It may be too early in the season for any major trades to be made — like perhaps a Matt Duchene blockbuster — but one name in the rumour mill that we could see move sooner than not is Vegas Golden Knight Vadim Shipachyov.
After signing a two-year contract with the expansion team to come to North America for the first time as a 30-year-old after spending the past 12 years playing in Russia, Shipachyov hasn’t found it easy either getting playing time, or staying out of the AHL. His expectations, clearly, were that he was coming to play NHL minutes, and the situation has gotten to the point where his agent is seeking a trade partner for the Golden Knights, while he will report to the AHL Chicago Wolves for the second time this season.
“They want the player to go to the American Hockey League and work hard and assimilate,” said Vegas reporter Gary Lawless on Hockey Central at Noon.
The ship has docked in Grand Rapids.
Vadim Shipachyov takes the ice for the first time in a Wolves sweater. pic.twitter.com/zRULsbA9pM
— Chicago Wolves (@Chicago_Wolves) October 27, 2017
But who is Vadim Shipachyov and what kind of game does he play? Which teams would he potentially be a fit with? We explore this in our person of interest on the Russian scorer.
Weight: 187 pounds
Former KHL Team: SKA St. Petersburg
SUCCESS IN THE KHL
Last season, Shipachyov was the second-highest scorer in the KHL with 26 goals and 76 points in 50 games, behind only teammate Ilya Kovalchuk. He did it on a line with Evgeny Dadonov and Nikita Gusev, the former having signed with the Florida Panthers in the summer. Gusev, meanwhile, stayed with SKA St. Petersburg this season.
That 2016-17 season lifted Shipachyov to stardom and set a new career high for himself. And his scoring had actually been on the rise for four years, scoring 32 points in 2013-14, and getting to 54 and 60 before last year’s breakout.
There were reports in the summer of Vegas trying to sign all three of Shipachyov, Gusev and Dadonov to unite the line in the NHL.
THE RUSSIAN CROSBY? MAYBE NOT
Shipachyov’s sole point in his three NHL games so far has been a goal, but if he sticks in the league and produces, he’ll find success in his ability as a playmaker.
Shipachyov has finished top three in the KHL in assists each of the past three seasons, leading the league in 2015-16 just ahead of Alexander Radulov before he made his return to the NHL with Montreal. Shipachyov was an assist-per-game KHL player in 2016-17.
In fact, at the world championship in 2016, Washington Capitals star Evgeny Kuznetsov called Shipachyov the “Russian Crosby.”
OK, so maybe that comparison is a bit overboard, and is derived from the fact Shipachyov wears the same No. 87 as the Penguins captain, but it backs up the idea that he’s a playmaker first.
A STAR AT THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Shipachyov has represented his country in each of the past four world championships and led his team with 18 points in 10 games at the 2016 tournament, finishing ahead of such players as Artemi Panarin and Pavel Datsyuk.
In 37 career games at the worlds, he has 47 points, while earning one gold, one silver and two bronzes in his showings.
IF IT DOESN’T WORK OUT WITH VEGAS, WHAT ARE HIS OPTIONS?
He signed a two-year, $9-million deal with the Golden Knights so the commitment, for now, is to North America.
However, there is the potential for him to return to the KHL before those two years are up. If he ever failed to report to the AHL team upon assignment, Vegas could void his contract, thus releasing him from the deal and allowing him to return to Russia.
And of course, Shipachyov could also do what Ilya Kovalchuk did in 2013 and “retire” from the NHL, only to sign a new deal with a KHL team.
There’s also the possibility of a trade to a team that would use him in the NHL lineup…
WHICH TEAMS WOULD SHIPACHYOV BE A POTENTIAL FIT WITH?
Florida: After losing Jonathan Marchessault, Jaromir Jagr and Reilly Smith, the Panthers were down three of their top five forward scorers from last season — 61 goals in total. The thinking here is that Shipachyov could help the team’s secondary scoring and maybe give a little boost to its 12th-ranked power play. He would also be reunited with his former linemate Dadonov, who is currently occupying the right side of the Aleksander Barkov-Jonathan Huberdeau line.
Montreal: Although the team shooting percentage is absurdly low and due for a bounce back, GM Marc Bergevin is running out of time to do something to try and kick start the Habs’ offence. He said this week that the answer to the team’s turnaround is in the room, which would seem to signify he won’t venture into the trade market, but remember also he once said he wouldn’t trade P.K. Subban days before trading P.K. Subban. The Habs have $6.8 million in cap space, so the money could work.
NY Rangers: Like Montreal, the Rangers are off to a slow start and need to find their motor before they fall too far behind. One major area of concern on the roster is down the middle, where a centre is desperately needed as the team is feeling the loss of Derek Stepan. This is where Shipachyov could fit on Line 2 and if you put him with a couple of scorers in Chris Kreider and/or Mats Zuccarello they could find a spark. The trouble here is that, with just $2.4 million in cap space, the Rangers would need Vegas to retain some salary. And it’s not clear if it’s willing to do that.
St. Louis: This team is off to a very strong 7-2-1 start and the offence is clicking at a 3.30 goals per game rate, but Shipachyov could be a nice, if expensive, depth add. With Brayden Schenn and Paul Stastny occupying the top two centre roles, Shipachyov would fit in here as a No. 3 centre, where he could be an upgrade on Oskar Sundqvist and his one point in eight games. The only thing is since the Blues are already up against the cap, it would be hard to make this fit, considering Shipachyov would come in as a very expensive 3C.
Carolina: Already with a strong defence and better goaltending than they’ve had in a while, the Hurricanes need to find some scoring, which is why they’ve been linked to Matt Duchene in those rumours. In Shipachyov, though, they’d get a player who comes in cheaper against the cap, has the same term as Duchene, and wouldn’t cost nearly as much in a trade. He’s more of a flyer than Duchene would be, but Shipachyov would still be a short-term commitment with high upside.