YAKUPOV: LAST IN, FIRST OUT?

Robin Brownlee
November 11 2013 07:41PM

Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish said just last week he isn’t trying to trade Nail Yakupov, but agent Igor Larionov has tongues wagging across the NHL today, saying his client is open to a trade. Anywhere is fine.

Two Tweets from the Twitter account of ESPN Magazine senior hockey writer Craig Custance are again fuelling speculation that the struggling Yakupov could be on the move out Edmonton just 65 games into his NHL career with the Oilers, who picked him first overall in 2012. Just after 6 p.m. Edmonton time, the following:

A couple of hours prior to that, just before 5 p.m., Custance posted:

So, according to Custance, a seasoned scribe not prone to passing along baseless hearsay or making things up, and in direct quotes, Yakupov is open to and OK with being traded by the Oilers and Larionov plans to swing into town for a sit-down with MacTavish and maybe coach Dallas Eakins to discuss how his client is being used. That about cover it?

Is that trouble with a capital T or entitlement with a capital E?

EARLY SPLIT OR HISSY FIT?

It's completely understandable why Yakupov wouldn't be anything close to happy right now. Aside from the Oilers being off to a horrid 4-13-2 start, Yakupov has struggled mightily through the first 17 games of his sophomore season.

After finishing his rookie season like a house on fire with five goals in his last two games and totals of 17-14-31 in 48 games, Yakupov has scored just 2-2-4 in 17 games this season. He's been a healthy scratch. He's been moved up and down the line-up by Eakins. He's got every reason to be frustrated.

Is that all this is? I'm not sure. Players struggling during a difficult stretch or through a frustrating set of circumstances – diminished ice time, offensive droughts -- will often vent to their agents. Sometimes, it's a one-off. Then, the puck goes in the net, as it did in Chicago Sunday. Ice time increases. The team starts to win again. Cooler heads prevail. It's not often the crux of those conversations is passed on to media types.

Now, this from Larionov about Yakupov, the third and last of three first overall picks over the past four seasons after Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Wasn't it, like, just six or eight weeks ago that Oiler fans and some media types were thinking out loud about how Yakupov's next contract might stack up to those inked by Hall, RNH and Jordan Eberle?

This, just after MacTavish went out of his way to stifle speculation the Oilers were shopping the talented 20-year-old Russian winger: "When we drafted Nail it was because we believed he’d be a dynamic, electric, exciting player and that hasn’t changed. We were not expecting him to become all that in the first 70 games of his career," he said.

"We very much believe Nail will evolve to become that dynamic, electric player — become one of the most entertaining guys in the game. I told that to Igor. And I told that to Yak. Development is very rarely a straight line. It has ups and downs."

SO, WHAT NEXT?

So, what to make of this? Whatever conclusion you draw, it's difficult for me to believe Larionov didn't know exactly what he was saying. I'm guessing he said it with the blessing of his client. Leverage? Sending a message? Or is something already broken that can't be fixed? I don't know.

While "open to a trade" doesn’t necessarily equate to "I want to be traded," it's just a degree or two short. Demanding a trade now, given how poorly he's played, would be the epitome of entitlement -- blaming everybody else but himself for the situation Yakupov finds himself in.

Whatever the case, and despite what MacTavish said last week, I'm guessing what Larionov said today will get MacT's cell phone ringing just as surely as it has people talking already. Stay tuned.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#51 morgie
November 11 2013, 09:55PM
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lenny wrote:

Is it a reach? Really? Did MacT drafted him? Did Dallas Eakins drafted him? Would they drafted him if they were there at the time?

Apparently Katz drafted Yak, scouts wanted Murray

Karma is a bitch I guess

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#52 DSF
November 11 2013, 10:05PM
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Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

If that's what I said, it shouldn't be too hard to find me saying that.

It was easy.

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#53 morgie
November 11 2013, 10:19PM
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DSF wrote:

The demonization of Yakupov has already begun:

http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/11/11/nail-yakupovs-agent-open-to-a-trade-from-edmonton-oilers-were-willing-to-make-a-move-any-team/

No mention of the fact that Hall, Eberle Gagner, Schultz et al also need to work like hell on their defensive games.

Hall -8

Gagner -9 (in only 6GP)

J. Schultz -10 (in only 14GP)

Petry -11

Hopkins -12

Hemsky -12

Yakupov -14

Looks like we're blaming the new kid.

