It’s not exactly the $64MM deal that Jack Hughes landed yesterday, but the New Jersey Devils have signed another contract. Shakir Mukhamadullin, one of the team’s 2020 first-round picks, has inked his entry-level contract. The team has immediately loaned him back to Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the KHL, where he will finish the season.
At the time of his draft, some questioned the Devils’ decision to take Mukhamadullin so high, selected 20th overall with the team’s third first-round pick. The young defenseman had been ranked 17th among international skaters by NHL Central Scouting and was expected by some to drop to the second round. The Devils obviously saw something that other scouts didn’t, as Mukhamadullin has not only shown an interesting mix of size, skating ability, and skill, but is also carrying himself quite well in the KHL playing against professionals.
Now 19, the 6’4″ defenseman already has 100 KHL contests under his belt and took part in the World Juniors last year for Russia. He’ll likely be there again this time around, though Ufa will be sorry to lose him. Unlike some teenagers that barely see the ice in the KHL, Mukhamadullin takes a regular shift and is also on the team’s powerplay unit. That’s where all three of his goals this year have come from, already matching his total from last season.
The timing of a contract like this is curious though, as KHL players do not often sign NHL contracts mid-season. It’s good news for the Devils, who will not have to fight to get Mukhamadullin over to North America when he’s ready, but it also means that his contract can slide since they got it done before the calendar flipped to 2022. Had they waited until the spring, when his KHL season ended, Mukhamadullin could have potentially negotiated a deal that burned the first year of his ELC in 2021-22 even without playing games.
Still, it will be interesting if he does come over when the KHL season ends and if so, where he’ll be assigned. He could get a handful of games in with the AHL club, or potentially even test himself at the NHL level down the stretch. Either way, Devils fans no longer have to worry about getting Mukhamadullin into the organization.