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Retroactive LTIR should prevent Ilya Mikheyev’s injury from complicating the Canucks’ plans, but it won’t help them much

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
7 months ago
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News broke earlier this week that Vancouver Canucks winger Ilya Mikheyev is still up to a month away from fully recovering from the ACL injury and subsequent surgery that has kept him out of action since January 27.
Given all the talk this season about the Canucks’ impending difficulties managing their cap and opening night roster, it’s reasonable for this headline to have caused some consternation in the fanbase. And that’s entirely fair. Mikheyev missing all of preseason, and potentially still being out of the lineup to start the regular season, definitely isn’t a good thing. It doesn’t help the Canucks off the ice, and it doesn’t help them balance the books off the ice.
However, thanks to the possibility of retroactive LTIR, at the very least, Mikheyev’s injury shouldn’t cause any further complications…at least not in the immediate future.
Typically when placed on long-term injured reserve, they must remain out of the lineup for at least 10 games and 24 calendar days. That would place the Canucks in the awkward position of having to either keep Mikheyev on the regular injured reserve only, thus needing to find cap space for both him and his replacement on the roster, or they would have to commit to Mikheyev not playing any games until November.
Neither is a particularly appealing option.
But LTIR can also be applied retroactively, backdated to the last game that player played before missing time for injury. In the case of Mikheyev, this date happens to be a date in the 2022/23 campaign, but there doesn’t appear to be any rule against retroactive LTIR crossing over between seasons.
If Mikheyev is thus placed on LTIR, he’d be eligible to return to the lineup whenever he was ready, as he’s already missed those 10 games and 24 days and then some.
But it’s important to remember that LTIR is not a magic cap-space-creating device. All LTIR relief space can ever do is make it so that a team can spend UP TO (and usually less than) an injured player’s cap hit over the cap ceiling WHILE THAT PLAYER IS ON LTIR.
As soon as the player is activated, that relief space goes away, and the team must be cap compliant.
So, if anything, Mikheyev on LTIR could buy the Canucks a little time. It makes setting the opening night roster a lot easier, especially when combined with Tucker Poolman’s assumed LTIR placement and Tanner Pearson’s continued uncertainty. With all three on LTIR, there’s enough relief space to ice whichever opening night roster of 23 the Canucks might want, and even a little extra room in case other players are injured, but not to the point of LTIR, during the exhibition schedule.
But as soon as Mikheyev is back, the juggling act will need to begin.
As we covered earlier in the summer, the Canucks simply do not have enough cap space to accommodate all of their forwards if all of their forwards are healthy.
So, if we wind up with a situation in which both Mikheyev and Pearson are healthy and off the LTIR, problems will ensue, and there are no easy solutions. Try as they might, it’s essentially impossible to construct a full cap-compliant lineup that includes both wingers without getting rid of someone else. To get around this, the Canucks could demote Pearson or another player making $1.125 million and get some cap space that way, or they could try to run with a roster of about 21, but neither option is particularly appealing.
So retroactive LTIR on Mikheyev might save the Canucks from making a tough choice right now, but it can’t prevent them from having to make a tough choice eventually.
What can? A few things.
If Pearson is not as healthy as his agent and Patrik Allvin have indicated, or if he suffers some form of setback, this is all pretty much moot. Pearson and Poolman’s combined LTIR relief space is plenty for the Canucks purposes, and this would probably result in them not even bothering with an LTIR placement for Mikheyev. There would be enough room for both him on regular IR and his replacement in the lineup, and then when Mikheyev was ready to come back, that replacement would be sent down.
Easy.
And we may have brushed off the whole “retroactive LTIR buying time” thing earlier, but perhaps we shouldn’t have. Time is a fairly valuable commodity, and a lot can happen in a few weeks time in the hockey world.
If, during the course of Mikheyev being on LTIR to start the season, another player were to suffer an injury that kept them out of the lineup long enough to need LTIR, then their relief pools could be effectively swapped. Again, that’s just kicking the hard-choice can down the road further, but that might be all the Canucks really need.
Really, there are two main points that need to be drawn here.
The first is that the situation is just way too in flux to properly predict right now. Until we get a little more indication as to exactly where both Mikheyev and Pearson are at, there’s just too much up in the air. The Canucks will have options either way, and all that’s left to be determined by circumstance is whether those options are good ones, or just necessary ones.
The second is that, regardless of all this cap chatter, the Canucks are absolutely a better team with Mikheyev on the roster and in the lineup. There’s really no scenario in which this injury news is good news, except for the specific scenario in which it buys enough time for the Canucks to suffer another LTIR-worthy injury, thus kicking off a musical chairs game of LTIR placement that might have to last the entire 2023/24 season.
Which doesn’t sound much like good news to us.

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