Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Shipachyov Drama Continues

As most of you probably know already, on October 24, Vadim Shipachyov was sent down to the Chicago Wolves for the second time in this regular season. While thus far he has not lived up to the 30+ scoring potential that he was acquired for, the demotion to the Wolves had more to do with Jonathan Marchessault returning from injured reserve. When this happened, the Golden Knights had to send a forward back down, and Shipachyov is waiver-exempt, so he was a logical choice.

It is, however, unsurprising that he was displeased with this assignment. The first time he was sent back down this season he was rumored to be ready to quit and go back to the KHL. This time, we are hearing the same stories again, but with more evidence of Shipachyov's displeasure.  On October 25, the day after he was sent back down to Chicago, his agent Petr Svoboda was given permission to start seeking a trade for Shipachyov.

Vadim Shipachyov did initially physically relocate to Chicago this time, but his stay there was short lived. He was present and participated in morning skate on Saturday October 28 prior to their game that night against the Milwaukee Admirals. However, by game time he was a no show. Head coach Rockey Thompson stated that he was unaware until two hours and fifteen minutes prior to puck drop that Shipachyov would not be playing that night.

Not only did Shipachyov fail to report for a game, at virtually no notice, he is also rumored to have left the state and returned to Las Vegas to be with his family. This unexpected absence forced the Golden Knights to suspend him without pay on Sunday. There have been no further details released as yet about the suspension. If it is similar to what happened with Jonathan Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning, and if Shipachyov were to return to Chicago and fulfill his obligations to the team while Svoboda continues to seek trade options, it is likely that the suspension would be lifted. I however, am not going to hold my breath and wait for that to happen, as it seems unlikely at this point.

By refusing to participate in practices and games with the Chicago Wolves, Shipachyov has damaged his chances of any NHL team wanting to pick him up. No one wants a player with these kinds of attitude problems, especially one who has failed to live up to expected performance. The Montreal Canadiens had already made public statements prior to the suspension that they were not interested in picking him up when they were approached by Svoboda late last week. I don't see any evidence of any other NHL teams showing interest in him up to now either.

This means his next likely step would be to either break or buy out his contract with the NHL and return to Russia or another KHL team, much as Illya Kovalchuk did in 2013 when he "retired" from the NHL just three years into a 17-year contract with the New Jersey Devils. This has been the most common rumor that I have heard. One thing to keep in mind though is that for any trade, or return to the KHL to happen, first the Golden Knights would need to terminate his contract or put Shipachyov on unconditional waivers, and as of this afternoon, neither of those things have happened. The unconditional waivers process is of course only needed if he chose to remain in the NHL or any of its minor league affiliates. The termination of contract would be needed to return to the KHL or another international professional league, if he chose to. The other factor that needs to be noted is that if Shipachyov were to break or buy out his contract, he would also have to pay back a prorated amount of his 2 million dollar signing bonus that he received when he joined the Golden Knights. As he seems willing to remain suspended without pay the money may not be his biggest motivating factor, but that is a sizable chunk of money he would have to come up with before he could return to the KHL.

There have been a number of different reports in the last several hours that Vadim Shipachyov is going to terminate his contract. He may well go that route. At present it seems more likely than and NHL trade, or than Shipachyov suddenly deciding to report back to Chicago and play there until a trade can be arranged. As of now though no official word has come down from the NHL or the Golden Knights organization that Shipachyov's contract has been terminated. This gives some of Shipachyov's supporters and fans hope that he may be able to work things out. Myself, given his attitude of refusing to play when he does not get his way and the fact that in the preseason as well as so far in the regular season he has failed to live up to the potential he was hired for, I would just as soon see him part ways with the team.

I believe that Shipachyov will choose to ride things out just as they are now. It seems that he is content to remain in Las Vegas with his family and accept the suspension. He appears confident the Svoboda will be able to find him a spot and a contract where he will get the level of play he wants. Most likely this will back with a KHL team. Shipachyov has a good reputation with the KHL for high level performance and two Gagarin Cups in recent years. Unless he is willing to demonstrate his ability to be a team player and fulfill his responsibilities as a team player by returning to the Wolves and playing well, I don't see another NHL team being willing to take a risk on him.

I don't believe that this will be a quick process though, it may be weeks or months before Svoboda can find him a new team to play for, unless someone in the KHL is desperate to have him back. SKA, his former team is doing extremely well without him this season though. So my guess it would have to come from a KHL team that thinks he would drastically improve their chances for the Gagarin cup. We will just have to wait and see what happens.

Right now the Golden Knights have bigger problems than what to do with the Russian who refuses to play. Goalie Oscar Dansk was injured in last night's game with the Islanders. This makes now three Vegas goalies to be out injured in just 10 games.


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