All parties, except Nail Yakupov, dropped the ball in KHL ban

Nobody involved in the Nail Yakupov mess -- not even the Oilers, who hve so much vested in the...

Nobody involved in the Nail Yakupov mess -- not even the Oilers, who hve so much vested in the young forward -- managed to protect the potential star's interests in this whole sordid affair. (David Bloom, QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

EDMONTON - Just out of curiosity, since he’s one of the most important pieces in the future of the Edmonton Oilers, who is looking out for Nail Yakupov?

A) Oilers brass Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe?

B) His agent, Igor Larionov?

C) His former Junior team in Sarnia?

D) His KHL team in Nizhnekamsk?

E) None of the above?

My guess is E, none of the above, otherwise the 18-year-old kid wouldn’t be stranded in Siberian limbo, at the centre of a political sword fight, up to his neck in controversy and uncertainty.

The next question, for which there appears to be no good answer, is why none of these people, who are all supposed to be taking care of Yakupov, never applied the brakes when he was so clearly headed for trouble.

When he told everyone he wanted to go home and play in Russia during the NHL lockout, why didn’t somebody, anybody — Lowe, Tambellini, Larionov, Sarnia GM Jacques Beaulieu or whoever runs Neftekhimik — tell him he wasn’t allowed to?

None of these people knew he was still under contract to Sarnia? Nobody knew he needed a transfer card to play in Russia? Nobody knew that transfer card wasn’t coming until somebody gave Sarnia a good enough reason to surrender its rights to the biggest star in the league?

No wonder hockey is in such a mess, if people like this are running the show.

A day after the whole Yakupov situation blew up, the principals took control of the situation the way all great leaders do: by not answering the phone.

No comment.

So now, while Yakupov sits and waits, his immediate future is deteriorating into a buck-passing contest.

Nizhnekamsk: It’s not our fault, the KHL suspended him.

KHL: It’s not our fault, the IIHF won’t give him a transfer card.

IIHF: It’s not our fault, Hockey Canada won’t sign his transfer card.

Hockey Canada: It’s not our fault, he’s under contract to Sarnia.

Sarnia: We’re not standing in his way. This is more of a Hockey Canada thing.

Hockey Canada: OK, release him from the contract and we’ll sign the transfer card.

Sarnia: Did we say Hockey Canada thing? We meant this is more of an OHL thing.

And OHL commissioner David Branch isn’t returning calls.

Nice. Can’t wait to put your kids in Junior hockey right about now, huh?

We can all understand why the Oilers want Yakupov in Russia. Playing against men in a much stronger league is better for his development. It’ll make him a better Oiler. Smart move.

But why didn’t they ensure that all of the Ts were crossed and Is dotted first?

Maybe we shouldn’t expect too much from an organization that’s only made the playoffs twice in 10 seasons, but a simple understanding of the NHL-CHL transfer agreement shouldn’t be outside of its grasp.

Larionov? Stronger competition and a multi-million dollar salary is better for his client than $100 a week in Junior. Smart move.

But he has to make sure the road is smooth. That’s his job. All a player is supposed to hear from his agent is “Don’t worry about it, kid, it’s handled.”

Not, “Um, you’re suspended and might have to go back to Junior because I didn’t take care of some details.”

This should have been settled before Yakupov ever boarded a plane.

And how about Sarnia and the OHL? The longer this drags on, the more it starts to stink like a cash grab at the expense of a teenager who just wants to play at home.

When Yakupov went first overall, that was the end of his Junior career. Everybody knew it. He turned pro. Wish him the best and move on.

That he is still technically Sarnia’s property until the NHL lockout ends might be legally sound, but the moral ground seems a little shaky.

Is it really in the best interest of this kid to force him back to Sarnia at the tip of a bayonet?

Who cares?

Apparently not enough of the people who should.

Follow me on TWITTER.com/SUN_TYCHKOWSKI

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca


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