Demonization that's rich

Yes they're all porous, Yak being the worst, taking short cuts many times ending in goals

No sympathy here, heck messier was sent to the minors in his career, yet Yak can't handle fourth line duties , too bad so sad, give me a break

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#54 BleedOil4Life
November 11 2013, 10:19PM
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@BigBurgers

I love how people have the "inside scoop" And this buddy of yours wont be pissed that you are posting info like this??

people in this city never cease to amaze me

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#55 RexHolez
November 11 2013, 08:00PM
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DSF wrote:

Andy Grabia ‏@agrabia

Can the Oilers make Larionov an offer while he's here? Even at 52, he's gotta be better than five or six guys they're currently dressing.

I'd like to see the entire Barons roster called up and playing. I'm guessing they'd stand a good chance of winning more than 4 in 20

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#56 Big Cap
November 11 2013, 08:28PM
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Fresh Mess wrote:

No, it's all on Fail's terrible, sub-NHL calibre play.

Your right. Blame the 20 year old with less than 70 Pro games under his belt.

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#57 e n
November 11 2013, 08:34PM
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oilbaron wrote:

Hearing rumors that there was a trade in the works with Philly , Simmons and coburn for Ederle and hemsky. Why wouldn't we do this trade? It would totally change the dynamic of the team, free up cap space and also give yakupov the ice time that he craves. I feel that we over value Ederle as a player and yakupov has a much higher top end.

who's ederle?

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#58 6 ring circus
November 11 2013, 09:13PM
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IF Larionov wants him traded and the Oiler's don't comply,the big threat here is clear. A return to Russia and the KHL.

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#59 bazmagoo
November 12 2013, 12:06AM
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LOIL99 wrote:

I assume that Yak will have trouble fitting into many NHL dressing rooms. He is a devout religious guy that doesnt drink or chase girls. Thats pretty much the anti typical young NHL player.

This is likely why Yakupov isn't fitting in with the party crew of the Oilers.. Devout muslim as well. Maybe he doesn't want to wear Eakins military uniform "star of the game" jacket. How many muslims were killed by the person who once owned that jacket?

If we have to trade him I hope we can get at least 2 decent players for him. Would Oilersnation agree that Coburn + Simmonds would be a decent return? Would definitely make us better in the short term, wonder if we could pull it off.

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#60 Eulers
November 12 2013, 07:07AM
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Yak is my favourite player precisely because of his attitude and dedication to the team. He and the team will get better if we ride out the current mess. If the Oilers trade both him and Smid, I'm through with his team.

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#61 Captain Steve
November 11 2013, 07:51PM
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Heard rumors he doesn't get along with the guys in the room either for whatever reason. He super talented, somethings up this year though...either confidence or not fitting in

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#62 oilbaron
November 11 2013, 08:30PM
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Hearing rumors that there was a trade in the works with Philly , Simmons and coburn for Ederle and hemsky. Why wouldn't we do this trade? It would totally change the dynamic of the team, free up cap space and also give yakupov the ice time that he craves. I feel that we over value Ederle as a player and yakupov has a much higher top end.

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#63 madjam
November 11 2013, 08:38PM
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Trouble in Oilerville . First Smid and now perhaps Yak . Who will follow next ? Uninspiring New Gm and New Coach driving away viable NHL talents while retainng some that should have been gone . Loaded once again with AHL talents trying to perform at NHL level -it's not working obviously . Maybe they should be relieved first before entire team revolts any further ? Situational crisis needs Lowe and Katz to step in and restore players confidence in the team ? My question is who is going to replace them if such be the case ? Kreuger would settle things down in the interim .

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#64 dougtheslug
November 11 2013, 11:21PM
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Ok, guys, here's the only scenario that makes sense to me......

Somehow, Darry Katz has got himself mixed up with the Russian mafia. They forced him to install Eakins(one of their operatives) as coach. As part of a match fixing scheme, they are forcing Eakins to make his inane line combinations, and knowing how explosive Yak is, are having Eakins break his spirit, all the while making millions betting against the Oilers.

Having Sam Gagner take the crucial draw in the d-zone in the last minute against Chicago was the final tipoff that blew the cover off this thing - no one who knows anything about hockey would be that stupid.....obviously Eakins is not a real coach....

I put it all together watching the Bourne Supremacy last night - has anyone noticed that Jason Bourne has more than passing resemblance with Taylor Hall? Coincidence? I think not.

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#65 DSF
November 11 2013, 07:56PM
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Andy Grabia ‏@agrabia

Can the Oilers make Larionov an offer while he's here? Even at 52, he's gotta be better than five or six guys they're currently dressing.

