Though it seemed like a good option for the former #1 pick, Nail Yakupov tells Andy Strickland of FOX Sports that he will not head to the KHL next season. According to Strickland, Yakupov “fully expects” to play in the NHL in 2017-18.
The 23-year old Yakupov is a restricted free agent this summer, and though eligible for salary arbitration is unlikely to receive a qualifying offer from the Blues. There will certainly be teams around the league willing to take a chance on him at a reduced price, but he could earn more if he returned to Russia, especially after the reigning champions SKA St. Petersburg just traded for his rights.
Yakupov will almost certainly not be protected in the upcoming expansion draft, meaning that Vegas is a possible destination for him. He would certainly be a good marketing option for them, as a former top prospect. But his play on the ice certainly hasn’t backed up the lofty draft expectations, scoring just nine points this season.