To the surprise of no one, the Nail Yakupov camp is apparently adamant that the NHL's No. 1 overall pick will not return to the Sarnia Sting.
The Sting are the only team Yakupov is eligible to play for. However, Puck Daddy's Dmitry Chesnokov relayed a report from Russia where the 18-year-old's dad, Rail Yakupov, seemed upset at the Sting and his son's agent Igor Larionov. (And why not?)
The feeling I got after reading Yakupov Sr's quotes is that he doesn't quite understand NHL-CHL contracts.
— Dmitry Chesnokov (@dchesnokov) September 28, 2012
This is the original quote from Rail Yakupov which appeared in Tatarstan's Business Online written Sergei Gavrilov and translated from the original Russian by Chesnokov.
"There is a unique situation here — the first overall NHL draft pick in 2012 Nail Yakupov cannot play in the AHL because of his age. Formally my son signed a two-way contract with Edmonton, that is set to take effect from the next NHL season. But actually at this time this agreement is a one way one — Nail can play either for Edmonton, or the KHL. It so happened that Edmonton let my son go to Neftekhimik without any issues, and then Nail's old club Sarnia butted in. Why and what do they want, this is unclear. I don't want to blame anyone, but it seems that someone is simply cheating in this situation, and we have an idea who exactly it is — our Russian speaking acquaintances in America. The investigation is fully underway. But it is difficult to say when and how everything will be resolved. I can only reiterate one thing — according to our contract with Edmonton, Nail should not go to the junior league. Everything is over with it, and Sarnia knows about it very well. My son will not go to Sarnia. Even if he is (disqualified from the KHL), he will continue training in Nizhnekamsk. And I will certainly announce the last names of those who misinformed us so badly, but a little later. At this time (Igor) Larionov is Nail's agent. What happens in the future, I don't know yet… I don't have anything more to say at this time. This is a very unpleasant situation."
There were rumblings last year that the elder Yakupov was none too pleased (a difficult to please hockey dad, really?) about the course of his son's season with the Sting. Nail Yakupov was limited to 42 games by back and knee injuries, which jeopardized his chances of being drafted No. 1 overall. (Or would have if teammate Alex Galchenyuk hadn't been injured as well and/or there had been another top Canadian forward at the top of the 2012 draft class.) That's all part of the game, but one can imagine Rail Yakupov wishing to blame the team.
Ideally, there is a resolution soon that will let Yakupov league games somewhere prior to the world junior championship in Russia. Keep in mind this is someone who is still one week shy of turning 19, being kept from doing what he was put on earth to do. There is a lot of blame to go around; the only body that hasn't been blamed ironically seems to the National Hockey League, which can't hash out a collective bargaining agreement without first locking out the players.
The Sting have the only solid legal ground at this point. That's not going to have much sway over people's emotions. Including Yakupov's father. Perhaps this is a case for the CHLPA?
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.