Habs Target: Vadim Shipachyov

Centre Vadim Shipachyov, who is reportedly linked to the Canadiens, is leading the IIHF World Championship tournament in scoring with 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in 4 games.   With those numbers, Shipachyov is proving that he deserves a shot in the NHL. Insiders such as Elliotte Friedman and Igor Eronko have both indicated that Marc Bergevin has interest in the Russian centre.

Alongside his linemates Artemi Panarin (3g, 6a) and Evgenii Dadonov (3g, 5a), Shipachyov is leading a solid 1-2-3 punch for the Russians in the tournament. The Shipachyov line has been unstoppable thus far at the tournament.  The Canadiens attempted to sign Shipachyov’s linemate Artemi Panarin last year but failed when he opted to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks instead. This summer both Shipachyov and Dadonov are available as free agents and rumored to be looking at a move to the the NHL. Is it possible that the Habs could now be looking at signing both as a package after seeing their chemistry in the tournament.

Following their performances early in the tournament, Dadonov and Shipachyov are confirming what NHL scouts saw in their KHL play. The two could be ready for a jump to North America. With their scoring woes last season, the Canadiens should do everything they can to get these two players under contract. Dadonov has already had a brief stint in the NHL with the Florida Panthers from 2010-12, but he wasn’t ready for the jump at that point. Over the past two seasons, Dadonov has been playing on a line alongside Shipachyov on SKA St. Petersburg. They have great chemistry and the duo could provide the Canadiens with two players that could give the team the scoring depth it needs to improve on its lack of scoring.  However, Shipachyov should be the #1 target. He is a natural centre, and scored 14 more points than Dadonov in 5 less games.

Coming off a 60 point campaign with SKA St. Petersburg, Shipachyov has decided to terminate his contract in the KHL in order to come to the NHL.  Reports claimed Shipachyov terminated the deal with SKA St. Petersburg due to NHL interest from the Habs and others. Shipachyov has yet to sign anywhere in the NHL, and may be waiting until after the World Championships to make his decision.

Vadim Shipachyov is not your typical Russian free agent at 29 years old, Shipachyov won’t be signing an entry-level contract. He will be a pure unrestricted free agent, unburdened by the strick ELC system.  Looking closer at his stats it would seem that he has had the production to be an NHLer for a couple of years now.

Vadim Shipachyov at age 22, had a very similar season to Artemi Panarin who scored 40 points in 51 games when he was 22. Panarin finished 7th in the entire NHL last season in scoring and has a bright future with the Blackhawks. That’s not to say Shipachyov will put up the same numbers, but already in his prime he could be ready to jump into a top-6 role for the Habs. He could also play in a scoring 3rd line role if the Canadiens decide to roll with three scoring lines. Even if placed in such a role, its likely he would find himself getting plenty of powerplay opportunities.

He would most likely fit in on a line with players who have an instinct of shooting the puck. Shipachyov is known as more of a playmaker, than a goal scorer. He has shown great vision in the KHL, and played the role of playmaker beside Ilya Kovalchuk at SKA. His career high for goals in a KHL season is 17, which he reached this past year.

The biggest problem that faces Vadim Shipachyov is that he has never played in North America, spending his entire career in Russia. It could turn out well like it did for Panarin but it could also play out badly, forcing him to return to Russia fairly quickly. He will need to adjust to the North American style of game and smaller ice surface to succeed.

Despite these cautions, a goal-hungry team like the Canadiens should take a chance on an offensive-minded player. He could create scoring chances by using his vision to find teammates in high danger scoring areas. If the Canadiens sign him, they will need to add at least another goal scorer to compliment his biggest asset.  Coming from Russia, he most likely won’t cost as much as an established NHL playmaker.

In terms of money, it is prudent to keep in mind that Shipachyov has just terminated a contract that sport.ru estimated was worth $2.1 million US per year, tax free. It only makes sense for Shipachyov to need a significant raise to agree to come play in the NHL at this point in his career.  One would expect the starting bids to be a minimum of $2.5 million per season, and to rise from there.  This is the pure minimum though, depending on how many teams are interested, a bidding war could drive the price up significantly.

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