|(5/11/17) Yakupov (knee) has "zero plans of returning to Russia" and fully expects to play in the NHL next season, Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest reports.|
Yakupov is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, but it remains to be seen whether the Blues will make him a qualifying offer or he'll receive an offer sheet from another club before free agency kicks off. The first overall pick from the 2012 draft has been a huge disappointment through the first five years of his NHL career, notching 120 points (53 goals, 67 points) in 292 games. To make matters worse, Yak had arguably his worst season yet in 2016-17, tallying a mere nine points (three goals, six assists) in 40 games with St. Louis. The Russian winger is also currently recovering from knee surgery, which further diminishes his value as a free agent. Yakupov's meager production and the questions surrounding his health will likely earn him a one-year, "prove-it" deal with an NHL club for the 2017-18 campaign.