BY: Bruce Berlet, (Special to Howlings)
The Rick Nash Watch is finally over.
The New York Rangers acquired the All-Star left wing from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday as part of a five-player/two draft-pick trade that included three former members of the Hartford Wolf Pack and Connecticut Whale.
The Rangers got Nash, minor-league defenseman Steven Delisle and a conditional third-round pick in 2013 that will be returned to the Blue Jackets if the Blueshirts don’t make the Stanley Cup finals for forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov, defenseman Tim Erixon and a first-round pick in 2013. The trade of Dubinsky and Erixon wasn’t a surprise, but Anisimov being part of the deal was somewhat. But the Rangers didn’t relinquish any of the major pieces that Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson had coveted such as left wing Chris Kreider, center Derek Stepan and defensemen Ryan McDonagh and restricted free agent Michael Del Zotto, the latter two also having played in Hartford.
Nash has been on the trading block since before the February trading deadline and been rumored to be going to the Rangers for months. They were one of six teams the 28-year-old Nash told Howson that he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a deal for the rugged wing who had 30 goals and 29 assists while playing all 82 games last season for the NHL’s worst team.
“There was a lot of limbo, for sure,” the 6-foot-4, 219-pound Nash said in a teleconference call late Monday afternoon. “It was a tough time, a tough period of five months, but it’s a good thing it’s over and I can look forward to next year. … I’m very excited and looking forward to this opportunity to be part of something special that they already have going on with the Rangers.
“I think they already have one of the top teams in the league, the players they have there are pretty impressive from the goaltending to the defense right on up. I’m happy to be part of the organization and the city.”
Nash said he initially went in with Howson last season trying to get a game plan of what was going on with the Blue Jackets. Nash was told the team was going to rebuild and that he could be a main piece after nine years in Columbus. If circumstances were right, he would waive his no-trade clause, which could help the team and his career move forward.
Rangers GM Glen Sather worked overtime to acquire Nash because of his multiple talents, leadership and high-scoring All-Star wing Marian Gaborik expected to be sidelined until December because of surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Gaborik led the Rangers in goals (41) and points (76) last season after an off-year of 22 goals and 26 assists.
In the conference call, Sather said losing Gaborik is “a big hurt” but isn’t the main reason that he made the trade.
“It was a deal we couldn’t turn down,” Sather said. “It took a long time, but we’re happy to have a five-time All-Star and a 40-goal scorer who is only 28. He’s one of the better goal scorers in the NHL, has the right attitude about playing in New York and will help us immensely. … These things take a long time to get negotiated. I’m sure it was difficult for Scott to make the decision to trade him as it was for us to trade the players we did. I think it’s a fair trade for both sides.”
Rangers coach John Tortorella told Michael Kay on ESPN Radio in New York that it was “a really good deal.”
“We’re losing a couple good players here and a prospect,” Tortorella said. “I’m very close to Dubi and Artie. They’ve been very good players for us. Erixon is a young player who has potential. I still haven’t seen it yet, but he has potential to be a really good player. But we’re picking up a guy, and you have to give up something to get something, and I think we have a legitimate, really top power forward in the league coming our way with this deal.”
Sather said the negotiations were “pretty much continuous” since February but didn’t want to discuss how they might have changed the past few months. But Sather ultimately didn’t have to part with Kreider, Stepan, McDonagh and Del Zotto, successfully holding out until the demands lessened.
“Brandon and Artie were part of our young core, but we added a major piece and feel we strengthened our team or I wouldn’t have made the deal,” Sather said. “We’re always trying to improve the team, that’s an on-going struggle. We had an opportunity before the trade deadline, but we couldn’t make it go. We always felt we could use a little more offense, especially with Gaborik out until sometime in November.
“(The trade) changes the complexion of the team. It does not change the way we’re going to play. He’s a world-class player, and adding Rick doesn’t break up our core. We have more young players coming along, but you don’t have many opportunities to make this kind of deal. This is a very important deal to our hockey club.”
Nash said it was tough to play the Rangers at Madison Square Garden just before the trade deadline amidst all the trade speculation.
“Definitely it was mentally draining,” Nash said. “I took it as another game which was pretty tough to do. We’re in the Western Conference and don’t get to come to Madison Square Garden. With all that around, I tried as much as I could to be professional, and for it to be another game and before I knew it, it was over.”
