Why The Capitals Should Sign Pending UFA Ilya Mikheyev

Photo: NHL.com

With right-wing Tom Wilson out until some time around Thanksgiving and the NHL All-Star Break, the Washington Capitals will have to replace him especially after T.J. Oshie was limited to just 44 games last season due to injury and will turn 35 in December. Perhaps the best option to solve this problem is to sign pending unrestricted free agent Ilya Mikheyev, which would likely cost between $3.5-4.5 million for three-to-five seasons.


Mikheyev is listed as a natural left-wing but played a lot on the right this past season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He alternated between both sides in the team’s first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Can Play On Both Special Teams

Mikheyev averaged 1:24 on the penalty kill (fourth among Maple Leafs’ forwards) and 1:06 on the power play (ninth) in 2021-22. He scored four goals on both the power play and penalty kill this past season when the Capitals were already tied for ninth in the NHL with eight shorthanded goals. The team’s power play could also use a boost after finishing 23rd in the NHL with a 18.8% efficiency.

Scoring Ability

Mikheyev scored 20 goals for the first time in his NHL career (eclipsing 21) and did it in just 53 games this past season. He was on pace to score 10 over an 82-game slate in 2020-21 and 17 in his rookie campaign.

Mikheyev spent most of the 2021-22 season (192.7 minutes) playing on a line with center David Kampf and Pierre Engvall (neither had more than eight goals in a season before this past one and both set career-highs in goals and points).

If he was able to score 21 despite playing just over half of a season with linemates who are not known for their offensive prowess, he could thrive in the Capitals’ top-six forward group.

Strong Two-Way Game

In addition to being trusted on the penalty kill, Mikheyev tallied a 57.08% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage this past campaign and was overall solid defensively while playing with a man down and at five-on-five. He finished with a career-best 56.25% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 57.96% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage, and a +16 rating. Mikheyev’s career-low in plus-minus is a +5 which was set in 54 games during the 2020-21 season.

Graphic: JFresh

In The Prime Of His Career

Mikheyev will turn 28 on October 10. The Capitals are in need of younger players after they were tied for the oldest team in the NHL last season with an average age of 29.8.

The team could most likely give Mikheyev the term he wants comfortably since he is in his prime and the Capitals could be rebuilding anyways by the time he reaches the end of it.

Troika 2.0

Mikheyev would add to the Capitals’ impressive collection of Russians with captain Alex Ovechkin, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Dmitry Orlov, goaltender Ilya Samsonov, and possibly defenseman Alexander Alexeyev already on the roster. Since he is defensively responsible, it would be easy to envision Mikheyev playing on a line with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov where he could build upon his career year with the talent and comfort level between them since Russian is probably all of their first languages.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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20 Responses to Why The Capitals Should Sign Pending UFA Ilya Mikheyev

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ve wanted Mikheyev more than any other player — JT Miller a close second. You’ve got to think other Russian players see how we stuck by our guys, especially Ovi, and take that into consideration. Please go get him!

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I don’t feel it’s either, or. They will likely sign two forwards. Mikheyev would not be a center/fill in for Backstrom. He would be a versatile winger to fill in for Wilson while he’s out, then be more of a utility player when Wilson returns.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Caps need a solid D.. not sure who… Brock B would be good, very good…

    But the priority should be a solid G and D..

  3. Lance says:

    He’s a solid player but I wouldn’t spend the money or term on him that’s he’s likely to get. Protas might be a better player in a year or two. We should be rebuilding right now. Unload some of the expensive vets and draft/trade for some blue chip prospects.

    I know it’s tempting to try and quickly build a Stanley Cap contender but honestly the Caps are a middlin’ team right now.


    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I get what your saying, but I don’t think most want to give up on the playoffs next season. Make a few decent changes and go for it again. I think it will be that way until Ovi breaks record/retires. Reload, reload, reload…

      Mikheyev is just 27 and would be part,of the next gen/post Ovi phase.

      • Lance says:

        I understand. I felt like we had a small chance to go on a run this year. If Wilson didn’t get hurt…maybe?

        I see 3 possibilities. 1) BMac makes a bunch of moves/spends a lot of money and term to maximize our chances in 22-23. 2) BMac clears cap space, acquires more draft capital and goes with more Hershey grads and we are still competitive enough to maybe squeak into the playoffs. 3) BMac sells everything and goes full 2003 rebuild.

        I expect BMac will mostly go with option #1. I’m pulling for option #2. And #3 is probably the best option long term. No pain. No gain.

