don’t get back to their game until the second year after their surgery,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “I would take the gamble if I got him in an under-value trade.”

The Blackhawks were the lowest-scoring team in the league last season with 2.17 goals per game, and general manager Kyle Davidson vowed his team would be more competitive this season. Chicago has significant interest in higher-end players such as Jake Guentzel and Martin Necas, but those are somewhat long shots. Mikheyev isn’t at their level, and the Blackhawks envision him more in a third-liner/penalty-killing type role. But he could provide some depth scoring, which Chicago sorely needs.

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

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

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