Sather said other deals could be in the works, possibly with Anaheim Ducks wing Bobby Ryan, who scored at least 31 goals in each of the last four seasons, and Phoenix Coyotes free-agent wing and captain Shane Doan, who visited the Rangers’ practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y., on Friday in the start of a five-city tour. The Rangers have 12 forwards signed for next season and about $13 million in salary cap space, according to capgeek.com. Doan wants to remain in Phoenix, but the uncertain ownership situation has the veteran looking at other options for the first time.
“That’s purely speculation at this point in time,” Sather said of Doan’s visit. “(This trade) doesn’t eliminate the opportunity to pursue anybody else at this time. I think that’s all I can tell you at this time.”
With Gaborik out, Nash could start alongside veteran center Brad Richards, a teammate in the 2006 Olympics, and speedy wing Carl Hagelin, who started his rookie year with the Whale before being called up Nov. 24 and eventually being elevated to the top line with the Rangers’ two highest-paid players, Richards and Gaborik. When Gaborik returns, he could rejoin Richards and Hagelin or skate alongside Stepan and Kreider, who signed with the Rangers and played well after helping Boston College win its second national title in three years. The Rangers also could take some offensive pressure off Hagelin by putting Nash with Richards and Gaborik and having Kreider skate with Stepan and captain and former Wolf Pack All-Star Ryan Callahan.
That would leave Hagelin to focus on defense with center Brian Boyle and Taylor Pyatt, the former Vancouver Canucks wing who signed a free-agent deal with the Rangers. The fourth line could be Mike Rupp and newcomers Jeff Halpern and Arron Asham, with veteran center Kris Newbury, rugged wing Michael Healey, another off-season free-agent signing, and youngsters such as Marek Hvirik, Christian Thomas and Tommy Grant longshots to make the parent team.
“I have no idea what they have in mind, I’m just excited to start a new chapter,” Nash said.
Nash will be entering the third year of an eight-year contract that he signed with the Blue Jackets in 2010 with an average salary cap hit of $7.8 million, though that might be reduced when a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. Dubinsky, who signed a four-year, $16.8 million contract last summer, has a cap hit of $4.2 million, second on the Blue Jackets to the $4.6 million of center R.J. Umberger, who was traded to the Rangers on March 9, 2004, had a few workouts with the Wolf Pack but wasn’t signed and eventually joined the Philadelphia Flyers three months later.
Anisimov’s and Erixon’s cap hits are $1,875,000 and $1,750,000, so combined with Dubinsky’s $4.2 million more than offset Nash’s $7.8 million, which makes him the highest-paid player on the Rangers, just ahead of Gaborik’s $7.5 million.
“The money is a wash,” Sather said. “As far as the CBA, I don’t think anybody can tell you the answer to that question. We don’t have any idea where it’s going to go. We still have to operate under the current rules.”
Dubinsky and Anisimov will be joining a forward contingent in Columbus that also includes Greenwich native Cam Atkinson, who excelled with the Springfield Falcons last season and had seven goals in 21 games with the Blue Jackets, and fellow AHL All-Star Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, who signed with Columbus after his 69 points tied Newbury for the Whale scoring lead. The Blue Jackets’ defense includes former Rangers and Wolf Pack blueliner Fedor Tyutin.
Nash, the first overall pick by Columbus in 2002, had spent his entire career with the Blue Jackets and had 289 goals and 258 assists in 674 games, all franchise records. He was named Blue Jackets captain in 2008 and has played in five NHL All-Star Games and has more than 30 goals six times. One of the NHL’s top power forwards, Nash has also represented Canada internationally in two Olympic Games, winning a gold medal in 2010, and also competed in four World Championships, winning gold in 2007 and silvers in 2005 and 2008.
With six years left on Nash’s contract, the Rangers and Blue Jackets needed time to work out the particulars salary-wise to stay within the salary cap, which is likely to change if a new CBA is reached between the owners and NHL Players Association. Last year’s cap was $64.3 million, but the current CBA runs out Sept. 15.
The Blue Jackets reportedly wanted to reach out to the Rangers on Monday morning and were granted approval by the camp of Nash, who didn’t waver on the six teams that he would join.
