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Our Sources Tell Us: The Hurricanes Could Benefit from a Vadim Shipachyov Trade, But Is It Worth It?

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Shipachyov’s glorious trainwreck tenure in Vegas appears to be coming to an end. Could Carolina benefit from getting him out of Vegas?

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

“Our Sources Tell Us” is an occasional series wherein we look at possible trade targets for the Carolina Hurricanes. No, we don’t actually have sources telling us all this information.

The Vegas Golden Knights have been the talk of the NHL in October. The expansion franchise is off to a historic 7-1-0 start despite preseason projections saying they’d be bottom dwellers.

This week, the Golden Knights are in the spotlight for a different reason as former, and perhaps future, KHL superstar Vadim Shipachyov, acquired by Vegas over the offseason, and his agent have been given permission to look for a different team that would be interested in his services.

Shipachyov signed a two-year, $9 million ($4.5 million AAV) contract with the club on May 4 after the 30-year-old had a massive year in the KHL, posting 26 goals and 50 assists in 50 games, good for a career-high 76 points, continuing a six-year trend of at or near point-per-game totals, primarily with SKA St. Petersburg where he and former prolific NHL goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk formed a dominant playmaker/sniper duo starting in 2013. The addition of former Hurricane farmhand and current Florida Panther Evgenii Dadonov shortly thereafter turned that duo into the best trio in the KHL.

His North American career thus far? Not too inspiring. Vegas GM George McPhee made the puzzling decision of starting several NHL quality players at the AHL level, including Shipachyov. He, unsurprisingly, chose not to play for the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, but he was called back up to Vegas on October 14 after Erik Haula was placed on IR with a lower-body injury.

In three games, the NHL rookie scored one goal and was a +3 player, though he never saw more than 10:58 of ice time in any of those games. He also posted a 46.55% corsi share in those games which, while not ideal, was pretty much on par with Vegas’ 46.65% as a team.

On Tuesday, the Russian center was sent back to the AHL and news broke Wednesday evening that Vegas management had given their big dollar free agent the green light to talk to other teams about a trade.

Should the Carolina Hurricanes be in on this? Let’s talk.


The Case for Shipachyov

The Hurricanes are scoring 2.43 goals per game through seven games, which is fourth from the bottom in the NHL. The only teams scoring fewer goals per game are the Arizona Coyotes (2.33), Montreal Canadiens (1.89), and Edmonton Oilers (1.88).

The scoring struggles of Victor Rask, Derek Ryan, Teuvo Teravainen, and Sebastian Aho have contributed to these problems, and, in particular, the lack of scoring down the middle of the ice continues to be something that is clearly holding this team back.

Ron Francis did a great job adding talent at important positions over the offseason, acquiring Scott Darling to be the starting goalie, Marcus Kruger to man the fourth-line and penalty kill, Trevor van Riemsdyk to play on the third defensive pairing, and Justin Williams to provide offense in a top-nine role on the wing.

So far, all of those additions have been a success, but none of them address one of the bigger issues this team has lived with over the past few seasons.

Carolina’s four centermen (Jordan Staal, Victor Rask, Derek Ryan, and Marcus Kruger) have combined for six even-strength points in seven games. Half of those points have come from Staal and the remaining three centers all have one point each at 5-on-5. Rask hasn't been on the scoresheet since opening night.

The Hurricanes desperately need more scoring. They can’t afford to keep scoring minimal goals against bad defensive teams and rely solely on Jeff Skinner to bail them out like he did against Columbus and Dallas.

Vadim Shipachyov isn’t a goal scorer, but he has proven himself as a high-end playmaker with incredible vision in Russia. If there’s even a slight chance that it can carry over in Raleigh, that’s a risk that Ron Francis might have to think about taking.

Perhaps Shipachyov can be the guy that feeds Skinner and makes him better, or maybe he can get the best out of Sebastian Aho or Teuvo Teravainen.

The way I see it, Shipachyov’s offensive production couldn’t be worse than that of Derek Ryan, and the Russian’s ceiling is leaps and bound higher than Ryan’s or maybe even Rask’s at this point.

Would he be an assist-per-game player for the Hurricanes? No, but there’s a distinct possibility that he can breathe some life into the corpse that is Carolina’s offense.

The Hurricanes also have seven draft picks in 2018 and seven more in 2019. While Vegas is playing very well right now, the long-term goal is clear - get a lot of draft picks and create a deep farm system.

While I doubt that the Hurricanes, or anyone else for that matter, would give up established prospects with feasibly high upside, draft picks may be different.

Vegas wouldn’t require a huge bundle for Shipachyov, and the Canes have plenty of mid-round picks that they could send to George McPhee and the Knights. In reality, a draft pick in exchange for the high ceiling that this player has could be a pretty remarkable bargain, assuming he elevates to or near that ceiling.

In short, the best case scenario with Shipachyov could bring a desperately needed dimension to this Hurricanes team, which would make them far more dangerous on the ice.


The Case Against Shipachyov

For starters, this is a 30-year-old player who made a great career for himself in the KHL but has yet to prove he can play at a high level in North America.

Oh, and he’s Russian.

I will not outline Carolina’s long history with Russian players, but I will provide you with two names.

Alex Semin

Igor Knyazev

Whether it’s right or it’s wrong, there is an established stereotype with Russian hockey players, especially within the Hurricanes organization. Quite frankly, it just hasn’t worked whenever the Canes have decided to go down that avenue.

In this specific case, Shipachyov was dominant in the KHL for a long time but there isn’t overwhelming reason to expect him to continue that in North America. KHL players and NHL players are different, not because of their nationalities, but because the European/Russian game is different from the North American game.

