WHERE IN THE WORLD IS YAKUPOV?

Jason Gregor
January 09 2013 09:24AM

Is Nail Yakupov staying in the KHL?

With Ilya Kovalchuk still on the roster for the KHL all-star game and Lubomir Visnovsky stating he's going to stay in the KHL rather than play for the New York Islanders, many Oilers fans are wondering if Yakupov will do the same.

The KHL might become an option for Yakupov in the future, but he'll be in Edmonton later this week and here's why.

Yakupov isn't a star like Ilya Kovalchuk, at least not yet. He hasn't scored one NHL goal, while Kovalchuk already has two 50-goal seasons and three 40-goal campaigns. In Russia, Yakupov doesn't possess the star power of a Kovalchuk or any of the other Russian stars who have succeeded in the NHL. The KHL desperately wants a proven NHL star to stay in their league to gain credibility amongst their fans.

If Yakupov has three solid seasons in the NHL, then I could see the KHL trying to bait him to come home with an enormous contract, but it won't happen now. The KHL is similar to the AHL in on-ice talent, except they pay their players more money. Paying them more money doesn't make the league better, and the owners and players know how competitive the league is.

Yakupov left Russia at 16 to play in the Ontario Hockey League. Last year he could have made played in the KHL and made significantly more money than he did with the Sarnia Sting, yet he chose the CHL because he felt that gave him the best chance to succeed in the NHL.

He and his family were in Edmonton this past summer and picked out a home to live in. He wants to be in Edmonton and the Oiler brass told me yesterday they expect him to arrive in Edmonton near the end of the week. Training camp likely will start on Sunday with physicals and then the first on-ice session will be Monday, so he doesn't need to be here until Saturday. The Oilers will get an update on Yakupov's ETA later today, but last night none of them expressed any concern that he wouldn't be coming to training camp.

Why would he play in the KHL now when he didn't do it last season? It makes no sense, but there is also the logistics of the NHL/KHL contract agreement.

"They (KHL) would not permit a player who is under a valid and binding NHL SPC (to) continue to play in the KHL once the lockout is officially lifted. They have confirmed their intention to honour this agreement to us," said Bill Daly on Tuesday in an email to the Associated Press.

Do you think Yakupov wants to damage his reputation and his dream of playing in the NHL? I seriously doubt it.

The key words are, "when the lockout is officially lifted." Until the NHLPA and NHL make the deal official, Kovalchuk isn't breaking any rules. He was getting paid huge money to play in the KHL, and his home country, and he wants to honour his deal as long as possible. The Devils might not like it, but they chose to lock him out on September 15th, and until he misses any NHL games he and the KHL aren't breaking any rules. The contract doesn't stipulate that players have to miss KHL games while the NHL and NHLPA take their sweet time ratifying the CBA.

The main reason Kovalchuk won't stay in the KHL is that he doesn't want to be suspended from international play by the IIHF. If he stayed in the KHL he wouldn't be able to play in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The Russian players are adamant they want to play in their home country, which I respect greatly, and there is no way Kovalchuk risks missing the Olympics by not honouring his NHL deal.

Once the 2014 Olympics are over, the KHL might try to entice him to stay, because legally there is nothing the NHL could do to force him to play. The Devils could sue for breach of contract, but the KHL team owner would cover it most likely. The courts can't force him to play in New Jersey.

I find it interesting that some people are irate at Kovalchuk for not dropping everything and jumping on the first plane to New Jersey, since many of these same fans said during the lockout that they were done with the NHL. Seems to me Kovaluchuk is taking a minor stand before showing up later this week.

Until now Kovalchuk has done nothing wrong, and I don't expect him to stay in the KHL, just like Oilers fans likely don't need to worry about Yakupov showing up for training camp.

He wants to play in the best league in the world, and the Oilers will welcome him with open arms when he arrives in Edmonton.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 I am the Liquor
January 09 2013, 09:37AM
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Valeri Nichushkin just dropped out of the first round.

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#2 Ales Hallsky
January 09 2013, 09:59AM
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I am the Liquor wrote:

64 is the number of people left in the world that still think Horcoff has value as a hockey player.

Wrong. Horc has great value, just not 5.5mil. He's a great 3rd line C. Or you could go with Belanger....

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#3 Mikey
January 09 2013, 10:08AM
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I am the Liquor wrote:

64 is the number of people left in the world that still think Horcoff has value as a hockey player.

Wrong. Horcoff is a great 3rd line centre. Who cares how much he makes. As it has zero effect on the roster. Who on the oilers battles harder not named Hall, Smid, or Smyth?

