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.

  • geoilersgist

    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

      • DSF


        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


            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%

          • Cheap Shot Charlie

            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! 🙂


          • Cheap Shot Charlie

            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*

  • 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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    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.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    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.

  • RexLibris

    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.

    • Oilertown

      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.

    • 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.

  • Oilertown

    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….


  • Reg Dunlop

    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.

    • Jason Gregor

      He wasn’t referring to Valeri, and saying he isn’t as good one of the most electrifying players to ever play isn’t that surprising. Few are.

      It is asinine for you to suggest he is a pouter, or a distraction. I’d argue you and all those offended by his comments are way too thin-skinned.

      If he lights it up, I hope you stay true to your disdain. No one likes a turncoat.

      • Reg Dunlop

        First off, as a loyal listener to your show I am well aware that the Bure being referenced wasn’t Val but the slight against Yak is funnier that way. I was not joking about Yak being a potential problem in the room, however. If things don’t pan out here, remember… you heard it here first. If he wins the Calder then I will happily admit I was dead wrong. Reminds me of a young player I once knew named Ned Braden…

        • Jason Gregor

          I remember last year people saying RNH was a bad pick cause he didn’t produce points for Red Deer in the playoffs.

          Then all of them ate crow…

          I’m perplexed by those who think Yakupov won’t play hard or that he has an attitude problem because he said the truth. Canada does play dirty compared to the European style.

          He’ll have some growing pains for sure, but Krueger likes him and as long as Yak learns from the inevitable mistakes he makes he’ll be successful.

          • Jason Gregor

            I was one of the one campaigning against selecting RNH,………I am very, very, happy to be proved wrong in this case.

            I sat on the fence when it came to Yakupov, and I hope people give him a chance. Ultimately he can silence his critics by putting up some points and playing a team game. It’s too bad that the coaching for Russia at the world junior concentrated so much of it’s efforts on letting the star play their game, at the expense of a team approach.

            I beleive Nail will shine under Krueger’s strong team first approach.

  • Reg Dunlop

    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!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    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.

  • 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.

  • Quicksilver ballet


    Just wanted to say thanks for the great article. Not only was it well written, you were bang on because Yakupov is in town now. You have been in on lots of scoops and some very good stories lately, just wanted to say great job. Keep it up.

    Go Oil…I’m guessing Yak scores a goal his first game and Schultz gets an assist…Will be a great year.I think we are going to finish 6th in west. A guy can dream.

  • ginganinja

    Hes here! Hes here! Assigned a stall between Smid and Hemsky. Make him feel at home between two of his countryme…… Wait. Do czechs and russians speak the same language?

  • ginganinja

    Hes here! Hes here! Assigned a stall between Smid and Hemsky. Make him feel at home between two of his countryme…… Wait. Do czechs and russians speak the same language?

    • The Soup Fascist

      They are exactly the same, except that Czechs hate Russians. Bunch of whiners – a measly 40 years of oppression and one little dust-up with tanks rolling through downtown Prague.

      Good thing is yak is not really a Ruskie. He is a Tatar. They probably were persecuted for their faith and love of yummy sauce for fish.