The Vegas Golden Knights signed free agent forward Vadim Shipachyov to a two-year contract with a $4.5 million average annual value. Shipachyov is the second player in Golden Knights history, joining Reid Duke. Golden Knights’ General Manager George McPhee spoke of the signing:
Vadim is a highly skilled playmaker who has had an impressive career in the Kontinental Hockey League. He has won two KHL championships, has been among the league leaders in scoring the last two seasons and has enjoyed success at the international level for Team Russia. We believe he can be an impact player in the NHL.
Shipachyov plays center and shoots left. He is 6’1’’, 190 pounds and known for his playmaking abilities, vision and offensive skills. The 30-year-old Russian forward has been playing for SKA Saint Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League for the last four seasons. With Shipachyov, SKA St. Petersburg won the KHL’s championship, the Gagarin Cup, in 2015 and 2017.
This season, he set a career high of 76 points (26 goals, 50 assists) in 50 games played – finishing third in the league in scoring. Additionally, he tallied 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) in 17 playoff games this season.
Through Shipachyov’s career, he has scored 412 points (137 goals, 275 assists) in 445 games. In his time in the KHL, he played on the Severstal Cherepovets and SKA St. Petersburg.
In addition to playing in the KHL, he has participated in the IIHF World Championship for Team Russia. He has earned a medal in each of his three appearances in the Championship – a gold medal in his first year (2014), a silver medal the following year, and a bronze medal last year. Shipachyov is currently playing for Team Russia at the 2017 IIHF World Championships.
He has also played with other former NHL players, including Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeny Dadonov. He was also teammates with Artemi Panarin before he left the KHL for the Chicago Blackhawks.
KHL to NHL Transition
Whenever a play leaves the KHL, it is questioned whether or not they can maintain their level of play in the NHL. There are a number of aspects about the game that differ between North American hockey and international hockey, including the rink size and season length. Unfortunately, not all players that leave Europe and Russia can adequately execute their game to adapt to the North American style of play. Therefore, there are concerns when a player makes the transition from the KHL to NHL.
Players like Steve Moses, who left the KHL to join the Nashville Predators, struggled to acclimate to the North American game, demonstrating why it is a gamble to acquire a player that is accustomed to international hockey. Jiri Sekac and Sergei Plotnikov are other examples of players that did not succeed in the NHL after successful careers in the KHL.
However, there have players that excelled in the NHL after leaving the KHL. Artemi Panarin not only adjusted but has flourished in the NHL with 151 points (61 goals, 90 assists), in 162 career games with the Blackhawks.
Alexander Radulov returned to the NHL this season, after two NHL stints between 2006 and 2012. Radulov signed as a free agent with the Montreal Canadiens, where he scored 54 points (18 goals, 36 assists) in 54 regular season games. Additionally, he scored seven points (two goals, five assists) in the Canadiens’ six games in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Teams expressed their interest in Shipachyov last season when it was speculated whether he would join the NHL. However, due to a clause in his contract, he remained in the KHL for this season. A number of teams made offers to Shipachyov this year when it was established that he was looking to join the NHL before he ultimately signed with the Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights options likely would have been limited during free agency and the expansion draft, which is why Shipachyov could be a key signing for the club. The signing of a highly sought-after free agent demonstrated how an expansion franchise can be an attractive destination. Having Shipachyov in Vegas could sway other NHL free agents to join the Golden Knights, as well as other KHL free agents like Dadonov.
George McPhee and the Golden Knights have been pursuing options for their inaugural season in an effort to make the team as competitive as possible. The signing of Shipachyov only intensifies the anticipation for the expansion draft, when the Golden Knights present a team roster.