In a press conference at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Howson discussed the Blue Jackets’ latest trade in another rebuilding process that likely will determine his future with the franchise.
“I think a trade like this just takes time,” Howson said. “You’re trading a marquee player and sometimes it takes time to get the right value. It took us time to get the value that we were happy with. … We’ve gone through a number of discussions with the Rangers. It had its ebbs and flows. It really picked up over the last week or so.”
The Blue Jackets are attempting to retool their roster with the hope of finally putting together a Stanley Cup contender. On Feb. 23, Howson acquired defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round pick from the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for center Jeff Carter. On June 22, the Blue Jackets acquired goalie Sergei Bobrovsky from the Philadelphia Flyers for a fourth-round pick in 2012 and a fourth-round pick from the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2013 draft. On July 1, the Ottawa Senators traded wing Nick Foligno to the Blue Jackets for defenseman Marc Methot. The Blue Jackets also drafted defenseman Ryan Murray with the No. 2 pick in June.
“Our forward group is exciting,” Howson said. “It’s got lots of balance and lots of versatility. What we’ve done with our defense, I think any team that has success in the league has to be strong on the blue line, and I think we have a very good blue line.”
But trading Nash signaled a complete changing of the guard.
“I’d like to thank Rick for everything he’s done as a Columbus Blue Jacket,” Howson said. “We will be forever grateful.”
Nash committed to the Blue Jackets three years ago when he signed an eight-year, $62.4 million contract extension. He played two seasons under that deal but asked to be traded in February when he was told the Blue Jackets were going through another rebuilding.
Dubinsky, the Rangers’ second-round pick in 2004, played one full season with the Wolf Pack before joining the NHL team for good in 2007-08. He had 81 goals and 132 assists in 393 NHL games but had his worst season in 2011-12 with 10 goals and 24 assists in 77 regular-season games before getting only two assists in nine playoff games.
Anisimov, the Rangers’ second-round pick in 2006, played two seasons with the Wolf Pack before heading to Broadway for the 2009-10 season. He had 46 goals and 62 assists in 244 NHL regular-season games and added four goals and seven assists in 26 playoff games.
Erixon, the Calgary Flames’ first-round pick (23rd overall) in 2009, was acquired with a fifth-round pick (forward Shane McColgan) for forward Roman Horak and two first-round picks on June 2, 2011. The son of former Rangers wing Jan Erixon started last season with the Blueshirts, though he spent most of his rookie campaign in North America in Hartford. He had two assists in 18 games with the Rangers and three goals and 30 assists in 52 games with the Whale and added four assists in nine playoff games.
Delisle, who turns 22 next Monday, was the Blue Jackets’ fourth-round pick in 2008 and had one goal and three assists in six games with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons and ECHL’s Chicago Express last season. He made his pro debut with the Falcons on Oct. 8 at Albany, played six games with Springfield and then spent the rest of the season with the Express.
In lesser transactions over the weekend, the Rangers signed veteran defensemen Sean Collins and Logan Pyett to two-way contracts. Collins, 28, signed for $600,000 in the NHL and $200,000 in the AHL, while Pyett’s numbers were $600,000 and $105,000.
Collins, 28, played the last four seasons with the Washington Capitals and AHL’s Hershey Bears, while Pyett, 24, was with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins during that time. They will help replace veteran defensemen Pavel Valentenko and Jared Nightingale, who signed in Russia and with the Tampa Bay Lightning, respectively.
Meanwhile, the Whale’s ECHL affiliate, the Greenville Road Warriors, signed forward Scott Pitt and goalie Bryan Hince.
Here is the official release from the Rangers:
NEW YORK, July 23, 2012 – New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has acquired forward Rick Nash, defenseman Steven Delisle and a conditional third round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft from Columbus in exchange for forwards Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky, defenseman Tim Erixon and a first round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Nash, 28, is the co-winner of the 2004 Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the League’s goal-scoring leader, and a two-time 40-goal scorer (2003-04, 2008-09). The first overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft is a five-time NHL All-Star (2003-04, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2010-11) and a two-time Olympian (2006, 2010) with Canada. He was also awarded the NHL Foundation Player Award following the 2008-09 season, in recognition of his outstanding work in the community.
