Remember a few days ago Nail Yakupov was reported to make his KHL debut this Wednesday? Well, it never happened. The IIHF isn’t willing to give a nod to the former Sarnia Sting forward to play for his hometown team. Neftekhimik’s GM, Rafik Yakubov, is understandably infuriated with the fact and openly blames OHL club for interfering with the deal.
‘KHL registered our contract with Yakupov, but IIHF says that contract like this become legitimate only after a week,’ Yakubov told Sport-Express. ‘I think Sarnia, Nail’s former team, is trying to get in our way. Although, KHL vice-president Vladimir Shalaev told me everything is going to be okay. They don’t believe us when we tell them Yakupov has a one-way contract with the Oilers, so he can’t be sent down to a farm team. This is what makes this complicated.’
Would you believe Mr. Yakubov if you were the IIHF? No, because why would you? Nail Yakupov was signed by the Oilers to standard entry-level contract, which is a 2-way deal by default. End of story. However, since Yakupov was drafted as a CHL import player he can’t play in the AHL and was rightfully sent back to his junior club when the lockout came into being.
Having said this, it is still unclear how the Sting would interfere with the deal. The motive is there, but there’s no evidence to back this theory up. The whole ordeal apparently confused Nail himself judging by the following quote.
‘I made up my mind right away,’ said Yakupov to Business-Online. ‘I told [the Oilers] I’d either play in the NHL or KHL. No AHL. Of course, I wanted to play in the NHL, but then lockout happened. However, I also wanted to play in Nizhnekamsk, so I’m happy to have the opportunity.’
Neftekhimik’s head-coach Vladimir Golubovich shined some light on when should Nizhnekamsk fans expect to see Yakupov in a blue and black jersey. He also shared what line he is going to be on.
‘The kid wants to play badly. Which is good because we just lost two forwards to injuries. Maxim Pestushko and Jan Kolar are going to be sidelined for about two months. Considering this, we will probably put Nail on a line with [Andrei] Subbotin and [Alex] Komaristy. It’s a bit early to speak about it, though, as Yakupov is not officially signed yet. We go easy on him. We let him rest from the jetlag. Acclimatization should be treated with gently. The earliest Nail can play is Saturday when Neftekhimik is playing against Traktor at home’. Subbotin is a 39-year-old veteran LW, who won KHL Faith to Hockey Award last season, while Komaristy is 22-year-old center, whom North American fans could remember from WJC’09 in Ottawa. This means Yakupov is likely to play on a third line.
Nevertheless, Nail isn’t sure himself when he’s finally going to lace’em up.
‘I can’t say anything for certain at this point,’ admitted Yakupov. ‘I’m dealing with paperwork. I’m just going to practice here and wait. I know pretty much everybody on the team, including managers and media officer. They welcomed me here very warmly. I’m glad. I know a few guys on Neftekhimik because I played with them on [a junior team] Reaktor – Igor Bortnikov, brothers Stanislav and Yaroslav Alshevsky, Maxim Berezin, Petr Khokhryakov…’.
When asked about Edmonton and Oilers fans, Yakupov said he feels their pain.
‘The city is obsessed with hockey,’ he said. ‘Out there everyone is frustrated with the league and NHLPA because they can’t come to an agreement. I know how the fans are out there, I know how they cheer, I know how worried they are that the season hasn’t started yet. It’s a huge deal for Edmonton. The city doesn’t have either a baseball team, nor a football team, nor a basketball team unlike many other cities.’
And this is how we know Nail doesn’t follow CFL.
If he did, he’d know the Eskimos are playing the Lions on the same Saturday he may finally play a hockey game. If IIHF would let him do this, he’s going to go head-to-head with his line-mate at the latest World Juniors – Evgeny Kuznetsov.
The puck drops at 7am Edmonton time if you’re interested.