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#4 JL
January 09 2013, 10:36AM
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DSF wrote:

Wrong.

A good measure of how effective a player is would be his on ice Plus/Minus/60.

Of all the forwards in the NHL last season who played a minimum of 70 games, Horcoff was 227th at -1.04.

There were only 10 players in the entire league who delivered a worse number.

While some of that stat can be attributed to a weak team defense, it's pretty clear that Horcoff is NOT part of the solution.

What about QoC?

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#5 The Soup Fascist
January 09 2013, 01:34PM
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sasha wrote:

Anybody else offended Nail is going to be wearing Jason Bonsignore's old #64?

I am pissed. I was keeping that number open for potential free agent signing Mike Commodore*.

*Hopefully the odd Nation'er over 40 years old finds that at least a little funny.

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#6 geoilersgist
January 09 2013, 09:38AM
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I still don't understand why people get so upset over these little things. You hit the Nail on the head*

*That one is for Gene

Man I'm glad hockey is back

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#7 I am the Liquor
January 09 2013, 10:06AM
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@Ales Hallsky

Belanger is actually better on the dot and defensively.

Horcoff is a boil on the Oiler's ass.

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#8 DSF
January 09 2013, 10:13AM
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Ales Hallsky wrote:

Wrong. Horc has great value, just not 5.5mil. He's a great 3rd line C. Or you could go with Belanger....

Wrong.

A good measure of how effective a player is would be his on ice Plus/Minus/60.

Of all the forwards in the NHL last season who played a minimum of 70 games, Horcoff was 227th at -1.04.

There were only 10 players in the entire league who delivered a worse number.

While some of that stat can be attributed to a weak team defense, it's pretty clear that Horcoff is NOT part of the solution.

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#9 Cheap Shot Charlie
January 09 2013, 11:55AM
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@DSF

But if you look into the TPW you'll find drastically different numbers. In the top 37 NHL players you have:

Crosby: 38.9 Malkin: 36.1 Backes: 31.0 Datsyuk: 29.8 Seguin: 29.7 Horcoff: 28.8 Briere: 28.7 .... Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 20.1 Gabrielle Landeskog: 15.7 Daniel Sedin: 15.6

Then if you add in there RPM (Horcoff was 4.7) you'll see that you come up with a very impressive MPS. That's not even counting that the Oilers were sitting 27th last year in TNA.

I'd suggest that Horcoff is a much better player than you would be GM. But that's solely based on your HIQ (Horcoff tested at 121). Any thoughts?

Oh, and I'm just pulling random numbers out of my ass and making up unfounded stat categories that don't have any baring on the ice to make my point. If I didn't do that than no one would bother responding to you. So, in conclusion, you're welcome! Now, it looks like someone cares about what you say! :)

*HUG*

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#10 stevezie
January 09 2013, 01:09PM
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Nothing to comment on here, Gregor already said it all.

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#11 RexLibris
January 09 2013, 02:14PM
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I was wondering if leaving Yakupov over in the KHL might not be the best thing for the player and the team, long-term.

It delays the initiation of his ELC by a year rather than wasting one year on a half-season, lets him develop at a pro level for another year, and stops the perennial "this is our newest 1st overall pick" syndrome.

Delaying that ELC by a year could be a crucial step in building this team. And it isn't as though they'll be lacking wingers.

Just a thought.

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#12 Rama Lama
January 09 2013, 04:14PM
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Nail is not your typical Russian, he is from a region in Russia where being Russian is not necessairly a positive thing.

I think of the few Russian players who want to start a new lifein a new land, Nail could be counted in that group.

Once surrounded by guys his own age and with the same passion for hockey, Nail will eventually become a true Oiler and then a Canadian!

He will keep the writer busy which is a good thing given the lockout!

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#13 David
January 09 2013, 09:31AM
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Exactly. Good article.

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#14 Wretched Oil
January 09 2013, 09:34AM
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I got baited there

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#15 Czar
January 09 2013, 09:35AM
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Kovy can stay there as long as he likes but Yak,you better get your a$$ to rexall comrade. Do you know what number he'll be wearing Gregor?

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#16 K-UGER Industrial Smoothing
January 09 2013, 09:41AM
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Yes comrades, me and Nail are on way to snowtown Edmonton soon. Putin tried convincing us that we stay but we laugh.

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#17 Will
January 09 2013, 09:41AM
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Czar wrote:

Kovy can stay there as long as he likes but Yak,you better get your a$$ to rexall comrade. Do you know what number he'll be wearing Gregor?

