Repayment of Shipachyov’s signing bonus a delicate negotiation

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

Eric Engels has much of the latest information on the latest chapter of The Shipachyov Saga, but there is another wrinkle affecting the outcome.

Vadim Shipachyov has agreed to repay most of the $2-million signing bonus he received (approximately $1.914 million), since he’s leaving Las Vegas after a brief stay. But, several sources indicate that he offered to repay it even if claimed by another team — a move the NHLPA is fighting.

There’s no issue with Shipachyov paying back the money if his two-year, $9-million contract is terminated. But, the player and the Golden Knights are negotiating what happens if another NHL team either a) claims him on waivers or b) tries to sign him after his current agreement is voided, since that makes him eligible to go anywhere.

Vegas wants assurances Shipachyov will not pursue option B. If his contract is terminated, the Golden Knights want to know he’s going back overseas, not to a North American opponent on a cheaper deal. From what I understand, that remains a hurdle.

Option A is trickier. Vegas still wants that signing bonus money repaid. Word is Shipachyov agreed to do it, but if another NHL team does claim him, it inherits the current contract as is. The NHLPA doesn’t want that. Its position is: if he gets claimed, Vegas’s right to repayment is over.


The union’s stance is simple: we don’t want this precedent. Players shouldn’t be returning money earned. It might not be able to stand in the way of Shipachyov paying it back if he goes overseas, but not if he stays here and continues to play. Even if he left a new team quickly, it didn’t have to pay any of the bonus cash.

Some history: In 2003, Edmonton worked on a trade that would send Mike Comrie to Anaheim for Corey Perry. Comrie was in the middle of a bitter contract dispute with the Oilers. As the deal came to a close, Edmonton asked Comrie to repay $2.5 million of the rookie bonuses he’d received. The player refused, and the trade fell apart. (He would eventually get sent to Philadelphia.)

In baseball — a sport NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr knows a little — the Players’ Association blocked a 2003 trade that would have sent Alex Rodriguez from Texas to Boston for Manny Ramirez. At the time, Rodriguez was still owed $179 million on the massive 10-year, $252-million groundbreaker he signed with the Rangers.

Reports indicated the Red Sox worked out an agreement that allowed for salary to be reduced and/or deferred. In exchange, Rodriguez received the right to free agency before the original term of the contract ended. The union called this solution unacceptable. Rodriguez eventually would go to the Yankees.

(Can you imagine how history would have changed? The Red Sox might still be chasing a World Series.)

Anyway, the Shipachyov situation remains a delicate negotiation. And, it’s now more than just him and the Golden Knights at the table.

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