Golden Knights general manager George McPhee addressed Shipachyov’s decision to retire from the NHL during a press conference on Thursday, specifying that the player has the Golden Knights’ consent to suit up in the KHL immediately.
“Vadim did not want to put in any time at the American Hockey League level and he didn’t want to be traded to another club, which we could have done,” said McPhee, explaining that Shipachyov was entitled to 8/164ths of his NHL signing bonus, with the rest being returned to the team. “He just wanted to go home so we’ve accommodated him and we wish him well. He’s a good player and a good guy and it just didn’t work out for us and for him here. The good news is the contract is off the books and a roster spot was opened up.”
After signing the Russian forward back in May, the 30-year-old failed to make the roster to start the season, instead being assigned to the club’s AHL affiliate in Chicago—which, as McPhee acknowledged, wasn’t exactly what the standout KHLer had signed up for when he made the jump to North America.
Shipachyov was twice assigned to the AHL—first as a roster move to comply with the league’s hard deadline for teams to submit their 23-player rosters, and second “to see if he could adjust his pace of play to the North American game,” per McPhee.
“He needed to assimilate a little bit more and work on his pace of play and we were willing to work with him,” explained McPhee. “We wanted to work with him. There’s no shame in going to the American Hockey League—75 per cent of the players in this league have played there. He didn’t want to do it and he didn’t want to be traded either.”
The Golden Knights have been the season’s biggest surprise so far, bolting out of the gates with a 9-5-1 record—the best start by an expansion franchise in NHL history.
With that kind of success comes plenty of competition for limited roster spots, and Shipachyov was the odd man out. He played just three NHL games, scoring a goal in his NHL debut against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 15 but was otherwise unable to keep pace with his peers.
“Everyone here was playing better than he was at the centre ice position,” said McPhee. “You have to do things the right way, and whoever is playing well plays.”
McPhee said the situation has not soured him from seeking other players out of the KHL, nor will he stand in Shipachyov’s way should he want to reverse his retirement and return to the NHL. Per league rules, Vegas retains his NHL rights until he turns 35—the same situation we saw between the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk.
“We wish him well. He’s a good guy and a talented guy. If he wants to come back, he has to wait one year but then it has to go through us—but we wouldn’t stand in his way. We’d do a sign-and-trade and let him play wherever he wants to play,” he said. “We would make it easy for him. If some other team wants to sign him … we’d make it happen.”