Nail Yakupov and the Edmonton Oilers are at a crossroads right now, so a “bridge” contract makes some sense. The team announced that they signed the young winger to a two-year deal on Monday.
The contract is worth $5 million overall, which shapes up to be $2.5 million per season. This is an affordable compromise, and maybe the first of at least two with key young players for the Oilers, as Edmonton still must take the next step with polarizing defenseman Justin Schultz.
Yakupov, 21, had just finished the final season of his entry-level contract after being the first pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. It’s been a bumpy development process so far for the Russian forward. Plus/minus is a widely derided stat, yet it might most succinctly tell the story of how tough things have been for him at times: Yakupov is a -72 for his short career, including an all-time low of -35 in 2014-15.
That’s by no means Yakupov’s fault alone, mind you.
The biggest thing is that he’s been streaky (at best) when it comes to scoring, yet the good news is that he’s shown some improvement to close out this past season. He scored 21 points in his last 31 games versus just 12 in the first 50 games.
There’s plenty of time for a breakthrough, and if it happens, the Oilers are getting a nice (short-term) bargain.
Hockey has a Claude Lemieux here and a Chris Pronger there, yet you don’t see a ton of players embracing that role. P.K. Subban didn’t outright say he strives to be the Joker to someone else’s Batman, but he didn’t deny that boos fuel his fire in an interesting interview with NHL.com.
“I’m not saying that I do. I’m not saying that I don’t,” Subban said with a grin. “But I don’t ask them to do that. When I go to Winnipeg, I don’t ask them to boo me. Philly, it’s the same thing. Pittsburgh, Toronto. I’m from Toronto; they still boo me.”
” … Let’s just say it doesn’t bother me.”
For some players, silencing a hostile crowd can be almost as rewarding – maybe more rewarding – than bringing home fans to their feet. It doesn’t hurt that Subban, 25, has the skill to do so.
In fact, Subban thinks he’s playing the best hockey of his career, explaining how he’s learned when to be aggressive and when to take his foot off the gas.