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          If I’m following, 1) reload, 2) rebuild. I don’t think Mac will rebuild with Ovi still on the team. Just my gut. If he was up for a rebuild and is not looking to the playoffs next season, then I agree, now is the time.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I like it. And add JT Miller at 2C and we are dangerous.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Yes and yes.

      • Rob says:

        I wouldn’t be against signing Mikheyev but a big fat NO on trading for J.T. Miller. Why give up assets for a Center when veterans like Giroux, Malkin, Kadri, Trocheck, Strome, Copp and Stastny could be had as UFA’s meaning you keep your tradeable assets (McMichael, Lapierre, Protas, Leason, Draft Picks). Ideally, I’d overpay for 1 year of Giroux who is the exact type of 2 way player we would all like to see McMichael develop into. A Top-6 forward position on the Capitals is a desirable destination for a veteran center.

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          Giroux is 34, Miller 29. It would be a proven replacement for Backstrom, long term. Giroux would not be long term.

          2021-22 season
          Miller: 32g, 67a
          Giroux: 21g, 44a

          • Rob says:

            I’d still rather have Giroux for 1 year than give up McMichael/Lapierre + Picks/additional prospects than pay 9 or 10 million to Miller for 7 years. That’s a lot of assets to give up when there are numerous UFA’s who could be brought in.

            • Lance says:

              I love McMichael. I see him as a regular 25+ goal and 35 assists guy. He rang so many posts this year and didn’t get much ice time. He needs to get stronger, of course. Would’ve been best for him to spend the year in Hershey most likely. Great attitude. Loves playing hockey. 2 more years of a cheap contract. He’s a keeper.

              LaPierre is similar. More of a playmaker. Great skater. Needs time to get stronger. Could blossom into a top line center.

              I wouldn’t dream of trading either player.

              I wouldn’t trade any future #1 draft picks either because the Caps are due for a bad season and could land a top 10 pick in the next couple of years.

            • Jon Sorensen says:

              Nobody’s trading McMichael/Lapierre + picks/additional prospects. That’s your (crazy) trade proposal. That’s way too much for a player they will lose, regardless. There are many other ways (prospects and picks) to make the deal.

              Miller is proven. Prospects are not.

  5. redLitYogi says:

    Not a bad choice. But look at what Nichuskin did. He might be worth taking a run at — although he’s just won a Cup, he might be a little tired to start next year.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      We looked at Nichushkin. I think there is a lottta hype for him, and that will equate to $$. He also lacks the versatility to play up and down the lineup on either side, something that will be important when Wilson returns.

      • Marky says:

        I’d like to put in my vote for Mikheyev because of the versatility to play left or right on the 1st 2nd or 3rd line. That’s big on this Caps team that seems like it goes thru a number of injuries now each year. There are a good number of talented top 9 players available this year and the Caps need to improve the speed and talent levels. It would be disappointing to me if they don’t enhance/strengthen the top 9 with 1 or 2 nice signings like this.

  6. steven says:

    I like this idea and would like to see Mikheyev on the 1st line as that would be a powerful line and being able to help on both PP and PK is definately a BIG plus. And when Wilson comes back, he would slide onto the 2nd line and make it stronger. As for trading for Miller, IMHO it would take to much from this team in terms of players and picks to fill one slot. I think that Vancouver is probably looking for 1 roster player (which would give us another hole to fill), 1 prospect (which we cannot afford to give up as we need him to fill out the roster) and probably a 1st and a 2nd (why mortgagne the future when there are so many holes to fill AND Miller does not assure a Cup). As much as I would like Forsburg I dont know if we could afford him unless Backy retires and that decision would have to be made soon. Signing Forsburg would give Lapierre anther year to grow but in Hershey this time and McMichael could play the Swiss Army knife as a replacement on any line for a night or 2 at either C or wing. IF not Foresburg then maybe Paul out of TB or Copp of the Rangers or Namestnikov out of Dallas or Hinostroza out of Buff. Looking for only UFA and younger than 30. Maybe o D bring in Klingberg on a 2 year deal or Hagg out of FlA. Any possibility of trading Sammy for a pick and a prospect and signing Campbell out of TOR to a 2 or 3 year deal to cover time until the guys in Hershey or SC are ready? Or maybe give an old Cap, Holtby, as shot at a 2 year deal.

  7. DWGie26 says:

    There are top 9 forwards available in Free agency. Mikheyev is one of them and probably the most reasonable cap hit with most upside. Problem is other teams will give term? Do we with Oshie and Wilson on RW? I think so and then Mikheyev will take over Sherry’s spot next year as signings this year will impact next year. I’d do this deal and trade Eller and try to afford a 2C.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is a very sensible move. Make it happen, Mac!

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