Nash has skated in 674 career regular season contests in nine seasons with Columbus, registering 289 goals and 258 assists for 547 points, along with 568 penalty minutes. He departs Columbus as the franchise’s all-time leader in several statistical categories, including: games played (674), goals (289), assists (258), points (547), power play goals (83), power play points (182), game-winning goals (44), shorthanded goals (14), hat tricks (five), shots on goal (2,278), multi-goal games (46), and multi-point games (136).
Nash is one of eight players in the NHL all-time to register 40 or more goals as a teenager, and became the youngest goal-scoring leader in League history after tallying a career-high, 41 goals, in 2003-04 at the age of 19 years, 291 days. He established career-highs in assists and points during the 2008-09 season, registering 40 goals and 39 assists for 79 points in 78 games. He also posted career-highs in plus/minus rating (plus-11), shorthanded goals (five) and shorthanded points (six) that season. In addition, Nash has registered three points (one goal, two assists) in four career playoff contests.
The Brampton, Ontario native registered 30 goals and 29 assists for 59 points, along with 40 penalty minutes in a career-high, 82 games last season. He led Columbus in goals, points, power play goals (six), power play assists (13), and power play points (19), and ranked second on the Blue Jackets in assists. He also led the team and ranked fourth in the NHL with 306 shots on goal. Nash posted 14 multi-point performances, including five multi-goal efforts, and recorded 12 points (six goals, six assists) in the final 10 games of the season. He notched his 30th goal in the season finale on April 7 vs. the New York Islanders, marking the fifth consecutive season and seventh overall he has reached the 30-goal plateau.
Selected with the first overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Nash entered the League immediately as an 18 year old, registering 17 goals and 22 assists for 39 points, along with 78 penalty minutes and 16 power play points in 74 games during the 2002-03 season. He was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and voted as a Calder Memorial Trophy finalist, as the NHL’s rookie of the year. He also participated in the NHL YoungStars Game during the NHL All-Star Weekend, registering two goals and one assist for the Western Conference team.
Nash notched a goal while making his NHL debut on October 10, 2002 vs. Chicago, becoming just the eighth No. 1 overall draft pick to score in his first career game and the first to score in his first game in his draft year since Mario Lemieux in 1984.
Internationally, Nash has represented his native Canada in several tournaments. He captured a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, registering two goals and three assists for five points in seven games. In 2007, he was named tournament MVP at the World Championship after recording 11 points (six goals, five assists) and a plus-eight rating in nine games to help Canada win the gold medal.
Nash has also captured two silver medals at the World Championships, in 2005 and 2008. He led all tournament skaters in goals (nine) and ranked second in points (15) en route to being named to the All-Tournament Team in 2005. In 2008, he registered 13 points (six goals, seven assists) and a plus-nine rating in nine games, and was named to the All-Tournament Team for the third time.
Delisle, 21, split last season between the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Chicago Express of the ECHL. He made his professional debut with Springfield (AHL) on October 8 at Albany, and skated in six AHL contests.
Delisle spent the majority of the season in Chicago (ECHL), where he registered one goal and three assists, along with 20 penalty minutes in 38 games. He made his ECHL debut on November 4 against Cincinnati, and tallied his first ECHL point with an assist on November 9 at Toledo. Delisle recorded three points in a three-game span beginning with an assist on March 24 against Kalamazoo and concluding with his first career multi-point effort on March 28 against Cincinnati (one goal, one assist). His goal in the March 28 contests was Delisle’s first career ECHL goal.
Prior to turning professional, Delisle skated in 253 career contests over four seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), registering 17 goals and 83 assists for 100 points, along with 300 penalty minutes. He established QMJHL career-highs in assists (25) and points (30) with Gatineau during the 2008-09 season, while setting a career-high in goals (six) the prior season. In addition, Delisle tallied three goals and 16 assists for 19 points, along with 43 penalty minutes in 45 career QMJHL playoff games with Gatineau and Rouyn-Noranda.
The Levis, Quebec native was originally selected by Columbus as a fourth round choice, 107th overall, in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Anisimov, 24, skated in 79 games with the Rangers last season, registering 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points, along with 34 penalty minutes. In three seasons with New York, he has recorded 46 goals and 62 assists for 108 points, along with 86 penalty minutes in 244 career regular season contests.
