The Russians, who dominated the Americans by a final score of 7-2 in the bronze medal game of the tournament, missed out on capturing their first gold medal since 2014. Yakupov was left off the team to the surprise of many observers, but coach Oleg Znarok said his absence had nothing to do with the Russians’ inability to capture gold.
What’s more, the lack of Yakupov was “addition by subtraction.”
The reason given for Yakupov’s omission was that he was injured, but the 22-year-old from Nizhnekamsk said he was good to go. He called the reports of his injury “bogus” and said he was cleared by NHL doctors to play at the World Championship tourney.
True to form, Znarok replied that Yakupov was denying his injuries with designs on facilitating a trade or new contract or something.
It is, to say the least, hard to imagine that Yakupov will find a spot on the Russia roster for the upcoming World Cup event. But the repercussions of this spat may hold implications to the forward’s NHL career, too, with the Oilers rumoured to be trying to trade their player.
To put things in perspective, Yakupov hasn’t played a single international game for Russia since entering the National Hockey League. His point totals in the NHL have been in steady decline since a considerable rookie season in 2012-2013 and he only managed 23 points in 60 games last season.
Let’s be honest here: the stock on Nail Yakupov is already low. This situation won’t help, even if Znarok is dead wrong in lambasting a player who wasn’t even there. The book on the Russian forward is still being written, but he’s already been linked to the likes of Alexander Radulov as another difficult “international” player and that won’t help.
Word around the campfire is that the Oilers will try to move Yakupov this summer. That’s probably wise, especially if stories like this keep diminishing his worth.