The Golden Knights made waves in the postseason by signing, and eventually burning, Nikita Gusev’s entry-level contract. The Russian superstar is the KHL’s MVP and will play on a line with Evgenii Malkin and Nikita Kucherov when the IIHF World Championships get underway next week.
But the George McPhee doesn’t seem to be done with his quest to bring over some of Russia’s best to become Golden Knights. On April 20th, a Canadian reporter dropped some news that Ilya Mikheyev could be the next Russian import to sign in Vegas.
24-year old Russian forward Ilya Mikheyev, who played with Avangard Omsk of the KHL for several seasons, will cross over to the NHL and sign with Vegas Golden Knights according to Sport-Express.
— Andrew Zadarnowski (@AZadarski) April 21, 2019
Of course, that did not happen prior to the Golden Knights being eliminated from the playoffs, so no longer is Mikheyev eligible to burn his one-year entry-level contract that he will be forced to sign if/when he does decide to come to the NHL.
Weeks later, the news on Mikheyev was silent until his name popped back up in Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts column on Wednesday.
Some of my Russian sources aren’t buying that winger Ilya Mikheyev is picking between Toronto and Vegas. They think it is the Maple Leafs, and has been that way for a while. -Elliotte Friedman, Sportsnet
However, Friedman doesn’t think the Golden Knights are completely out of the running on Mikheyev. He expanded a bit on his podcast, also named 31 Thoughts, on Thursday.
I wrote in the notes that my Russian guys were telling me that Mikheyev was going to be a Leaf. The one thing I was told is that I think Vegas and Chicago are still going to pitch him but he’s Toronto’s to lose. -Friedman
TSN’s Bob McKenzie weighed in saying something similar as well.
There’ve been multiple reports here in the last week that Mikheyev is on the verge of signing with an NHL team and there’ve been multiple reports that the team is the Toronto Maple Leafs. My understanding of the situation is that while it is likely Toronto is the front runner for his services, he technically hasn’t made a final decision just yet, that won’t happen until the beginning of the week, and that there have been conversations between Mikheyev and the Vegas Golden Knights as well as the Chicago Blackhawks. But those who know Mikheyev believe he’s looking very fondly at the Toronto Maple Leafs as an opportunity. -Bob McKenzie, TSN
Mikheyev is considered a high-end two-way player who has the ability to score. He’s a good skater, a great back-checker, and has consistently been used as a penalty killer for his KHL team, Avangard Omsk.
As of this moment, Mikheyev has not signed with any NHL team officially. The Golden Knights definitely appear to be an underdog to pull this one off, but he could be a nice add if that final pitch goes well for McPhee.
Either way, we should know in the next few days.