Oilers Most Likely to Not Be Oilers By…


Part I – Training Camp

With inspiration from the Beer League Hero himself, we’ve decided to come up with a recurring series here at BLH, a series that analyzes who we should prepare to say goodbye to at certain key points in the season and offseason.

Look forward in the coming months for updates near the end of the 2016 calendar year, before the trade deadline, before the 2017 expansion draft, and before the 2017 entry draft. My insidious plan to secure my writing gig at BLH for at least a year is slowly falling into place.

For this installment, we’ll look at the block of time between now and the start of training camp in September. I’m going to focus (unfortunately) on Edmonton’s simultaneously favourite and least favourite little Russian Rocket, Nail “Please Just Live Up To Your Potential” Yakupov.

The rumour mill was churning earlier this week about a near-transaction that broke first here on BLH about Yak going to Florida for Alex Petrovic and a pick. It’s understood that the deal was hinging for Chiarelli on a second rounder, but Florida was only willing to package in a third. Nail has also been linked to several teams throughout the season, amongst them Montreal and Winnipeg, but those rumours seem to have cooled off as of late.

One thing remains clear, even if it’s true that Yakupov or his camp didn’t formally request a move out of E-town, he appears to be firmly on the trade block regardless.

Unfortunately for Oilers fans looking for a good return, Yak’s trade value has truly never been lower; the going rate for much of the latter half of the 2015-16 season was apparently a third round pick. But if we’re going purely based off numbers, this isn’t really fair. For his career, Nail Yakupov is sitting at 0.44 points per game. That is 165th amongst NHL forward with 200+ games played across the past 4 seasons. It’s solid 2nd line production, period. He could literally never improve for the remainder of his career and still be worth at least a 2nd round pick, and rightfully more.

According to a recent Steve Dangle podcast interview from July 12th with ex-Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens, Yak is “criminally misunderstood” in Edmonton and in the media. Paraphrasing his very clear statements on the matter, Scribbles has nothing but good things to say about the young first overall pick, calling his will to win and work ethic among the highest he’s ever seen. Ben says the only thing Nail is guilty of is something he himself has been guilty of over the years: trying to do too much. A fair assessment, because despite Yakupov’s flaws, I think very few of us could truly accuse the guy of not playing with his heart on his sleeve.

The erroneous image Yakupov’s critics have of the “lazy Russian” doesn’t seem to hold much water, according to a guy from that mythical place known as “inside the locker room”, who certainly doesn’t owe the Edmonton organization any unwarranted praise considering the way his AHL assignment last season was so hastily handled. (Scrivens elaborates on this more in his interview, and also has some interesting things he doesn’t say about Taylor Hall and The Trade. It’s a good listen, check it out below!

So with all this said, are you as quick to want Yak gone as maybe you were in March or April? If we’re talking about “bottom-6” Nail Yakupov, I’m with you. His third- and fourth-line production is straight trash. May the #packyourshit hastags flow freely on the Twitter machine. But top-6 Nail Yakupov is a different animal. He looked bloody brilliant next to McDavid at the beginning of 2015, able to use his wicked shot to its full potential on the receiving end of the gift pucks off McDavid’s stick. Two things stand in the way of us ever seeing this Yakupov again, and they’re called Jordan Eberle and Jesse Puljujärvi. Ebs is a known quantity, and I don’t think anyone has anymore questions left going into his seventh season in the NHL if he knows how to finish a play. And maybe it’s more classic Edmontonian wishful thinking, but I’m pretty sure Poolparty lives on the top-6 in 2016-17. He’s NHL-ready, and he’s bloody brilliant, too, and in likely more ways than Yak, despite everything that we may collectively misunderstand about him and his game.

“But Mike, what if we trade Eberle for Barrie before September?” Well then we don’t have a problem anymore, do we? Staple Yakupov’s ass to McDavid’s right wing and watch the highlight reels. Groom Puljujärvi on the second and third lines, swapping Draisaitl out on RNH’s wing/centering the third line, see who develops chemistry with who, and we’re off to the proverbial playoff races. But we’ll have to wait until July 29th for Barrie’s arbitration hearing before we have any idea whether or not a trade is likely to happen.

