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Huge If True: Where will Nail Yakupov end up?

[HUGE IF TRUE breaks down the plausibility of the week's biggest rumor.]

The Rumor

Over the weekend it was revealed that Nail Yakupov submitted a trade request with Edmonton at some point earlier this season. His agent was allowed by the Oilers to speak with other teams and potentially work out a deal.

And while eight or so other clubs were interested, “something went wrong,” Yakupov told Sport-Express. So he's still an Oiler, but with this trade request now very public, the Oilers circling the drain once again, even Taylor Hall is acknowledging that it's not just Yakupov who might end up being shipped out of town. The organization has already vaguely threatened change, and the team's play in recent weeks doesn't look like it's earned anyone a stay of execution.

But right now that's all speculative. All we know for sure is that Yakupov wants out — and really, who can blame him? — and that a handful of teams expressed a clear interest.

Those include Montreal, Winnipeg, New Jersey and Carolina, all teams that might as well take a flyer on a potentially high-end talent that's been chronically misused by a club that's chronically mismanaged. As far back as the days after the deadline, Elliotte Friedman was already opining that if you're not using him in your top-six, you might as well not be using him at all.

So the question is, how will the Oilers proceed here? They're under no actual obligation to trade him, of course. It was a request and not a demand, but even if it had been the latter, that doesn't compel action from Peter Chiarelli. Yakupov still has one year at $2.5 million left on his contract, meaning that if guys who aren't Yakupov are shipped out (Jordan Eberle, just for example) there you have a cheap top-six wing ready to go.

Of course, if you do ship him away, you need to figure out what he's worth to you.

Who's Going Where?

First thing to note here is that Yakupov has requested a trade before, back when he was merely an underperforming sophomore. Obviously Edmonton was not all that willing to move him at the time.

But second, let's talk about the four teams confirmed by Yakupov first: Montreal, Winnipeg, New Jersey and Carolina. Without getting into specifics, Friedman said this week that, “at least one club made a push, but it sounds like they ran out of time at the deadline.” The problem, though, is that Edmonton seemed to be asking for more than anyone was willing to offer at the time.

Meanwhile, on TSN's Insider Trading, Pierre LeBrun noted that a trade this summer is still at least somewhat likely, but if no one meets the asking price, the team would bring him back again next season in good faith and all that. LeBrun termed the offers the Oilers received “low-ball.” The asking price in this case? “A young player that can play in their NHL lineup.” All the above-listed clubs certainly have those on hand, but whether they'd be willing to part with those players for a reclamation project, even one with a high-end talent level like Yakupov, is unclear. Maybe someone gets desperate for the offense he theoretically provides and budges on something, but who knows?

A lot of this likely relates back to how the draft lottery shakes out. If Edmonton somehow wins again, getting Auston Matthews could change everything. They might be compelled by an offer or two to deal the pick if they can get a good young defenseman (but Don Maloney says it won't be Oliver Ekman-Larsson), and Bob McKenzie added the team would like to add some goaltending depth as well this summer.

The Oilers looking for defense and goaltending? Yeah, big surprise there.

McKenzie believes a deal could come along at the draft, probably as part of a package. In addition to the four clubs specifically mentioned, one must also remember Yakupov teased a few more as well. And who doesn't love a mystery team?

One destination Yakupov has entirely ruled out is the KHL. That seems like a smart move for him. The KHL is bad.

The Implications

Pretty clear that everyone would probably benefit from such a move. In much the same way Justin Schultz has miraculously become a solid-enough third-pairing defenseman for the Penguins since he was shipped out of Edmonton, there's no reason to believe Yakupov wouldn't likewise benefit.

The presence of mystery teams in this whole thing become interesting in a hurry. Everyone needs a decent second-line scoring threat, which Yakupov potentially provides, but how many are willing to pay for it with roster players at the draft rather than just trying to buy one on the UFA market a week later? How many have roster players to give in the first place? How many would give them up for Nail Yakupov?

We don't know what Edmonton's asking price was for sure, but one imagines that Yakupov is being shopped on the basis of the Oilers' acknowledgement that they screwed things up a bit. Would teams be smart to give up a roster player for him? It depends on the player.

This is not dissimilar to the Jonathan Drouin situation in Tampa: The team is only willing to move the player if someone meets their exact asking price. I think that's a reasonable way to proceed, especially in the case of a team headed for a shakeup anyway.

If you're looking for scoring help, you have to ask yourself this: How much more would Jordan Eberle, in theory, cost than Yakupov? Wouldn't you rather have the proven commodity for a little bit more than the one with a greater likelihood of going bust, even if the latter is younger and cheaper both in terms of money and what you have to give up to get him?

Certainly, you weigh those pros and cons for a while before you make a decision on a trade. And that's very much a wait-and-see proposition.

This Is So Huge, If True: Is It True?

On a B.S. detector scale of 1-5, with one being the most reasonable and 5 being the least:

We'll know so much more about this by the draft. Given all the smoke around this, and the fairly definitive level at which everyone is speaking, it seems likely that Yakupov will be traded around draft time. But also, there is an apparent contingency plan in place, and I think that's in everyone's best interest.

Yakupov will be an RFA next summer. No need for Edmonton to really lean into this if they don't feel the need.

For this reason, we can give this rumor:


The odds Yakupov's last game in an Oilers jersey is on April 9 remain quite high. Wouldn't say it's a sure thing quite yet, though.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)


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