by PuckStopsHere on 09/28/12 at 10:52 PM ET
A little over a week ago I wrote about Nail Yakupov's transfer papers to play in the KHL during the lockout. At that time Yakupov's agent Igor Larionov was publicly complaining that the NHL was preventing his transfer to play in Europe during the lockout. Yakupov, the top pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft selected by the Edmonton Oilers wanted to play for his hometown team Neftekhmik Nizhnekamsk in the KHL during the lockout.
At this time Szymon Szemberg of the International Ice Hockey Federation refuted the claims by saying that it takes seven days for his agency to complete transfer papers. There was nothing special going on in Yakupov's case. It was just an inefficient bureaucracy taking longer than it should. That should be enough to make us wonder if the IIHF is serving any purpose when it comes to its paperwork regarding player transfers between countries but it turns out it is much worse than that. Szemberg was either lying or misinformed. Hockey Canada is preventing Yakupov's transfer to play in Russia and quite likely the Edmonton Oilers are on their side.
UPDATE: The next morning Hockey Canada signed off on Yakupov's transfer, so the IIHF is processing it and he can play in the KHL.
Yakupov has played for the Sarnia Sting in the OHL for the past two seasons. He signed an entry level contract with the Edmonton Oilers after being drafted. Players on entry level contracts can be sent to the minors without clearing waivers and without having to be paid their NHL salary. In fact junior age players who are sent back to junior do not even have the year count toward their contract. That is where Yakupov finds himself. Therefore Yakupov is not considered an NHL player (and Wade Redden who is paid an NHL salary but hasn't played in the NHL since 2010 is considered one). If he is not an NHL player he is not locked out and he is not being allowed to play in Russia. In the 2004 lockout there was a minor controversy when Alexander Semin played in Russia when he was told to report to the AHL by the Washington Capitals. In this lockout some teams have allowed players who they are allowed to send to the AHL to play in Europe but Yakupov is not going to get that favor.
Yakupov played two KHL games before the story broke and he was suspended by the KHL. Yakupov says he does not want to return to play in Sarnia.
Essentially this problem is one of bureaucracy. First the IIHF is shown to be ineffective and useless and spreading misinformation. Second Hockey Canada, the OHL, the Sarnia Sting and the Edmonton Oilers all look bad. We all know that Yakupov would be playing in the NHL were there an NHL to play in and this is being denied due to contractual loopholes. While I understand that Sarnia wants him back as soon as possible to help their team, they should know that absent a lockout there was no chance he was coming back. The difference between a lockout with Yakupov playing in Russia and no lockout with Yakupov playing in the NHL means nothing to them. The Edmonton Oilers, if they wanted to keep Yakupov happy (and he may be a future superstar with the team so it is an intelligent thing to do) should be intervening to allow him to do what he wants. There is needless bureaucracy regarding what country players must play in is unnecessary. The NHL and KHL are respecting each other's contracts. The current situation is making nobody happy.
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