After yesterday’s news that Nail Yakupov’s KHL transfer was deemed illegal, Canadian Hockey League president David Branch explained the 2012 first overall pick is still under contract to OHL Sarnia.
“He hasn’t been released,” Branch told Yahoo!’s Sunaya Sapurji. “It certainly caught those of us in the league office off guard because he suddenly was reported as playing in the KHL. We had no knowledge of that.”
Yakupov appeared in two games for KHL club Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk without, it was later revealed, an approved IIHF international transfer card.
Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press reported Hockey Canada refused to sign off on the ITC because it believed his rights remained with Sarnia, something Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson confirmed to Yahoo!
It’s also worth nothing Branch addressed rumors that Sarnia had “no problem” with Yakupov playing in Russia. Even though the Sting have been publicly supportive of Yakupov’s move to the KHL, Branch said he’s received a different message altogether.
“In terms of Sarnia, that is not what they are telling us,” said Branch.
Sting GM and head coach Jacques Beaulieu said the club would welcome Yakupov “with open arms,” but also said that “we’re not in the business of holding people back.”
The saga continues…