Shipachyov remains in AHL as Golden Knights look to trade assets

Vegas Golden Knights' Vadim Shipachyov, centre, skates through San Jose Sharks' Chris Tierney, left, and defenceman Dylan DeMelo. (John Locher/AP)

The Vegas Golden Knights have started their inaugural NHL campaign on fire, posting two straight wins heading into their home opener Tuesday night. But both of those victories have come without the help of marquee free-agent acquisition Vadim Shipachyov, who joined the Golden Knights on a two-year, $9-million contract in May.

Expected to start the season as Vegas’ No. 1 centreman, Shipachyov was instead assigned to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, bumping teammate Cody Eakin into the top-line spot.

According to general manager George McPhee, stashing Shipachyov in the minors is a necessity if his club hopes to maximize its expansion draft assets.

“We’re an expansion club that has to think long term,” McPhee told NHL.com’s Nicholas Cotsonika on Monday. “The three guys we sent down have all earned the right to be here and we’ll get them here at the right time, or as soon as we can. …The point is to try to get some sort of a return if we’re going to move a player, because we’re going to have to draft our way to a championship.”

Shipachyov, along with Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore, who were also sent down to the AHL, didn’t require exposure to waivers when assigned. That left McPhee with the option of moving them off the NHL roster so as to keep the glut of defencemen added during the expansion draft, nine of whom remain on the big-league roster.

“I like that we have a real competitive club right now, but we want to build a champion,” McPhee said. “We’re going to do it the best way we know how, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

The decision to send Shipachyov to the AHL after the former KHLer chose Vegas from a number of suitors in the summer was not initially well received, according to Cotsonika.

However, McPhee told NHL.com that Shipachyov is now aware that the demotion is “a roster move and it’s not about performance.” While the 30-year-old forward reported to Chicago initially, he’s returned to Las Vegas to train and is not expected to suit up for the Wolves in the near future, per Cotsonika.

“We’ve studied other expansion teams, I’ve been through a rebuild with a previous club, and we’re going to keep working at trying to make this club better every day,” McPhee said. “And one day – and I don’t know if that’s one year, three years, five years – we’re going to wake up, and it’s going to be a good hockey club.”