— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) May 21, 2018
The New Jersey Devils have had plenty of time to map out an offseason plan, that plan has begun with their first free agent signing.
Yakolev is 26-years-old and has spent the last six seasons playing in the KHL for SKA St. Petersburg and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. He’s played alongside former Devils prospect Yegor Rykov who the Devils traded to the New York Rangers at the 2017-18 NHL trade deadline.
In Russia, Yakolev has scored 18 goals, 42 assists equaling 60 points in 305 games. He was a member of the Olympic Athletes of Russia at the Olympics in 2018 where he won a gold medal. On that team, he played alongside former Devil Ilya Kovalchuk.
The signing comes just after he finished playing for Russia at the 2018 IIHF World Championships. Russia fell to Team Canada in the quarterfinals.
Bringing in Yakolev adds another young defenseman into the mix for the 2018-19. They were the winners of the Will Butcher sweepstakes and helped lead the Devils back to the playoffs in 2017-18. Butcher scored five goals and 39 assists for the Devils last year and they can only hope for the same success with Yakolev.
An advantage that Yakolev has over most younger players coming into the NHL is that he played amongst some of best players in the KHL. The competition in the KHL can be tougher than that of the AHL where Yakolev will most likely get his start.
This is just the start of what should be an important offseason for the Devils. After all of the success, last year had to offer, the Devils need to come into next year better. Although Yakolev will only be a depth player, his number could possibly be called upon should the Devils need it.