The Yaroslavl, Russia native was originally selected by the Rangers as a second round choice, 54th overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
Dubinsky, 26, skated in 77 games with the Rangers last season, registering 10 goals and 24 assists for 34 points, along with 110 penalty minutes. In five seasons with New York, he has recorded 81 goals and 132 assists for 213 points, along with 457 penalty minutes in 393 career regular season contests.
The Anchorage, Alaska native was originally selected by the Rangers as a second round choice, 60th overall, in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Erixon, 21, skated in 52 games with the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League (AHL) last season, registering three goals and 30 assists for 33 points, along with 42 penalty minutes. He also tallied two assists in 18 games with the Rangers.
The Port Chester, New York native was acquired by the Rangers along with a fifth round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft (Shane McColgan) from the Calgary Flames, in exchange for forward Roman Horak and two second round picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft (Markus Granlund, Tyler Wotherspoon). He was originally selected by Calgary as a first round choice, 23rd overall, in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
THOMAS BEING COUNTED ON TO HELP WHALE NOW
Thomas, a scoring machine in juniors, got a taste of the pros with the Whale last season while notching one goal and one assist in limited ice time in 11 regular-season and playoff games.
But with All-Stars Audy-Marchessault and Mats Zuccarell0, Andre Deveaux and Andreas Thuresson having signed with NHL and European teams and Casey Wellman being traded to the Florida Panthers, Thomas and youngsters such as Hrivik, Grant, J.T. Miller, Andrew Yogan and newcomer Kyle Jean will be expected to provide some offense in Hartford.
Jeff Beukeboom, who replaced J.J. Daigneault as an assistant coach after Daigneault became an assistant with the Montreal Canadiens, knows a lot about Thomas, who had 129 goals and 113 assists in three seasons with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League. Thomas, 20, the Rangers’ second-round pick in 2010 and son of former NHL wing Steve Thomas, is a longshot to make the Rangers because of his size (5 feet 9, 175 pounds) and lack of pro experience, so he could work with Beukeboom, an assistant with the OHL’s Barrie Colts and Sudbury Wolves the past four seasons.
“I know Christian Thomas really well,” Beukeboom told BlueshirtsUnited.com. “My son (St. Louis Blues prospect Brock Beukeboom), and he grew up playing against one another, and I think his skill set translates well to the NHL. I know he’s a good kid, and he’s willing to work and learn and try new things. Any time you have those traits, you’re going to be fine. I think he’s going to adapt fine, and the size won’t be such an issue.”
Beukeboom thinks Thomas, whom he refers to as “a good character kid,” has a distinct advantage in adapting to the pro game and that is his father has prepared him his whole life for what lies in front of him now.
“The great thing for Christian is that he has a great sounding board in his father,” Beukeboom said. “As long as he’s open-minded and listens, which is the type kid he is, he’ll be fine. I think with his background, that’s a huge plus for him.”
FALCONS ADD BEDNAR AS AN ASSISTANT
The Falcons, top affiliate of the Blue Jackets, announced on Monday that Jared Bednar has been named an assistant coach. Bednar, who signed a multi-year contract, will serve under Falcons new head coach Brad Larsen and with assistant Nolan Pratt.
“Jared is a guy who met all the criteria I was looking for in a coach,” Larsen said in a statement. “Having head coaching experience, a strong work ethic, a strong passion for the game and being a man of character were all things that were very important to the organization and me. Jared possesses all of these qualities and I look forward to working with him closely in the upcoming season.”
“I am very thankful to Scott Howson and Chris MacFarland in Columbus for giving me this opportunity to join the Springfield Falcons organization and I’m excited about working with Brad Larsen and Nolan Pratt to create something special this coming year,” Bednar said in a statement.
Bednar, 40, spent the last two seasons as coach of the Peoria Rivermen, compiling records of 39-33-2-2 and 42-30-3-5. In his first year with the club, Bednar led Peoria to the Calder Cup playoffs and was selected to be a co-coach for the Western Conference at the 2011 AHL All-Star Classic. In 2009-10, his first season as a coach in the AHL, Bednar served as an assistant for Abbotsford, helping the Heat to the second round of the playoffs. He spent two seasons as a head coach and five as an assistant with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays from 2002-09, winning a league title in 2009.
