We’re finally here, the first real game in franchise history, Vegas Golden Knights vs. Dallas Stars. Starting on the first line for the Golden Knights will be Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and… Oscar Lindberg?
That’s right, Vadim Shipachyov, who has been playing exclusively with Smith and Marchessault throughout all of training camp and the preseason is not only not on the top line, he’s not even on the opening night roster. In fact, Vadim Shipachyov isn’t even in Dallas!
Can confirm Vadim Shipachyov is NOT in Dallas. Where exactly he is, that we do not know at this point.
— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) October 6, 2017
This whole chain of events started with Shipachyov being sent down to the AHL in what appeared to be a complicated roster maneuver to outsmart the waiver process. The thought was, the Golden Knights would make a roster move, which they did by waiving Calvin Pickard, and Shipachyov would be added back to the roster. Instead, the charade now continues as the Golden Knights activated James Neal off IR and he will fit into a line with David Perron and Cody Eakin.
We assigned Theodore, Tuch, and Shipachyov (to the AHL)… because we could. They did not require waivers. We are doing roster maneuvering with our roster like many clubs are at this time of year and we will see where this goes in the next few days. -George McPhee
As we’ve seemingly been trying to do the past few days now, let’s try to give some background to this “roster maneuvering.”
As McPhee said, Shipachyov is waiver exempt. If you read SinBin.vegas often you probably know this, but if you don’t, that’s a fancy way of saying, “can move a player to the AHL without any risk of losing him to another club.” So that’s what the Golden Knights did. But when they opened the roster spot, they went with an injured (and still pretty badly, we believe) Neal instead of Shipachyov. This is the perplexing part.
The first big question is, whether or not Shipachyov will ever play a game with the Chicago Wolves. He’s technically on the roster for the Wolves in their game tonight, ironically, a few hours up the road in Austin playing the Texas Stars. Making an educated guess, we do not believe he will NOT play in that game, nor will he play in tomorrow’s Wolves game either.
Then we get to the interesting part, where we move on down the road. The most obvious solution is that McPhee would make a trade and/or place a player on waivers to open a roster spot back up for Shipachyov. But what if that doesn’t happen?
How long can this go on? Will the $9M man spend any significant amount of time playing in the AHL? Are they waiting for an injury? Is there a deal nearly in place that just didn’t quite get done in time?
The answers to those questions remain unknown. However, the decision to leave Shipachyov off the NHL roster in the first game in franchise history hammers home a point about McPhee’s belief system on the 2017-18 season.
This season doesn’t matter.
Winning and losing in 2017-18 simply isn’t important to the general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights. He’s got one of his top five players off the roster for a day (so far) so he can protect the likes of Griffin Reinhart, Brad Hunt, Tomas Nosek, and Brendan Leipsic. He has Theodore and Tuch in the AHL, two of the major pieces to the future of the Golden Knights down there with Shippy for the same reason.
Just like he did with Expansion Draft rules, waiver order, the free agency window, or the players he’s acquired to this point, the 2017-18 season is an asset. The combination of time, roster spots, and the lack of pressure to compete allows McPhee to tinker with the roster in ways a team with aspirations of winning simply cannot do.
It’s why he could trade Marc Methot for a 2nd round pick three years from now, he could claim a 23-year-old goalie who he himself says is “not quite ready to play at this level,” and he can take on $10M+ of cap space in injured players in exchange for a few picks.
McPhee cares not about winning now. He cares about making the playoffs in three and hoisting the Stanley Cup before The Creator turns 80. Leaving Shipachyov behind is just another example of that.