by Lisa Brown on 08/20/12 at 12:00 AM ET
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.”
While no player hopes that they will find themselves looking for a new contract for the next season, it is especially worrisome for a player who hasn’t yet cracked the NHL roster. Should Yakupov even dream of playing in the KHL, which is something that he has repeatedly said he has no plans of doing, what if he were to be injured, what if something were to happen and it affected his NHL career? That’s something else Yakupov doesn’t want to even think about.
Although we are all wondering whether or not there will even be a season, Yakupov is counting on there being one. And to prove it, he’s in Edmonton house hunting and preparing for training camp.
What I found the most alarming from Yakupov’s comments were that he had only meant Ryan Nugent-Hopkins briefly at the draft and since then he has yet to meet anyone. We do have to keep in mind that this availability was shortly after Yakupov had landed in Edmonton and that of course Yakupov has had a busy summer including playing for Team Russia in the Canada Russia Challenge. So it’s not exactly like Yakupov has been waiting by the phone and no one is calling. And his just arriving in town would also explain his lack of autograph requests. In a hockey mad city like Edmonton, the requests will come.
Hopefully the NHL and the PA will be able to come to an agreement, sooner rather than later. Because at the end of the day, they are only hurting themselves. The league has made great leaps forward in terms of garnering attention in some of the southern markets, and then of course there are teams like the New Jersey Devils that are in precarious money positions and another year lost to negotiations with the last lockout still in recent memory will hurt the players and the owners alike. But of course we all know that, we all know what a lockout means and unfortunately we all know how to brace for it.
But again, it’s the players like Nail Yakupov who may be most affected. To be so close and yet so far from their NHL dreams, and to be faced, constantly with the questions of his intentions to stay in North America must all be maddening. While Yakupov may have no intentions of going to the KHL, if he is asked that question every day, all day, then who knows he might make the move just to stop the questions. But let’s just focus on the coming season happening, even if it’s just delayed or shortened.
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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.
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