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.
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.
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.
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