Recent reports have surfaced that forward Vadim Shipachyov of the Vegas Golden Knights has been given permission to seek a trade. Shipachyov was signed by Vegas over the summer away from SKA St. Petersburg of the Russian KHL. He signed a two-year contract worth $4.5 million per season. With the way that Vegas General Manager George McPhee put together his roster, he has a glut of defensemen and no room for all of his forwards. This has led to Shipachyov being sent down to the AHL.
While the Tampa Bay Lightning have a solid roster, adding a player of his pedigree to slot in on the third line could be the depth that pushes this team over the top. For years, Lightning fans have been enamored by the possibilities of Nikita Gusev, whose rights were traded to Vegas for considerations in the NHL Expansion Draft. But Shipachyov is as capable a player as Gusev.
Over nine seasons in the KHL, Shipachyov scored 137 goals and 275 assists for 412 points in 445 games. The past three seasons with SKA St. Petersburg saw him put up over a point per game as he put up 190 points in 153 games. Thus far in North America, he has one goal in three games for Vegas and hasn’t actually played in the AHL for the Chicago Wolves despite being assigned to them for roster reasons.
With Shipachyov obviously unhappy with the arrangement in Vegas, it begs the question of where the skilled playmaker could end up. With four Russians already on the roster, Tampa Bay would be an attractive landing spot for Shipachyov. There’s also a potential spot open on the third line for him to slide into along side Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson.
The biggest impediment to the Lightning making a deal is salary cap space as the team has plenty of assets in terms of both draft picks and prospects. According to CapFriendly.com, the Lightning can add a salary cap hit of $1,929,775. That is significantly less than Shipachyov’s $4.5 million cap hit. Moving Andrej Sustr and his $1.95 million cap hit in another deal would get the Lightning closer. At that point, Vegas would only need to retain around $650,000 of Shipachyov’s salary.
Moving Sustr back to Vegas would require a swap of defensemen since Vegas does not have any waiver eligible defensemen and have been working to try and move one. While they’re short a right handed defenseman, it’s a bit harder to see Sustr going to Vegas. Griffin Reinhart and his $800,000 salary cap hit seems the most likely if there was a swap. That would also increase the amount of salary Vegas would need to retain by $800,000. Retaining $1.5 million would bring his cap hit down to $3 million for this year and next which would be attractive for the Lightning next season.
Another possibility is sending injured Erik Condra to Vegas. Since he is on Injured Reserve, it would require his permission to be traded and Vegas fully knowing that he would fail a physical. Condra wouldn’t cause any roster issues since he would be on IR and when he was ready to return to the ice, he could be waived and sent to the AHL with little chance he would be claimed and lost for nothing. Vegas would still need to retain $1.5 million in this scenario.
Since there’s a lot of moving parts, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it would take. With Vegas continuing to build it’s franchise, young prospects and/or picks would be the primary payment for Shipachyov. There are other teams, like the Montreal Canadiens, that could use Shipachyov and have the salary cap space to not need Vegas to make salary considerations a part of the trade. On the other hand, the Lightning’s need for salary retention would increase the return for Vegas which could also be attractive for them with the Lightning’s wealth of prospect depth.
Some of the younger prospect pieces the Lightning could offer up would be forward Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh or defenseman Libor Hajek. Matthew Peca or Adam Erne could also be in play though both require waivers after this season and would need to make Vegas’ roster in 2018-19 or risk being lost for nothing on waivers, which is the same conundrum the Lightning will face next fall with both players.
The Lightning could offer up their first round pick knowing that it will likely be towards the end of the first round. Vegas also only has a single first and second round pick in 2018 and has no third round pick. By contrast, they have three second-round picks in 2019 and 2020 and three third-round picks in 2019. An exchange of one of those later picks to get a better pick in 2018 would be a possibility.
My best guess for a trade has the Lightning sending Andrej Sustr, a 2018 second-round pick and a 2018 third-round pick to Vegas for Shipachyov with $1.5 million salary retained and Griffin Reinhart.
The Lightning get a third-line playmaker at a reasonable $3 million salary that can be handled this year and next year. He could potentially find a spot on the second power play unit as well. For the Golden Knights, they get a couple more picks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft to continue to build their farm system up. They also get out of the conundrum they’ve put themselves in with Shipachyov.
In Sustr, they get a third right-handed defensemen, while moving a left-handed defenseman that has yet to play in a game for them. Vegas also has a lot of cap space available to absorb the retained salary. With Sustr being an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, there is also no obligation to carry on with him into the future.
Alternatively, the Lightning could trade Sustr to another team for a fourth or fifth round pick and drop Reinhart from the trade.