This week's Capped digs into the Russians coming over to the NHL, and what we may be able to expect from them.
Having been away on vacation the first 10 days of May, I missed being able to give my thoughts on the rumours of all of these Russians coming back over from the KHL. What it did do was allow me to take a breath and really think about what I expected from these guys coming over, and honestly, at the time, I had no idea what to expect. Both contractually- and production-wise, this article, however, should touch on anything you need to know about the trio of Russians making the biggest waves in NHL news at this time.
Vadim Shipachyov (C) - Vegas Golden Knights
Cap Hit - $4,500,000
Starting with the Russian who actually has a contract, we have the second-ever signing by the Vegas Golden Knights, Vadim Shipachyov. Though he is penciled in right now as Vegas’ first line centre for their inaugural season, that could still change. It is possible Vegas manages to bring in a first line centre via the expansion draft, but regardless of how it shakes out, Shipachyov’s contract should guarantee a spot on one of the top two lines. Top line deployment is what Shipachyov needs in order to be a fantasy asset next season. Last season in the KHL, he averaged three points every two games; this season even if he averages half of that, it would be 0.75 points per game. Over an 80 game season, that means 60 points.
While Vegas is an expansion team, and forward is the thinnest pool of talent from which they get to choose, there are conflicting thought trains about whether this is a positive or a negative for Shipachyov. On one hand, there is more offensive ice time for Shipachyov, but on the other hand, there are less talented teammates with whom he will be sharing the ice. Even knocking off some points due to the lack of support, Shipachyov should be able to produce around a 50-point pace for next season.
Of the 94 forwards that scored 50+ points last season, only about a quarter of them had a salary less than $5 Million that was not a rookie deal. That puts Shipachyov in a possibly elite group of scoring bargains for cap leagues. Only time will tell if he can follow through on the potential, but the talent, opportunity and contract are there for him to be worth the risk/reward of an investment.
Ilya Kovalchuk (LW)
Before departing for the KHL, we knew exactly what we were getting from Ilya Kovalchuk, year in and year out. Then he left, with a lot of money still on the table, and fantasy owners were stuck holding a stock that had just crashed. Now it seems like a 50/50 chance we see Kovalchuk in the NHL again next season, and an even higher chance the year after. Kovalchuk has expressed his interest in returning to North America, but the biggest roadblock to overcome will be the fact that all 30 owners will have to approve his return if he wants to come back this year. New Jersey currently holds his rights, so Kovalchuk would have to first sign a contract there before there is a possibility that he could be trade elsewhere. The year after (the 2018-2019 season) Kovalchuk becomes eligible to return as a free agent, and can sign anywhere he pleases.
NHL general managers, as well as those in fantasy sports, are always looking for goal scorers. There are never enough to go around, so when one becomes available, it doesn’t matter if it is an organizational need, the manager needs to jump on the opportunity. This holds true in the Kovalchuk situation, regardless of the cost, as managers will be jumping over each other to try and get him on their team. However, the name value will likely be higher than the actual value. Kovalchuk can’t be expected to score 35+ goals anymore in the NHL. In the right situation though, he could put up 15 goals each at even strength and on the power play. He won’t hit 30 goals unless he gets the proper power play setup, so pay attention to where he signs.
The other number to consider is Kovalchuk’s contract. He won’t be leaving the comforts of Russia just to take a pay cut and join a contender. He is going to want a competitive offer. As mentioned above, Shipachyov comes over as a bit more of a question mark, and still got a two-year deal at $4.5 Million per year. The better benchmark may be the “prove-it” contract that Alexander Radulov signed last summer for $5.75 Million, as that would be both situationally and monetarily an equitable situation. Many teams would also be willing to take the risk on Kovalchuk at that price, and if you get the chance, so should you.
Evgeny Dadonov (LW)
Evgeny Dadonov is the big wildcard of these three. He has only 55 career games in the NHL over three seasons, most recently being five years ago in 2012 with the Florida Panthers. Dadonov is also not a sure thing to even sign to play in the league. That being said, he is certainly worth keeping an eye on, even at this stage, as he has the potential to be another big fantasy asset coming over from Russia. Dadonov has scored 158 points in 165 games over the last three seasons in the KHL. These are slightly lower numbers than Radulov, and very similar numbers to Artemi Panarin in each of his last three seasons in the KHL. Dadonov can’t be expected to replicate those types of numbers, especially right away, but the potential is there. All we have at this point is potential.
Projecting his potential is an educated guess for now, but a point every two games is a safe enough assumption. In Dadonov’s 55 career NHL games (where he averaged only 13 minutes of ice time per game) he amassed 61 hits. Additionally, Dadonov jumped to 39 penalty minutes in 53 games last season in the KHL, and was plus-33. That would be a nice bonus for the multi-category salary cap leagues. On the flip side, Dadonov’s shooting totals have been slightly lower than ideal, yet he still manages to score at impressive rates. Going into next season, the lower shot totals are a red flag with better goalies and tighter defence against Dadonov, bringing his shooting percentage down.
At this point the risk likely outweighs the reward, however there comes a point late in a draft or in an offseason when the cost is too cheap to pass up. If the cost in your case is low enough, then there is no harm in trying. At that point, you then have to hope Dadonov signs, and that he ends up somewhere that puts him in a good situation. His contract then becomes the most crucial factor, with under $4-million per season being the line that I draw for relevance (below which I like his value).
In the meantime, two of these Russians are playing in the World Hockey Championship. Dadonov is currently fifth on Russia in scoring, with seven points in seven games, while Shipachyov is tied for second on the team (and tied at second in the tournament for that matter) with 12 points in his team’s seven games. While this is a showcase that has Shipachyov playing with some very skilled wingers, it is a bit of a litmus test as to how they can stack up offensively against NHL level players. For comparison’s sake, Nathan MacKinnon leads Canada with 12 points in seven games, while Travis Konecny and Tyson Barrie each have seven points for Canada (Konecny in seven games, Barrie in three).
Find me on twitter: @alexdmaclean where I will try to keep you updated on the latest news regarding these KHL converts, as well as provising other hockey related musings.
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