There is a real possibility that Shipachyov will just bust in North America regardless of what team he plays for. He wouldn’t be the first European to do so and he absolutely wouldn’t be the last.

Shipachyov also, by all accounts, doesn’t know much English.

Here’s how the Vegas Golden Knights’ official site described it over the summer.

For the most part, Shipachyov will be joined in Las Vegas by a translator. This person will not only help him at the arena, but also in his everyday life.

Shipachyov isn't exactly all alone in Las Vegas, where he's joined by his wife and daughters. And he doesn't necessarily speak zero English.

At this point, he can speak an occasional word here and there. He seems to be able to communicate through his teammates through hand signals and facial expressions, while on the ice, hockey's hockey, and it's kind of a universal language.

So, if he does end up going to a new team, he will likely be accompanied by a translator, and it’s really a mystery as to how that would end up working on the ice, but regardless, it’s something to consider in all of this.

When it comes down to it, this is a 30-year-old player introducing himself to a new league and there’s no telling how he his game will translate or even if he’ll be any good.

I watched his three games for the Golden Knights. He was dangerous in his debut, scoring a goal for Vegas and generating opportunities, but looked less effective in his next two. That being said, it’s too small of a sample size to really make a judgment off of.

His contract isn’t overly cheap either. He’ll get $3 million in base salary with $2 million in performance bonuses this year and a singular base salary of $4 million next season, which adds up to a $4.5 million cap hit in each season.

While the Hurricanes likely wouldn’t have a problem fitting that money in under the cap both this year and next year, even taking into account the extension dollars for Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce and pending extensions to Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm, they aren’t a cap team.

They have rarely ever spent up to the cap ceiling, instead having to operate on a budget, so the team would likely only pull the trigger if they felt like it was a great move that would undubtedly make them better.

As it stands now, there is plenty of risk involved here as Shipachyov could feasibly get his way back to Russia whenever he wants.

Though, to be fair, there hasn't been any real indication from him or his camp that the player is giving up on the NHL. If he really wanted to do that, he could have done it when he got cut from the NHL roster after training camp, or when he paid for a flight back to Vegas with his own money after being sent down to the AHL but choosing not to play there (the team couldn’t pay for his flight back if they didn’t recall him, due to league rules), or even after the second time he got demoted.

It looks like he wants to make it work in the NHL and, if nothing else, you can give the guy credit for going through what has been a really tough situation. He brought his family to the U.S., he knows little English, and things have gone the opposite of how he likely expected them to go.

There have been reports that if he isn’t in the NHL at a certain point in time, he will return to the KHL so that he can play in the Olympics, but George McPhee dismissed those rumors and said there was “no truth” to them.

Here’s what McPhee said after sending Shipachyov down before the regular season.

“They didn’t understand initially, but they do now, that this is a roster move and it’s not about performance,” McPhee said following practice at City National Arena. “The three guys we sent down (Shipachyov, Shea Theodore and Alex Tuch) have all earned the right to be here, and we’ll get them here at the right time, or as soon as we can.”

Bob McKenzie added some context to the situation as it stands now. I’ll include some of the big points, but if you want to read his full thread, here it is.

There’s a lot to take in from this series of tweets, namely that Shipachyov has been outplayed by other players on the Golden Knights roster and that Vegas thinks some work in the AHL could be beneficial.

In the off chance that Shipachyov comes to Carolina, would he be more willing to play in Charlotte for a period of time that allows him to transition? Instead of being a long flight away from the NHL club like he is in Vegas/Chicago, it would only be roughly a two and a half hour drive. Would that change anything or would the player still be reluctant? To go a step forward, would the Checkers, one of the AHL’s top teams, even want him down there taking ice time away from young players who need it?

Also, Shipachyov is 30-years-old and has been a star in Russia for years. A question that keeps popping up in my mind is, why is he just now playing in the NHL? He wasn’t drafted at any point in his draft eligibility, and he never signed in the NHL at any point in his professional hockey career before this past May.

Did NHL teams see him and not like his play? Did management groups know something about him that no one else did? Did he just never want to go overseas to play in the NHL?

There are a lot of questions here, and the Hurricanes’ regime doesn't appear to be too keen on uncertainty.


The Verdict

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 hel

p 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.

The Hurricanes need help offensively, but a couple weeks of early-season lackluster offense might not warrant a risk like this on an unproven player getting a significant amount of money.

Instead of going after a big question mark, the team could explore options that have far less risk of blowing up in their face. Lucas Wallmark leads the AHL in points, is 22-years-old, and has a bright future ahead of him. He may be a smarter addition to the NHL roster than Shipachyov.

If Ron Francis were to bite on this, it would be one of the more uncharacteristic moves of his tenure as GM. However, it would be a huge oversight on his part if he didn’t at least have a conversation with Petr Svoboda, Shipachyov’s agent, and see what is really going on here. If he learns that the player wants to play in the NHL long term and that he is willing to take the steps necessary in order to make that happen, then perhaps it’s something worth considering, especially given that he could easily end up being a very good player. One month of practices and three regular-season NHL games isn’t enough to judge his ability to play in North America.

That being said, this doesn’t feel like something that this team would be interested in.

At some point, Francis will have to take a risk in order to make this team as good as it can be, but this definitely doesn’t look like the risk that he has been waiting for.

Poll

You make the call: Should the Canes go after Vadim Shipachyov?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Yes
    (46 votes)
  • 49%
    No
    (103 votes)
  • 28%
    Depends on the cost
    (60 votes)
209 votes total Vote Now