When George McPhee landed KHL standout Vadim Shipachyov as the second-ever Vegas Golden Knights player this week, his primary motivation was to bring in the kind of highly skilled center that would difficult to find in the expansion draft and to lure in NHL free agency.
“They are very, very hard to find. There were other NHL teams involved. We made our pitch,” he said on Friday, one day after inking the SKA Saint Petersburg center to a two-year contract worth an average annual salary of $4.5 million.
Shipachyov, 30, has played in the KHL since 2008. He won back-to-back titles with sKA, notching 76 points in 50 games last season.
But there’s an ancillary benefit here for Vegas, potentially. Like any high-stakes poker game on the Strip, there needs to be a buy-in from players that the Golden Knights are a viable destination for their talents.
“If this adds to the appeal of Las Vegas to other free agents, that’s a benefit to us. We just wanted to sign a good player. But now that it happened, it may have that effect. The allure of coming to Vegas might have increased,” said McPhee.
Maybe it’ll be alluring enough to bring over another SKA star.
Evgeny Dadonov, 28, played 55 games with the Florida Panthers from 2009-12 before heading to the KHL. He blossomed there into a solid scoring threat on right wing, with 66 points in 53 games last season.
There are reports that the Golden Knights are in talks with him. So what’s the deal?
“I don’t know I’ll be able to get a deal done. I don’t know if he’s coming over,” said McPhee.
But if he decided to head to he NHL? “I think it’s logical to assume that he wants to come here, because his teammate and friend is here,” he said.
So as the Golden Knights look to Russia for help next season, McPhee is also gearing up for next month’s expansion draft. The inquiries from teams about making side deals with Vegas are at the volume that McPhee figured they’d be. But as for what their approach in the draft will be, McPhee says that’s wait and see.
“We need to see that whole universe of what’s exposed,” he said. “Until we see what’s there, it’s hard for me to tell you what’s there.”
One of the questions swirling around the Golden Knights before their inaugural season: Will they attempt to acquire any players with name recognition? An attraction? Someone you can put in the poster, as it were?
McPhee said acquiring a star is only going to happen if that player fits what the Knights are trying to build.
“My job is to put together a good hockey team. And if I put one together, the marketing department should have an easier job. It’s not about names for me. It’s about talent,” he said.
“I’m not necessarily looking for the face of the franchise. The logo is the face of the franchise.”
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