Well, that was fast. On Monday the Edmonton Oilers announced that 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov had agreed to a two-year contract extension with the team.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) April 13, 2015
The club did not release contract terms when they announced the deal, but TSN’s Ryan Rishaug offered a good guess early and then Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman revealed the final figure:
I’d expect Yakupov extension to be in the range of 2.3 to 2.5 million per season give or take.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) April 13, 2015
Yakupov is 2 years, $2.5M AAV
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 13, 2015
It’s a departure from Edmonton’s usual treatment of its top young players. The Oilers have typically preferred long-term, big-money deals early, as we saw with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Yakupov is a different player and has had a more difficult learning curve than that trio, so the Oilers have wisely opted to take a more cautious approach in his case.
Yakupov’s combination of physical skills is obvious. He’s a gifted skater, plays an energetic physical game and his shot sets him apart as a special player, even if it’s a talent he hasn’t truly harnessed yet. We started to see him used more effectively on the power play in the latter half of the year, and he got a nice bump early playing with Derek Roy (though the Oilers both can and should look into upgrading Yakupov’s centre). The potential is clear, and it seems he’s beginning to realize it.
He’s also a combined minus-68 over the last two seasons. There are a lot of reasons for that which aren’t necessarily on Yakupov, but hockey sense and playing within a team structure have not been strengths in his early career, and I can only imagine what his tendency to carry the puck into traffic in the defensive zone is doing to the cardiac health of his coaches and managers. For all his ability, he’s still a flawed player who needs veteran mentors on the ice and a coach willing to work through his unique approach to the game. He seemed to be getting that treatment late in the year; it’s imperative that it continue.
The good news for Oilers fans today is that the team hasn’t given up. Yakupov is sealed for two more seasons, and Edmonton will retain control of his rights for two more years after that. The price-point in the here-and-now is reasonable under the circumstances, particularly if Yakupov continues to grow as a player.
All-in-all it’s not a bad day for the team or the player. Because of the uniqueness of the situation, these negotiations had at least the potential to go sideways, but both parties seem interested in making this marriage work.
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