Now we have a reason for why Nail Yakupov was absent during the Blues’ postseason run.
It’s safe to say that former first overall pick Nail Yakupov didn’t live up to expectations in his first season with the St. Louis Blues, playing in just 40 games while collecting three goals and six assists. Still, though, it was odd that he didn’t even participate in practices with the team during the postseason, largely disappearing after playing in a March 31 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche.
GM Doug Armstrong cleared up the situation during Tuesday’s season-ending press conference, saying that “Yakupov had surgery in the first round that was going to keep him out another four weeks, so he would have been a potential player in the finals.”
Armstrong didn’t get too specific regarding Yakupov’s injury, but he was dealing with a lower-body injury during the later part of the season. Obviously, since he was set to return within a month, it wasn’t something as serious as the torn ACL that Robby Fabbri suffered earlier this season.
According to CapFriendly.com, the Blues have just $4.47 million of cap space remaining for 2017-18, and they still have to work out new contracts with Colton Parayko and Magnus Paajarvi (assuming they choose to bring him back). While they’ll get some cap relief when they lose a player in the expansion draft–exactly how much relief is yet to be determined–the fact that they’re so close to the cap would seem to signify that it’s a near impossibility that they’ll tender Yakupov the $2.5 million-dollar deal they’d be required to offer him in order to retain his rights.
With that said, there’s not likely to be a ton of interest in the 23-year-old forward from other teams around the league, so if he wants to keep playing in North America, the Blues could probably non-tender him and bring him back on a much more team-friendly deal. It remains to be seen whether Yakupov would be willing to compete for a roster spot with an NHL club when he could be making much more going back home to Russia and playing in the KHL. If he does want to stay in North America, though, he’s young enough and showed enough potential when healthy this season that he’s probably a worthwhile long-term project for the Blues to take on.