He will be wearing #64 since #10 is not available. 6+4.

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#18 I am the Liquor
January 09 2013, 09:49AM
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64 is the number of people left in the world that still think Horcoff has value as a hockey player.

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#19 Quintin Rowe
January 09 2013, 10:00AM
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@Czar

Yakupov is # 64 And I have a white jersey of him

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#20 Jonathan Willis
January 09 2013, 10:13AM
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Nice piece, Jason.

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#21 Dave
January 09 2013, 10:22AM
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If he stays behind we will have listen to Stauffer tell us all season that the Oilers should have picked Ryan Murray.

Perhaps we can appeal to his vanity .. not gritty enough to play in the NHL .

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#22 dawgtoy
January 09 2013, 10:24AM
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@DSF

DSF, for once you and I finally agree.

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#23 Rick
January 09 2013, 10:34AM
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Although I don't think Kovalchuk will actually stay behind, I would love to see it happen.

Add Vishnovsky, Markov and any other NHL player that has entertained that idea in there as well.

Any added angst, labour dispute or other unintended consequence to the NHL as a result of the lockout should only help dissuade a future willingness to go down a similar road in the future.

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#24 Dave
January 09 2013, 10:35AM
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Check his twitter . Maybe the Oilers should give Natasha Bliss a job as a "ice girl" ... might be an incentive.

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#25 Truth
January 09 2013, 10:46AM
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Don't mean to jack the thread but McKenzie is tweeting Burke has been fired. Ha.

Yakupov will be in town, not to worry.

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#26 Dave Lumley
January 09 2013, 10:51AM
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We will see if Kovalchuk will actually show up. I mean, yes he will phyically be in New Jersey, but will he show up? Not so sure.

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#27 DSF
January 09 2013, 10:53AM
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JL wrote:

What about QoC?

34th.

The much maligned Olli Jokinen and David Backes faced the toughest competition in the league last season and had similar zone starts to Horcoff.

Jokinen - 82GP 23G 38A 61P -12

Backes - 82GP 24G 30A 54P +15

Horcoff - 81GP 13G 21A 24P -23

One of these is not like the others.

Worth noting that both Jokinen and Backes had positive faceoff percentages while Horcoff was below 50%

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#28 Sanaa Montana
January 09 2013, 11:38AM
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DSF wrote:

34th.

The much maligned Olli Jokinen and David Backes faced the toughest competition in the league last season and had similar zone starts to Horcoff.

Jokinen - 82GP 23G 38A 61P -12

Backes - 82GP 24G 30A 54P +15

Horcoff - 81GP 13G 21A 24P -23

One of these is not like the others.

Worth noting that both Jokinen and Backes had positive faceoff percentages while Horcoff was below 50%

HOLY #@$%.!..Horcoff Sucks.!..

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#29 Time Travelling Sean
January 09 2013, 11:51AM
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The few things Horc were good at... tsk.

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#30 DSF
January 09 2013, 11:58AM
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@Cheap Shot Charlie

Your spelling is improving.

Good work!

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#32 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
January 09 2013, 12:43PM
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How the heck is Steve Tambellini going to be able to decide if Yakupov will make his club inside a 5 day training camp window?

Have Steve's decision making skills joined the 21st century?

He's pencilled into the starting lineup because there's still so many holes on his roster, is much more likely.

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#33 OILERSORDEATH
January 09 2013, 12:52PM
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DSF wrote:

Wrong.

A good measure of how effective a player is would be his on ice Plus/Minus/60.

Of all the forwards in the NHL last season who played a minimum of 70 games, Horcoff was 227th at -1.04.

There were only 10 players in the entire league who delivered a worse number.

While some of that stat can be attributed to a weak team defense, it's pretty clear that Horcoff is NOT part of the solution.

@ DSF

I actually have to agree with you for once!

*lays down head and cries*

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#34 Cheap Shot Charlie
January 09 2013, 12:56PM
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DSF wrote:

Your spelling is improving.

Good work!

Thank you. I never thought that I'd learn so much in my 4th time through grade 9. It's nice to be acknowledged! :)

You are such an inspiration! *HUG*

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#35 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
January 09 2013, 01:08PM
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I remember Brownlee nearly banned me 2 yrs ago for referring to the Horcoff line as "The donut line".

Good times...for fans trying to tell the Oilers how to do their job.

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#36 sasha
January 09 2013, 01:10PM
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Anybody else offended Nail is going to be wearing Jason Bonsignore's old #64?