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#66 Fresh Mess
November 11 2013, 08:04PM
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Yakupov's "big personality" combined with the coach killers already in the Oiler dressing room....something has to give.

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#67 DSF
November 11 2013, 08:27PM
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Mark Spector ‏@SportsnetSpec 12m

RT @nielsonTSN1260: When I mention upcoming Oilers game at the Canadian Brewhouse tonight people are booing...that's where it's at now.

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#68 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 11 2013, 09:11PM
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@DSF

hahahahahahahaha

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#69 Eulers
November 12 2013, 07:08AM
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The double standard against Yakupov by the media and the organization is just criminal.

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#70 Virtual_Xi
November 12 2013, 11:20AM
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@Hockey Problems

umm...hall a primadonna? do you follow sports at all good sir? Seguin is the posterboy for primadonna. maybe a change of scenery will smarten him up in DAL...at least Hall's twitter hasn't gotten "hacked".

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#71 Crooked
November 11 2013, 08:23PM
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I think the rampant trade speculation is wearing on him. The coach says he's not going anywhere, yet 30 seconds later some media type or blogger is claiming the Oilers are in serious talks to trade him. The team sucking, and his early performance being poor, are likely just exacerbating the situation.

I don't think the team plans on trading him any time soon, but I do think he could benefit from some time in the AHL where he could regain his scoring touch, and his confidence. How he'd handle that would be difficult to say though.

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#72 6 ring circus
November 11 2013, 08:24PM
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Is anyone really surprised he want's out? I don't blame him one bit,MAYBE now Katz will finally get it ,that there's major problems and the lord of the ring's (k Lowe) needs to be shown the door, before the rest of the team join's Yak and want out to.

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#73 SlowTalker
November 11 2013, 08:27PM
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Primo wrote:

I think the Oiler fans have missed the point entirely. In the 2013 draft Yak would be a 10th over all at best. He is simply not ready for prime time. Another Gagne in the making...a young guy who needed further development at a young age but forced to play because his NHL team lacks depth.

Another sad story developing and potentially another ruined career. Gagne will never achieve his potential given his mis-management by the Oiler leadership.

The only solution to all of this is the immediate termination of 6 rings and bringing in a 'builder' who has not only hockey knowledge but demonstrated leadership and management of a pro hockey team.

You know that Simon Gagne plays for the Flyers right? How seriously should I take your opinion if you don't even know how to spell "Gagner"? Do you even watch the Oilers?

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#74 elpolodiablo
November 11 2013, 08:31PM
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I see Eakins losing his job before Yakupov getting traded. If they had a winning record, then you can make a case that the coach wins in a face-off like this. They are losing and badly. Part of being a coach is getting the players to buy into your system and motivating them to play for you. This coach hasn't done that. If they were winning a ton of games and Yakupov was producing like he is currently then you could possibly make a case for trading him, but even then I wouldn't do it. George Burnett lasted 35 games with the oilers I think this is worse. Do you guys think Eakins will last longer ?

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#75 lenny
November 11 2013, 09:10PM
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fig pucker wrote:

this is exactly why you don't draft russians before the third round. if he doesn't get the money or ice time he wants (not deserves) he's taking his toys and going home, trade him and never use another high draft pick on a russian.

HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF A STUPID BIGOT!

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#76 Eddie Shore
November 11 2013, 09:13PM
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Yakupov is not free from blame regarding his defensive play. I will concede he has not always been put in a position to succeed this year. However, the one thing he can control is his effort and it has not been great a lot of nights.

If his response to being challenged to play better is asking for a trade, then farewell young Nail.

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#77 Serious Gord
November 11 2013, 09:16PM
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6 ring circus wrote:

IF Larionov wants him traded and the Oiler's don't comply,the big threat here is clear. A return to Russia and the KHL.

I think that threat is greatly overblown.

It's my understanding that as part of a deal on Sochi and the ending of the lockout the khl would honor nhl contractual commitments by players. Thus nail could refuse to play but there is no way the khl will let him play there.

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#78 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 11 2013, 09:26PM
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DSF wrote:

Excellent riposte.

What's there to challenge here?

Did you hear that Iginla is a Bruin (last year)?

Did you hear that Hemsky cleaned out his locker?

Did you hear that aliens are invading?

BTW… reporters acting as mouthpieces for malcontent actors in sports is hardly new territory.

Reporters running with kinda-sorta-twitter-confirmed stories is hardly new territory.

As my post above noted… we've already been down this road with the same player TWICE in the last month.

