By Сидик из ПТУ (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 4.0 or GFDL],
via Wikimedia Commons
In the expansion draft, Vegas picked up 13 defensemen and received a few others in trades. As a result, the Vegas roster was very heavy on defensemen going into pre-season. Some were traded or did not make the cut for the final roster. There were too many players who had issues, which meant they could not go down to the minors or were ineligible. Mostly, they were not waiver exempt. Only Shea Thodore and rookie Erik Brannstrom were. This means that the Golden Knights used 10 of their 23 final roster spots on defensive players. Most NHL teams have only seven blue liners on their roster. The Golden Knights, of course, also have two roster slots for goalies, which leaves only 11 slots open for forwards.
Why could a player not be sent to the AHL? There are a few reasons. First, an AHL team must have a minimum of 13 players on their roster that are considered development players. Twelve of these development players have to have played fewer than 260 professional games, this includes AHL, NHL, and elite European league games. This means that of the 20 players that an AHL team can dress for a game, two are goalies and 13 are development players, leaving only five spots for experienced NHL players. Another reason that a player could not be sent to the AHL would be if they had a clause written into their contract that prevents them from being sent down without their consent.
For the Golden Knights, the issue seems to be that level of professional experience prevents many of the defensemen currently on the roster from being sent down to the minors. Of the 10 defensemen on the Golden Knights roster, only John Marrill qualifies as a development player, barely with 243 games played at the professional level. So, why was he kept on the roster, and Shea Theodore sent down to the Chicago Wolves with Shipachyov? The answer is simple: money. They could not afford the cap hit that either Theodore or Shipachyov would have in addition to all the high-cost contracts of the veteran defensemen who they were unable to send down. None of the Golden Knights 10 defensemen are on entry-level contracts. Also, both Theodore and Shipachyov are protected from waivers, so there was not a risk of losing them to another NHL team when trying to move them.
Shipachyov is used to being a big fish in a smaller pond, as the third leading goal scorer and second leading assist maker in the KHL last season. He did not come to the United States to play in the minors. He is not happy being sent down due to financial issues and poor planning on the part of the Golden Knights organization when selecting draft picks. An additional consideration is the coming Olympics. If it comes down to a choice between playing in the United States in the AHL or returning to Russia to play in the KHL and being eligible for the Olympic team, there is very little chance he would stay. Reports have stated that Shipachyov has a timetable where if he is not back playing at the NHL level, he will return to Russia. He has not disclosed what that timetable is as yet.
My guess is that it will have a lot to do with when he would need to be back in Russia by in order to be able to play on their Olympic team. His agent, Peter Svoboda, has apparently stated that Shipachyov does not want to return to the KHL. Yet Russian reports are saying that Shipachyov's representatives have been in contact with the KHL discussing a possible return. At this point, it is all just rumors. It would, however, be a bad blow to the young Golden Knights organization to lose players like Shipachyov or Theodore. Given the skill and experience of both of these players, it might be in the Golden Knights best interest to put a player or two on waivers to make room to bring one or both of them back up to the NHL team.