A native of Yorkton, Sask., Bednar played nine years as a physical defenseman from 1993-2002. He skated most of his playing days in the ECHL, winning championships with South Carolina in 1997 and 2001. He also played in 74 AHL games with the Rochester Americans and St. John’s Maple Leafs.
The Blue Jackets and Falcons also announced Pratt has received a contract extension beyond the 2012-13 season. Pratt completed his first year as a coach last season, helping the Falcons secure their best record since 1997-98 (36-34-3-3). Before coaching, Pratt had a 16-year playing career as a defenseman, playing in 592 NHL games and helping the 2001 Colorado Avalanche and 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup.
True North Sports & Entertainment, in conjunction with the Winnipeg Jets, announced an extension of their affiliation with the St. John’s IceCaps for one season, through 2014-15. In their inaugural season, the IceCaps were 43-25-5-3, reached the Eastern Conference finals, sold out all 46 home games, contributed to local charities financially and through player appearances and brought pro hockey excitement back to Newfoundland.
BRUINS SIGN COACH TO CONTRACT EXTENSION
The Boston Bruins signed coach Claude Julien to a multi-year contract extension on Monday.
Julien, who will be entering his sixth season with the team, led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup title in 39 years in 2011. He has an overall record of 228-132-50 (.617 winning percentage) in the regular season and a 36-27 (.571) postseason mark. This past season, Julien led the Bruins to their fifth consecutive season with 91 or more points and the second straight year above 100. They didn’t suffer a regulation loss in the month of November with a 12-0-1 record and had the best goal differential in the league at plus-67.
Julien reached several personal and team milestones last season, coaching his 600th NHL game and 400th with the Bruins while notching his 300th NHL win in a 3-2 shootout victory at Chicago on Oct. 15 and his 200th victory behind the Boston bench when the Bruins won 6-0 at Philadelphia on Dec. 17.
The native of Blinder River, Ont., led the Bruins to the Eastern Conference’s top regular-season record in 2008-09, finishing 53-19-10 for 116 points and winning the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year. He joined the Bruins in 2007 with 10 years of coaching experience at the junior hockey, AHL and NHL levels after a 12-year pro playing career. He has coached 648 regular-season games for the Bruins, Canadiens and New Jersey Devils, posting a 347-218-10-73 record (.535), as well as 40-34 (.541) in the postseason.
NHL ICE CHIPS
The Panthers avoided salary arbitration with forward Kris Versteeg on Monday when the restricted free agent agreed to a four-year, $4.4 million contract.
Versteeg, 26, had career bests in goals (23) and points (54) while playing in 71 games for the Panthers last season. He set a Florida franchise record with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists) in his first 20 games with the team and recorded his first career hat trick on Nov. 10 at Winnipeg. Versteeg played in all seven of Florida’s playoff games, getting three goals and two assists.
… Nail Yakupov, the first player chosen in last month’s NHL draft, has signed a three-year, entry level contract with the Edmonton Oilers.
“We’re very happy to sign Nail to a three-year contract,” Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini told the team’s website. “He’s an extremely talented and passionate young man who we feel will be an integral part of our team for many years to come.”
Yakupov became the first Russian-born player selected first overall since Alex Ovechkin went to the Washington Capitals in 2004.
“Edmonton is a great city and crazy town for hockey … it’s a hockey town and I play hockey and I just want to play my best hockey,” Yakupov said after being selected on June 22.
This was the third straight year that the Oilers had the No. 1 selection, having selected left wing Taylor Hall in 2010 and center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins last year. Yakupov, who played for the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, entered the draft as NHL Central Scouting’s No. 1 overall North American skater. Yakupov had 31 goals and 38 assists in 42 games for the Sting last season despite being sidelined four times because a back injury, knee injury, suspension and upper body ailment.
In 2010-11, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound right wing had 49 goals and 52 assists in 65 games and was named OHL Rookie of the Year and BMO Rookie of the Year in the CHL. He also won a silver medal with Team Russia at the 2012 World Junior Championship, notching a team-leading nine assists in seven games. Russia lost 1-0 in overtime to Sweden in the gold-medal game.