From where I sit, I’m not holding my breath. Plus, by not picking up Barrie this season, and instead maybe trying to wait for 2017 free agency to see if he or an even better puck-moving defenceman comes up for auction, we get to protect Davidson in expansion.

So finally, with all of that said, and fair or not, I think Yakupov goes before we get into training camp. But where he goes is much harder to say. We’ve heard about the Cody Ceci rumours, and personally I think they definitely have merit. I have another idea, though. Bear with me on this.

McIlrath, post-fight and looking pleased

Dylan McIlrath

Yes, 2G-2A-4P in all of 37 total NHL games Dylan McIlrath.

Also 6’5″, 221lb, 10th overall pick in 2010, 24-years-young Dylan McIlrath.

He does cool things like this:

And also things like this (appropriately, his first NHL goal was against none other than us):

While showing some really decent offensive and defensive advanced stats like this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 11.25.25 PM

Joe Fortunato over at Blue Shirt Banter, in his article entitled Dylan McIlrath Needs To Be Part Of The Rangers’ Future, has this to say about McIlrath with regards to how he impressed out of a training camp last summer that he maybe wasn’t expected to make it out of:

… something really cool happened. When McIlrath did get into game action he was good. As in, actually really impressive on a level I’m not sure many people expected.

Which is why it was so insane that Alain Vigneault never found a real home for McIlrath in the lineup. Not only was McIlrath better than both Dan Girardi and Marc Staal (even on games where he had sat for a month with no action), he could have at the very least been used to give rest to an injured and ageing Girardi, a declining Staal or an ageing Dan Boyle. Instead, Vigneault opted to staple McIlrath to the press box…

Fortunato continues with some advanced stats,

McIlrath, in just 35 games, was a 51.06 corsi for % at even strength. He was a -1.88% in offensive zone starts rel, and was a +2 in scoring chances differential. When you looked at the Rangers defense and saw all the problems, McIlrath never caught your eye — despite Vigneault treating him like a player he couldn’t trust on the back end.

Why? We’ll never know. The subjective wheel of justice reared its ugly head early and often this year, with no one taking a bigger hit than McIlrath.

The Oilers make this trade because McIlrath is a promising, young, giant right side defenceman who is absolutely begging to break out and become a real force on a team that appreciates him and uses him properly. He’s cheap at $800K through the 2017-18 season (in which he will be a RFA), and he’s exactly the type of player that just twirls Chiarelli’s moustache.

The Rangers make this trade because Nail Yakupov is an instant improvement over their current second-line RW Jesper Fast, and given the right environment (*cough* Zibanejad and Nash *cough*), has a significantly higher ceiling than Kevin Hayes. I think there could even be some magic made putting him next to a young playmaker like Oscar Lindberg. We all know how much Yakupov likes playmaking centers. Plus, Vigneault gets to clear up space on the back end to move forward with Brady Skjei like he wants to do anyway.

I think that we try to get New York to throw in the 2018 2nd rounder they picked up from Ottawa in the Zibanejad trade, or if Chia can’t swing that, then the Rangers’ 2017 3rd rounder. Both teams end up with projects, but with guys who I think amount to two solid pieces who clearly need a new environment in which to flourish and show their true potential.

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Michael Sifeldeen Written by:
  • Monkey C Monkey Do

    I gotta say the kid looks interesting,however I can almost hear the howls of protest “we can’t trade Yak for DM”, insert reason here. Draft position aside,I think this trade gives both players the fresh start they need. Any top up should favor Yak as he has more NHL experience in my opinion.

    • Beer League Hero

      McIlrath intrigues me. Has intrigued me since his draft year when he was described as the toughest player in the draft and still going in the 1st round… Big guy, big shot, RH shooter… Me Likey.

  • superdutyfan

    Trading Yak will cause a big hole in the RW. We have no NHL RW except for Eberle Kassian then Pakarinen. Saying Puljujärvi is NHL ready is premature since he has not stepped on the NHL ice ever as well coming off an injury. It will be an absolute mistake if the Oilers don’t take their time with Puljujarvi. Yak will be on the roster come Oct. His trade value is to low he better off to stay at least to the trade deadline.

    • Beer League Hero

      This is very true but with that said, IF yak were traded, could another player be brought in via free agency? What about someone brought up from the minors like Pitlick or Slepyshev?