With two goals in his past five games, the Edmonton Oiler’s winger Nail Yakupov may be trending at just the right time. Considering the challenges that loom ahead for the Oilers, they need his stock to improve.
Prior to his bizarre injury at the hands of a clumsy official, Yak appeared to be falling into a familiar negative pattern. Forcing the play, being caught out of position, and trying to be too much of a playmaker; waiting for the perfect play instead of spraying bullets at the net whenever the opportunity presented itself.
However, after some forced rest and rehab, Yakupov seems to have an extra spring in his step. He looks faster, seems to be reading the game better, is shooting whenever from wherever and he’s getting results. Yak’s sharp angled goal against the Stars came from a shot he likely has passed up many times in his career. It appears he is listening to his coaching staff, and the positive results may result in a 10 – 12 goal second half. Heck he may even match the 17 goal total he had in his rookie season. And that’s awesome, because with the upgrades the Oilers need to do, his value needs to be at an all time high. That’s right, we need Yak playing at the top of his game, because in reality we may need to trade him . . . maybe (but not likely) by the trade deadline.
But why should the Oiler’s give up on the player now, after investing what they have? The reality is, somebody will need to be traded, and if its Yak, that’s not the worst thing that could happen, because the other trade options are not ones I would want to consider.
Oilers Still Targeting Hamonic
At this point Chiarelli knows his defense is as much as three pieces away from being a legitimate NHL blue-line. Travis Hamonic is a must-land for the Oiler’s GM. He has an advantage over his main competitor for Hamonic, Winnipeg Jet’s Kevin Cheveldayoff, because that GM is indecisive and overly methodical. However, NY Islanders GM Garth Snow has pretty much had his way in transactions with Chiarelli to this point, landing Boychuk for a second rounder and getting two high picks Griffin Reinhart, a D-man who may not progress past a 3rd pairing defenseman. So Snow would likely prefer to deal with Chiarelli, however, knowing the desperate state of the Oiler’s defense, he’ll be looking to take us deep.
Having said that, Snow won’t be able to get in exchange what he ideally wants (a legitimate top four D) from any trading partner. But he would likely ask for at least one of the Oiler’s top offensive weapons in compensation. And who might that be? There are some obvious options:
Somebody Will Need To Be Traded
Jordan Eberle: This is a light year for Ebs, but make no mistake, he has the best hands on the team and is the best pure scorer. He’s also been among the most consistent point producers on the club over the last five years and is a great team guy. You would hate to give him up, but considering the upgrades that need to be done, Chiarelli would have to consider it.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Everybody seems to want to throw the Nuge’s name into trade rumors these days, and it makes sense considering the Oiler’s sudden depth at center (at least when they’re healthy.) The Islanders aren’t too shabby at center depth themselves, but most people recognize that Nuge is quality. In the “more skill, less size” eastern conference, RNH would likely reach the 70 point season everyone knows he’s capable of.
Or, with a re-emergene from Yak, could there be another option?
While Yakupov does not have the pedigree for consistency that Snow may be looking for, he offers other marketing aspects that could appeal to Snow.
Good Value: If Nail becomes a 20 plus goal scorer for 2M per season, that’s a heck of a bargain in today’s NHL. And with star players asking 10M per season, you need value contracts to compete.
He’s Russian: In most markets, this is not a big deal, but with the Islanders moving into a new building they need to put bums in the seats. New York has a very large, well-known Russian community. They don’t all live in Brooklyn, to be sure, but they will commute to watch one of their countrymen.
His Potential: Yakupov was a first overall pick and it’s not clear whether he will fulfill his potential. At this stage I would say he’s a 25 goal 60 point guy at a maximum, 15 goal 40 point guy at a minimum. If Snow sees the glass as half full, he may go for it.
Now, Yak straight across for Hamonic would never happen. However, if you added rapidly and maturing defensive prospect David Musil things could get interesting. Throw in a highish pick (2nd rounder) and I think that would be a better offer than most would pitch for Hamonic, especially considering he’s injured.
Now there would be a few stars that would need to align for this to happen. First and foremost he would have to produce, and if he is re-united with Connor Mcdavid at some point in the season that would be a probability. And considering his improved possession states (documented by Oilers Nation’s Matt Henderson here) his coach will feel better about giving Yak the ice time he needs to produce. So while it doesn’t make sense to trade an improving player, his offensive season is not that of Eberle or the Nuge, and if a deal can be put together, Chiarelli would likely jump on it.