This isn't about the "reputation" of an individual reporter. It's about a business that thrives on printing things that make you pay attention.

That is important context to the incredulous.

The credulous apparently wake up everyday after a lovely swim across Lethe.

We'd all be wise to take this Yakupov story as it has developed over the last month very seriously AND with a giant aircraft carrier's worth of salt.

If saying this is somehow off-the-grid, then you all need to give your heads a shake.

ps. Heatley signs with Oilers!… no wait. forget that.

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#79 Robin Brownlee
November 11 2013, 09:28PM
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Eddie Shore wrote:

Yakupov is not free from blame regarding his defensive play. I will concede he has not always been put in a position to succeed this year. However, the one thing he can control is his effort and it has not been great a lot of nights.

If his response to being challenged to play better is asking for a trade, then farewell young Nail.

I thought Yakupov played one of his better games in Chicago and I was puzzled why he played so little after his goal.

That said, it's a quantum (and ridiculous) leap to think the Oilers would draft a player first overall and then set out to screw him over for no reason in his second season after a very good rookie campaign. And this "because he's Russian" bit is just a reach.

Yakupov hasn't been good enough. He has lots of company in that regard, but when he's told what's expected of him defensively and he essentially says he's not really into putting that much energy into that part of the game, is he doing anything to win the confidence of the coach? I think not.

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#80 nick
November 11 2013, 09:40PM
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BigBurgers wrote:

I have it on good authority that the oilers dressing room is more toxic than we realize. A good buddy of mine works close with the team. It's no secret that Hall was upset that he was passed over for captain. He and eberle have been un-officially running the show for a while now. Hall is like Ethan Moreau, doesn't hesitate to pick his favourites and makes things miserable for those who arent buddy-buddy with him or go party at the Rack after. Ebs isn't a leader, he's more of Hall's henchman, so to speak. Even then, he's just as bad and just as guilty as Hall in terms of setting cliques. Anyhow, yaks didn't go out to party and mack on girls with the boys, so hall and friends started shunning him. It's a classic case of school-yard bullying. Yak needs to get out of this poison atmosphere ASAP.

I have heard that also from credible sources, the dressing room is a mess because of the young guys. Hall and Eberle are the bad influence and Ference is a big Eakins butt kisser that is why he got the Captaincy. Not a leader that will sort the kids out so it gets worse. Bad coaching and bad locker room equals a last place team

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#81 Jeffff
November 11 2013, 09:50PM
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Losing game sucks for the locker room , compound that with sub par goaltending. These guys walk into a game thinking they can't win. They have no faith in goaltending. This kills a team that is why they made a move for a goaltender. If they start winning a few the cloud will lift for awhile.

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#82 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 11 2013, 10:04PM
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DSF wrote:

Give it a rest.

You cited a laundry list of erroneous media reports to support your ridiculous thesis that the media can't be trusted because they've been wrong in the past.

Now, you're just sad.

If that's what I said, it shouldn't be too hard to find me saying that.

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#83 Oiler Al
November 11 2013, 11:19PM
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You want to break up the clan, Eberle or Hall to Nashville for Seth Jones.

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#84 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
November 12 2013, 12:31AM
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Send him to Buffalo, in exchange for Tyler Myers and the Sabres first selection in the 2015 draft.

Dallas Eakins chosen whipping boy, will be alot better off getting out of this debacle. The Oilers organization is living proof, you should never give stupid people rope. The results have been tragic. The two kids who've dedicated themselves to becoming better hockey players are RNH and Nail Yakupov. We don't see these kids out partying at all hours of the night.

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#85 chris
November 12 2013, 10:11AM
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If nails's agents comes crying about ice time, kick his ass to the curb, nail has had lots of opportunity to succeed, send him to the farm to learn the game, let him earn his ice time.

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#86 Towersofdub
November 12 2013, 10:30AM
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If Gagner is as useless a player as people on this message board suggest he is, what can anyone possibly expect to get in return for him? How many GM's are likely to be phoning up MacT saying "We'll trade you whatever you want for Sam Gagner"...the guy sucks. He sucks in Edmonton, and he'll suck every where else. If he could actually win a faceoff here and there, maybe he'd be a useful second line center, as long as he was always going up against a non-offensive line, and wasn't required to defend. Unfortunately, until Mike Milbury starts running an NHL team again, edmonton is stuck with Gags. However, this article is about Yakupov. Opinion is probably split evenly on his useful/uselessness. Maybe some benevolent GM out there see him as just being in the wrong place, but recognizes his ability, and quite happily sends a top pairing D-man to edmonton for him. Does it seem likely to anyone here? What team would ever willingly give up one of the 3 most coveted positions on a team for an unproven kid with less than 70 games to his name. Is it likely that Nail Yakupov is going to command a starting goalie, a top pairing defenseman, or a big physical scoring center? Whatever GM make that deal should be fired, and there's really no other trade worth making. And...absolutely no way will Yak be traded to philly for Wayne Simmonds, so forget that idea too. It just isn't happening. I know...a buddy who is close to the oilers told me.

