It happened without fanfare, it happened without a big public address, but it happened just the same. The NHL season is cancelled for the foreseeable future and the players are locked out. For some, that means nothing but more uncertainty. Do they pack up their families, pull kinds out of school and chase a paycheck in Europe, do they spend a year away from their families if they can find a team to play for? Not every player will be able to find a team, and certainly not every player will feel comfortable with the risks of taking less pay and the risk of getting injured and forfeiting their NHL salary if the season can be salvaged.
For the Oilers, several players on entry level contracts (ELC) have been assigned to play in the AHL with the Oklahoma City Barons, some have accepted that they will not be playing hockey unless the NHL starts up again, and of course a few are making their way to various leagues in Europe.
Saturday’s deadline looms, and there isn’t much hope on the horizon. The Edmonton Oilers are split down the middle; guys who can’t afford to miss a year’s salary because they are in the final half of their careers, and guys who just starting their career and who can’t get rusty. And so none of the players look forward to any kind of work stoppage.
Currently, only Nail Yakupov has come out and said that he will play in Europe, the KHL more specifically should the NHL season be cancelled. The rest, many are preparing to receive an assignment to the AHL and the Oklahoma City Barons.
First overall 2012 draft pick Nail Yakupov is once again the headline in several Edmonton news stories, but not for his phenomenal play at the Perry Pearn’s 3 on 3 hockey camp. No, that’s not the Oiler way these days. It seems that Yakupov sustained a treadmill injury, quite simply we are told that he fell off after losing his balance. The first report of this story said that he received scrapes to his shin and unfortunately, but reasonably the cut inflicted by the treadmill, or hitting the floor became infected.
With all of the sweat and bacteria living in health clubs between cleaning it’s easy to understand how a minor injury can get a little more complicated, but the story itself seems to be getting a little more complicated after the Edmonton Sun reported that the Oilers say that Yakupov is in fact not recovering from anything and has resumed training once again.
Yakupov’s tweet last night seems to confirm that everything is in fact alright “Guys !) I’m ok !))) don’t worry !)))))))))))))).” So it’s back to CBA and contract extension watching we go.
It’s a familiar story, a player’s junior number is not available with their NHL team. What is a kid to do? Of course, he picks something different. For Nail Yakupov his familiar number 10 from the Sarnia Sting is currently in use by Shawn Horcoff, who is also the team captain. And so, according to reports from the Perry Pearn’s 3 on 3 tournament where Yakupov is currently representing the Oilers along with Ladislav Smid, Darcy Hordichuk and Tyler Fedun, we learn that Yakupov will be sporting the number 64. If you can’t remember the last time an Oiler wore 64 you’re forgiven, but most Oiler fans do remember one particular player who did.
The question has been on everyone’s minds for years; are Nail Yakupov and other high profile Russian born players a flight risk? Repeatedly Yakupov has answered no. But as circumstances around the NHL have changed, the question has continued to pop up. Still, Yakupov has said nothing other than “I want to play in the NHL.”
The wait was worth it. The deal is done. And the 2012 first overall draft pick Nail Yakupov has signed his entry level deal with the Edmonton Oilers. The deal is of course, completely as expected, the standard 3 year entry level deal with this year’s maximum allowable salary ($925,000) and bonuses (performance $2,850,000 and signing $92,500) all adding up to a cap hit of $3,775,000. And while Yakupov is now the third first overall pick signed by the Oilers in as many years, he is the one most likely to hit his targets and earn his bonuses, simply because he has a better team around him than poor Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
“It’s hard to pass up on offensive players” were the parting words that Oilers’ head of amateur scouting Stu MacGregor left me with. It seems he was sure that the Oilers would take Nail Yakupov the whole time as well. But I do admit that I wavered. A little. But not until the very end. The trouble is that GM Steve Tambellini holds his cards so incredibly close to his chest, it makes it difficult to be certain. You read between the lines a little too much, you search for answers in other places, and sometimes they’re not always right. What seems to be right, at this point in time is that the Oilers walked away from the first round with the best player available at this year’s NHL entry draft.
He’s not the most quotable player, but Nail Yakupov is certainly, without a doubt, the top player at this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Right up until the moment the Edmonton Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini stepped up to the podium the speculation remained. The Oilers need help on defence, but Yakupov seemed too good to pass up on. And it turns out he was.
Taylor or Tyler, RNH or Larsson, Yakupov or Murray? The debate is familiar, but this year it takes on a far different feel. Throughout the season, Nail Yakupov the Russian Winger playing for the Sarnia Sting was the consensus top pick between the scouting lists, and so when the Oilers won the draft, he easily became the focus of conversation. Afterall, why would the Oilers jump from 2 to 1 and take anything but the best player available? It seems that the Oilers have a different idea of who the best player available is. Maybe.
One day before he steps up to the draft podium to make his announcement, Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini is mum on what that decision is. But by looking at the past two drafts and by really listening to what Tambellini has to say, you can make a decision for yourself. For me, in a crowded hotel lobby in downtown Pittsburgh, Tambellini was saying the ‘pick is Yakupov, but I can’t just tell you that.’
About Oil Patch
Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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