In a not-too-shocking development, Nail Yakupov won’t be back with the Blues next season.
As Mike Chambers of The Denver Post first reported Tuesday, the Colorado Avalanche have signed forward Nail Yakupov to a one-year contract. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the deal is worth $875,000. This news is relevant to St. Louis Blues fans, obviously, because Yakupov spent the 2016-17 season with the Blues after being acquired for a third-round pick last October.
The 23-year-old winger, a former No. 1 overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers, didn’t make much of an impact in St. Louis, collecting just three goals and six assists in 40 games. He had season-ending knee surgery shortly before the playoffs began, negating his ability to recover his reputation in postseason playing and creating opportunities for younger and cheaper forwards like Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford.
Yakupov was non-tendered by the Blues late last month, which made it extremely unlikely that he’d return to St. Louis for the 2017-18 season. There was some thought that the Blues might try to bring him back on a cheaper contract–perhaps even a two-way deal–but in the end the two sides chose to go their separate ways. That’s probably for the best, as the Blues have a limited number of minor-league spots to work with since they don’t have an official AHL affiliate this season. They need to guarantee development time for young players like Tage Thompson, Samuel Blais, MacKenzie MacEachern, and perhaps Klim Kostin, so there’s really not much of a point in having a near-fully-developed player like Yakupov loitering in the minors.
In the end, things work out for Yakupov, who will continue to pursue a career in the NHL, rather than packing it in and returning to the KHL in his native Russia, where many had speculated he’d end up this season. On a rebuilding Avalanche team, he should have a solid shot to make the roster and get consistent playing time.