Shipachyov: Russian players should think before leaving for NHL

30-year old Russian rookie Vadim Shipachyov scores for the Vegas Golden Knights for his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.

It’s safe to say the Vadim Shipachyov era in Vegas didn’t turn out as either party had predicted. After repeated AHL assignments, a brief three-game stay in the big leagues, and a messy financial split, the veteran Russian pivot returned to the KHL Saturday, signing a one-year deal with his old club SKA St. Petersburg.

Back with the club with whom he twice lifted the Gagarin Cup, Shipachyov opened up on his tumultuous experience trying to break into the NHL with the Golden Knights.

“The promises which I was given in America didn’t come off,” Shipachyov told reporters on Saturday, according to a translation posted to SKA St. Petersburg’s official website. “But everything works out for the best. A lot of other SKA players who are here now have gone down this route, it’s probably the correct strategy.

“Now I know that Russian players should think 10 times before leaving for abroad, it’s different from what the clubs and agents tell you.”

The three-time KHL all-star pointed to miscommunication as one of the key obstacles that blocked his path to the NHL.

“Face to face I was told one thing, but when it came to hockey, the story changed,” Shipachyov said, adding that things didn’t improve after he managed to score a goal in his Golden Knights debut. “We won, but the coach said that I’m not going to play a lot at the moment. I was told that everything’s fine, but I’m going to be in the fourth line. I didn’t need to be on the powerplay, I simply wanted to play in every game.”

After it became clear that Shipachyov and the Golden Knights weren’t a match, the process allowing him to move on from Vegas was put into action. It wound up being a tedious one, however, due to the club’s request that Shipachyov pay back the majority of his $2-million signing bonus and agree not to seek a deal with another NHL club upon leaving.

“I didn’t understand what was happening,” Shipachyov said. “Vegas didn’t search for other options, despite it being the better option for them. They obviously wanted me to cancel the contract and give them money.”

Then came the confusion surrounding the forward’s AHL assignment, as Shipachyov was assigned to the Chicago Wolves for the second time, and then suspended by the Golden Knights for leaving the minor league affiliate.

“After all of this, I decided that I didn’t want to be there. My agent spoke with the general manager, they agreed that we need a few days to search for a new team,” Shipachyov said. “Because of that, I left Chicago for Las Vegas. (George McPhee) didn’t tell the Chicago Wolves about that discussion, so it was assumed that I left the team on purpose. In the press, there was a story that I travelled to my wife because she doesn’t speak English. Where did that come from?”

While his North American tour didn’t pan out, Shipachyov said he’s glad to have landed back with the KHL’s current No. 1 squad.

“Of course I’m happy. It’s the best option for me,” he said. “I knew that SKA had won 20 consecutive games and not lost in regulation for a long time. I knew that they could say: ‘Sorry, we don’t need you,’ but the club helped me and I am grateful.”

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