As the first major signing in Las Vegas Golden Knights history, Vadim Shipachyov faces some pretty high expectations.
But to hear George McPhee explain it, Shipachyov is more than capable of meeting them.
“He brings skill and leadership to our organization — he wanted to be a Vegas Golden Knight, and we wanted him,” McPhee said on Friday’s media call, in announcing Shipachyov’s two-year, $9 million deal. “He’s been highly productive. He’s been a very good player and continues to improve.
“He’s a skilled center iceman. They’re very, very, very hard to find.”
Shipachyov, 30, has never played in the NHL before, but is regarded by many as one of the best players not in the world’s best league. He’s lit up the KHL over the last couple of years, and been equally productive representing his native Russia on the international scene.
But that’s not the only reason why his signing caught the NHL’s attention.
Shipachyov was rumored to be on the want list of a number of clubs and, according to Sportsnet, turned down a four-year, $20 million offer from his former team, SKA Saint Petersburg, to join an expansion franchise with just one other player under contract.
The $9 million obviously played a big role in getting Shipachyov to Vegas, but there were other lures as well. McPhee outlined a huge opportunity for minutes and role — saying the team expects him to be in the top-six forward group — and fielded questions about Shipachyov being part of the club’s leadership group. (Shipachyov has previously served as captain both for SKA and the Russian national team.)
Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see what McPhee does next. On Friday’s call, he confirmed reports the club has spoken with Evgeni Dadonov, Shipachyov’s running mate in Saint Petersburg and on Team Russia.
If they’re able to land Dadonov, the Golden Knights may upgrade their very good start to a great one.