It has been two weeks since the NHL began its season, and finally, news of trade rumors have broken through. After settling down and playing consistently, many teams have taken stock of what needs work in their lineup. The first big rumor of the year, is that of the Edmonton Oilers’ Nail Yakupov.
Oct 15, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov (64) leads a rush up ice ahead of Pittsburgh Penguins left wingChris Kunitz
(14) and Oilers left wingRyan Smyth
(middle) during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Yakupov has only played 53 games in an Oilers jersey, but already, there is unrest in the City of Champions regarding the 2012 first overall draft pick. Not only was he a healthy scratch in the Oilers’ fifth game of the year against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he wasn’t placed back in the lineup for the next game against the Washington Capitals, even though the Oilers lost. Yakupov fed the fire a little more on Monday, when he commented this:
"“I don’t really like playing without the puck, skate all the time and do forecheck and hit somebody every shift… I don’t think it’s my game.”"
The Oilers entered the season with new coaching staff, management, and a face-lifted roster. The former of these, in particular, Head Coach Dallas Eakins, is not pleased with his remarks. Many believe that Yakupov doesn’t fit in the Oilers’ master plans, and he could be traded.
Now, the talk shifts to where he may land. Yakupov could settle in a top or bottom-six role. Any team looking for an offensive boost would be in the market, and salary cap isn’t a major issue in the short-term, with Yakupov entering the second year of his three-year deal. A team strapped for cash might not find enough value in the AAV (Average Annual Value) of $3,775,000 once bonuses are paid out, however.
The Chicago Blackhawks are off to a solid start, but with limited games on some of their aging forwards, is it time to cast the hook and make Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish an offer?
No. If you look back to Blackhawks’ training camp just a month ago, you would have seen wingers Jimmy Hayes and Jeremy Morin battle for a spot on the Chicago roster. Both players are described as “NHL-ready”, and as of Wednesday night, neither player is on the team.
Even if there was a hole to fill on wing, Blackhawks GM should stay away from Yakupov. The flashy winger shows signs of a long-gone Patrick Kane, with too many moves, not enough passes, and a lazy mind-set when it comes to defensive roles. Word from Edmonton camp is suggesting that Eakins is already fed up with this behaviour, and many around the league don’t blame him.
When it comes to places that have a realistic chance of landing Yakupov, one could look at the Nashville Predators, who are big on European talent, and have started off struggling once again. However, no place seems as likely as just 6 hours down the road, in Calgary. The Flames have surprised many with their 3-0-2 start, and to sustain this, they are going to need some depth upfront. Yakupov could develop chemistry with veteran Jiri Hudler, and he could thrive on a young team that will really need him to contribute. Coach Bob Hartley will try to form Yakupov into his idea of a perfect forward, and it might not be successful, but at least his starting point is much closer than that of his Edmonton counterpart.
The Oilers need to make something happen in the next couple of games, or changes are coming. Keep your eyes peeled on Edmonton for a potential shakeup, but Windy City fans can rest easy; Yakupov won’t be donning the Indian Head any time soon.
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