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Blackhawks use salary cap space to sign Ilya Mikheyev, Sam Lafferty and draft pick from the Canucks

Blackhawks use salary cap space to sign Ilya Mikheyev, Sam Lafferty and draft pick from the Canucks
Blackhawks use salary cap space to sign Ilya Mikheyev, Sam Lafferty and draft pick from the Canucks

LAS VEGAS – The Blackhawks started NHL Draft week with momentum on Wednesday, using their generous salary cap space to complete a trade with the Canucks.

In exchange for acquiring overpaid forward Ilya Mihkeyev and his contract, the Hawks also acquired the rights to soon-to-be free agent forward Sam Lafferty – a familiar face – and traded a 2027 fourth-round draft pick for a 2027 second-round pick.

In other words, the Hawks converted $4.04 million in salary cap space (that was Mikheyev’s salary cap after the Canucks retained 15%) in each of the two subsequent drafts into a right of first refusal to sign Lafferty and a significant improvement in their draft capital.

Even Mikheyev, who waived his no-transfer clause to make the deal possible, has the potential to become a passable center forward for the Hawks if he overcomes his recurring injury problems and returns to his old form.

The speedy 29-year-old Russian forward scored 32 points in 53 games for the Maple Leafs in the 2021-22 season and 28 points in 46 games for the Canucks in the 2022-23 season, despite missing half of each of those seasons due to wrist and ACL injuries, respectively.

Last season, he finally got healthy again and played in 78 games, but his performance dropped off. He scored 31 points in 78 games during the regular season and struggled even more in the playoffs, failing to score a point in 11 games.

His move from Vancouver to Chicago is a redevelopment project of sorts, not unlike that of Jason Dickinson, who has performed exceptionally well since being acquired in a similar salary cap-cutting trade in 2022.

Mikheyev’s contract is relatively unimportant to the Hawks because it expires in 2026, just when Connor Bedard needs a new deal and cap space is tightening. And Mikheyev’s speed is one of his strongest traits, fitting Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson’s preferred style of play.

In the meantime, Davidson will look to make another lucky break in asset management with Lafferty. Lafferty proved to be a useful bottom-six forward with the Hawks in 2022-23 before being traded to the Maple Leafs at the end of the season – essentially for a second-round pick.

The two-year, $1.15 million salary-cap deal Lafferty signed with the Hawks two summers ago expires Monday, but this trade gives the Hawks his exclusive contract rights until then. He scored 24 points in 79 games for the Canucks in 2023-24, but averaged less than 12 minutes of ice time per game.

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