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#37 Clarkenstein
January 09 2013, 01:20PM
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Get his ass here...leave his mouth there.

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#38 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
January 09 2013, 01:47PM
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sasha wrote:

Anybody else offended Nail is going to be wearing Jason Bonsignore's old #64?

Also applicable when that #10 transfers onto his back as well.

.....Shawn who?

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#39 Cowbell_Feva
January 09 2013, 01:55PM
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Hopefully Horcoff passes the torch and gives up his Captaincy and #10 so that Smytty can wear the "C" and Yakupov wear #10.

Can't wait to see line combinations! Ralph, do not put Horcoff top 6 or on the PP.

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#40 Oilertown
January 09 2013, 02:39PM
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RexLibris wrote:

I was wondering if leaving Yakupov over in the KHL might not be the best thing for the player and the team, long-term.

It delays the initiation of his ELC by a year rather than wasting one year on a half-season, lets him develop at a pro level for another year, and stops the perennial "this is our newest 1st overall pick" syndrome.

Delaying that ELC by a year could be a crucial step in building this team. And it isn't as though they'll be lacking wingers.

Just a thought.

Would be a good idea except for the fact I have been worried as crap about him this whole lockout getting too comfortable over there and maybe just staying for good.

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#41 MAC962
January 09 2013, 02:58PM
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So - whats with the trade rumour Bob Staufer was talking about ? Is it true no trades can happen until the NHlPA Ratifies this ? Is that true boys ? I still expect something to happen more than ever with the shortened season. Being die hard Oil i know , but i really Think the Oil have a good shot of hitting the post season...

Do you remember what the playoffs feel like ? Man its awesome. I am waiting to see what happens and book my vacation accordingly. I work in the Arctic and am gone for 2 weeks at a time and....

I AINT MISSING MY OILERS IN THE PLAYOFFS !!

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#42 MOC962
January 09 2013, 03:00PM
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Also- what happened to Ryan Jones ? Been away , can someone update me..

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#43 Reg Dunlop
January 09 2013, 03:51PM
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An interview with a Russian-in-the-know on Gregor's radio show today featured the line:

'Yakupov is as far from Bure as I am from the moon' attributed to Boris Mikhailov. Not encouraging news, especially when he was referring to Valeri.

So, where is Nail? Who knows. Where will he be in a week? Hopefully on the ice elsewhere after he is traded. Deal him while the dealing is good, before he becomes a distraction... sulking with limited ice-time and not being the focus of the offence. Da da Canada, nyet, nyet soviet.

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#45 Walter Sobchak
January 09 2013, 04:59PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

Nail is not your typical Russian, he is from a region in Russia where being Russian is not necessairly a positive thing.

I think of the few Russian players who want to start a new lifein a new land, Nail could be counted in that group.

Once surrounded by guys his own age and with the same passion for hockey, Nail will eventually become a true Oiler and then a Canadian!

He will keep the writer busy which is a good thing given the lockout!

Well said Rama. Props.

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#46 Walter Sobchak
January 09 2013, 05:03PM
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Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

Also applicable when that #10 transfers onto his back as well.

.....Shawn who?

My wife bought me Yakupov Home retro # 64.

I told her it was a waste of money, next year I'll be buying another Yakupov jersey # 10.

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#47 @Oilanderp
January 09 2013, 05:05PM
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@RexLibris

I was thinking the same thing too but there's no way it should be done. After all, we aren't dealing with elc's and numbers here, but actual real human beings. We need to get Yakupov in with the rest of the boys and get that chemistry going. They are our future after after all. The sooner we can invite him into our family the better.

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#48 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
January 09 2013, 07:13PM
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All this Kovalchuk is staying in Russia talk is premature. He'll play in the KHL Allstar game and be back in plenty of time to suit up for the Joysey Devils season opener. He's already in game shape and missing nothing by missing a few days of training camp. Surprised a few more didn't stay on another week.

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#49 Chet134
January 09 2013, 07:33PM
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Other than our young stars who can we trade and get a significate player back. Hemsky, horcoff, smyth, Whitney either r injury prone, old or make too much money. If people remember at the end of last year, Gagner called out the vets for not accepting their roles (ie horkoff, smyth, Belanger, eager) and it was a huge distraction in the room. If he is such a great asset then why didnt he keep the room in check. That's a sign of a good captain and why would they give smyth the captaincy when hes going to be gone in one or two years. When it come to yak, he's 18 yrs and think of how mature u were at that age. Let's give the kid a chance to succeed or fail. Settle down people.

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