Things haven’t been working out for Vadim Shipachyov and the Vegas Golden Knights. On Wednesday, the team assigned the forward, who is on a two-year, $9 million contract, to the AHL for the second time this season. Not long afterwards, it was reported that Shipachyov’s agent had been given permission to pursue a trade.
Both sides are in a difficult situation now. The Golden Knights signed Shipachyov from the KHL in the spring to a lucrative contract, and he understandably expected to have a major role. But the team shot out to a hot start without him, and as one of Vegas’ only waiver-exempt players, he’s gotten the short end of the stick when the roster is full.
So what happens next? The player’s camp doesn’t have a ton of leverage in this scenario. The Golden Knights could technically just bury him in the AHL all season. Shipachyov could retire and go back to Russia, but that’s not ideal. He came to the NHL to play, not to be pushed aside just because he can be reassigned without the use of waivers.
The Golden Knights have a trade asset that could appeal to other teams, but they don’t need to rush this. They could also move someone else and make room for Shipachyov on the roster, which might solve the issue anyway.
Shipachyov put up huge numbers in the KHL, including 76 points in 50 games last season, so he can probably help an NHL team, whether it’s in Vegas or someone else. With the latest reports, let’s look at where that someone else might be.
Which teams could pursue Vadim Shipachyov?
First, let’s consider which teams would logically be a good fit for Shipachyov. We’re talking about teams in need of a center that have at least $4.5 million in salary cap space available. Just based on the salary cap, you can scratch off a bunch of teams, including the Stars, Ducks, and Lightning, that could only acquire him by sending money back the other way.
Here’s a rundown of the top possibilities.
Carolina is on the cusp of bigger and better things, and adding Shipachyov could be another step toward that. The team’s depth up the middle isn’t great with Jordan Staal, Victor Rask, Derek Ryan, and Marcus Kruger. The upgrade from Ryan to Shipachyov on the third line, which presently has Jeff Skinner and Justin Williams on the wings, could be significant.
The Hurricanes also have over $17 million in cap space, per Cap Friendly, so they have more than enough room to fit Shipachyov if they wanted. GM Ron Francis is well-positioned to make a move. However, they’re skeptical of the potential move over at Canes Country, SB Nation’s Hurricanes blog:
This is a fairly difficult and complex situation, and that works against the chances of Vadim Shipachyov becoming a Hurricane.
Ron Francis has formed this team with the philosophy of being patient and not taking risks. Acquiring Shipachyov is an undeniable risk.
We’re all really kidding ourselves if we think we know that he will be a good NHL player or not. Could the forward help the Hurricanes score more goals and be a better hockey team? Yes. Could this acquisition end up being a trainwreck? Yes.
That’s where the decision is likely made for the front office.
Montreal’s struggles to open the season have been well-documented, and the team needs help at center, so it’s understandable to wonder if there’s a fit here. However, TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted Wednesday night that he doesn’t believe the Habs have any interest in acquiring Shipachyov.
Things can change quickly, especially in the pressure cooker that is the Canadiens’ market, and McKenzie didn’t dismiss the possibility entirely. But despite the potential fit from a distance, it doesn’t seem like Montreal views Shipachyov as the answer to its problems. “The answer is in the room,” GM Marc Bergevin said Wednesday.
Finding depth up the middle has been a constant search for Nashville. The team made its big swing a couple years ago by trading Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen, who has established himself as the No. 1 center, but filling out the spots behind him has been a bit of patchwork.
Shipachyov could be a perfect fit in shoring up that lineup. The Predators added Nick Bonino over the summer, but he’s dealt with some injury issues recently and fits better as a third-line center anyway. Matt Duchene is a commonly named target for these reasons. Shipachyov seems like another possibility.
Yes, the Oilers already have three fantastic centers in Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They have others like Mark Letestu and Ryan Strome who can comfortably eat minutes playing the pivot.
Edmonton’s offense has sputtered to open the season, however, and urgency to do something will build if that doesn’t change soon. Shipachyov might not be a perfect fit given he’s primarily played center, but his offensive talents would be welcomed if he’d be comfortable playing on the wing. The Oilers have nearly $9 million in cap space, so fitting him in there wouldn’t be an issue.
Or the Golden Knights could just make room
Finally, it’s worth noting that GM George McPhee has a potentially easier solution to this problem. Maybe he’d prefer to try to wrangle some draft picks by trading Shipachyov, following the stockpile strategy that’s been in place since the summer, but just adding him to the roster remains an option.
The 7-1-0 Golden Knights may be in for a rude awakening when their save and shooting percentages regress. The emergence of Shipachyov could be an antidote to help stave off that problem, at least to a degree.
There are lots of ways this could happen. Vegas could trade someone else, or place a guy like Griffin Reinhart or Brad Hunt on waivers. The team would risk losing a player in the second scenario, but not someone particularly valuable or important.
Or maybe the solution is simply to trade Shipachyov before he bolts back to Russia or his trade value sinks. If so, there are teams that could use him.