Elliotte Friedman reported, in his latest installment of 30 Thoughts, that the Canadiens are one of a few teams interested in KHL all-star Vadim Shipachyov, captain of SKA St. Petersburg, and former linemate of Blackhawks’ rookie sensation Artemi Panarin.
The 29 year-old centre has excellent playmaking skills, and has just completed his second consecutive point-per-game season with SKA.
The six-foot-tall forward has collected 335 points in 395 regular season games in the KHL, and is no stranger to winning. Shipachyov won a gold medal in 2014, and a silver medal in 2015 at the IIHF World Championships, and was a key player in SKA’s Gagarin Cup win last season.
He’s a clutch performer, having collected 13 goals and 24 assists in 32 playoff games over the past two seasons. In last year’s KHL playoffs, the Russian formed a dangerous line with wingers Evgeny Dadonov and Artemi Panarin, who collected a combined 61 points in 22 games. A full article on hockeysverige.se delves into the line's dominance.
What do his teammates think? We’ve heard only good things. At last year’s World Championships, Jimmie Eriksson of Skellefteå described his former SKA teammate as: "a centre that plays very offensively, he has great hands and uses them for fantastic passes."
Another former SKA teammate, Swedish forward Tony Martensson, said Shipachyov is "a centre with great vision and playmaking ability." EOTP also reached out to Alex Nunn, who covers a lot of KHL and is a contributor to BlueShirtBanter, who had this to say of Shipachyov: "Excellent playmaker. Not that physical and could work on his D game some more, but always dangerous with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone. Formed a real good line with Dadonov and Gusev."
It’s unsure whether or not Shipachyov is seriously considering a move to North America. He will be 30 years-old next season, and is under contract through the 2016/17 KHL season. There is currently no transfer agreement between the NHL and KHL, as the two leagues were unable to come to an agreement last summer, and in the summer of 2015 extended their memorandum of understanding, which implies both leagues would respect each other’s contracts. It is possible that KHL players could jump to North America during the upcoming post-season, should the two leagues fail to extend their agreement again.
There is a possibility that players could be using NHL interest as a bargaining chip to apply pressure to their KHL teams in order to extract a bigger contract. SKA is one of the richest clubs in the Kontinental Hockey League, and should be able to meet any demands made by their top centre. Shipachyov could be using the interest from Montreal and other teams to increase his price tag, though we won’t know for sure until anything happens.
The prospect of adding a three-time all-star centre with a winning pedigree to the Habs is tantalizing to say the least, but without further roster changes in Montreal, it could be a confusing move for Marc Bergevin.
The Canadiens currently have an abundance of players who can play down the middle: Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, David Desharnais and Torrey Mitchell are NHL regulars, and you could add Brian Flynn, Jacob de La Rose, Phillip Danault and Michael McCarron to the list of possible pivot players. That’s nine players who can play in four centre spots.
Should de La Rose and McCarron spend next season with the St. John’s IceCaps, Montreal would still need to shuffle the deck to accommodate Shipachyov as a centre. He is an offensive player who would fit a top-six role but lacks the physical skills to play in a shutdown position.
To fit him into the lineup down the midde, the Habs would have to move a key player to the wing (they’ve not hesitated to deploy Galchenyuk and Eller this way) or possibly trade a player like Eller or Plekanec to make room.
The Canadiens sorely lack in scoring and would benefit from adding a bona fide sniper to their top six rather than a playmaker like Vadim Shipachyov. Bergevin’s comments at the GM meetings indicate this team could look very different by October, making it difficult to project what their needs will be next year. A player with consistent offensive production and winning track record is worth being interested in, but Montreal may have to address their roster needs first for a potential acquisition to make sense.
Thanks to Alex Nunn (@aj_ranger) for his feedback on Shipachyov.