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#87 _I_Got_Nothing
November 12 2013, 10:38AM
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@Dog Train

Guys like Gagner and Eberle have earned a little more rope than a player that has less than 80 NHL games under his belt. Like it or not, your time in the league does grant you a few more perks.

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#88 Taylor Gang
November 11 2013, 08:07PM
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GTL wrote:

Here we go .... Another oileresk salary dump, with little return... ~face palm~

Thank god it's not true. Right? 0_0

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#89 Fresh Mess
November 11 2013, 08:11PM
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RexHolez wrote:

Don't worry guys, in a couple years we'll have McDavid and whoever we draft with this years 1st overall. Maybe a couple losing years after that we'll get new assistant coaches, and a couple years later a capable president

Yes, and after the Oilers trade Hall and Yakupov for a package of draft picks, there will be an exciting new core of youth!

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#90 Gaz
November 11 2013, 08:43PM
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DSF wrote:

The Alpha Dog is feeling threatened.

This won't end well.

What exactly are you implying here?

Lowe is A.D?

Hall is A.D? (based on your later post)

Please expand on your comment.

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#91 madjam
November 11 2013, 08:43PM
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Trouble in Oilerville . First Smid and now perhaps Yak . Who will follow next ? Uninspiring New Gm and New Coach driving away viable NHL talents while retainng some that should have been gone . Loaded once again with AHL talents trying to perform at NHL level -it's not working obviously . Maybe they should be relieved first before entire team revolts any further ? Situational crisis needs Lowe and Katz to step in and restore players confidence in the team ? My question is who is going to replace them if such be the case ? Kreuger would settle things down in the interim .

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#92 Racki
November 11 2013, 09:12PM
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I like Yakupov, but I've been pushing for a trade for a bit now just because he's a redundant part amongst the other top guns. I think he's a hell of a weapon though that likely IS being misused (at least on the PP), but I would hope that he could be moved for a defensive piece that can really help this team if he can't be convinced to play to his best here (whilst being given a chance to play to his best).

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#93 Robert
November 11 2013, 09:22PM
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The team is deliberately not passing to Yakupov unless they have to. Seems odd that is why this story has legs to me

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#94 DSF
November 11 2013, 09:48PM
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fig pucker wrote:

the only problem with your argument lenny is that yaks isn't the only russsian on the team (belov), and he seems to be getting on just fine. maybe this is a yakupov problem and not a bigoted everybody is out to get the russian kid problem?

It will be interesting to see if Belov re-signs with the team.

He'll be a UFA at the end of the season.

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#95 Hockey fan 1976
November 11 2013, 09:57PM
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What a freaking joke!!! And how pathetic that some fans here already turned on Yuk for wanting out of this mess if in fact is true. Do you blame him? Am surprised it hasn't happened sooner the way he's been handled in Edmonton. 4th line? Scratched several times while Schultz blows the big one on defence day in and day out before he was injured. When was the last time god almighty Hall or Ebs got sat for stinking so bad defensively which has happened more than once (hence their great record ). This organization is a joke, and I hope Yuk leaves and becomes an All-star at a time that actually knows how to develop talent. Done with the Oilers and all the geniuses here that think Yuk is the problem. BRUTAL MICKEY MOUSE OPERATION!!!

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#96 oilabroad
November 11 2013, 10:22PM
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We needed to balance the roster, one of them had to go, might as well be the one who isnt fitting in... it does concern me however all the s**t I hear about Hall, I dont even live in the country and rumors about his performance off the ice are everywhere... MacT better make this trade count, it will be our last first over all for many... never mind

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#97 Al Low
November 11 2013, 11:15PM
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Thanks MacT for your hasty decision making when you replaced a guy who actually moved the team a few spots out of the gutter last year (Krueger) to a guy who, for all of his bravado, was not ready for prime-time and will be taking the team back to the TSN Draft Lottery Special show in April again (Dallas Eakins). Due to your power trip move, thanks for possibly losing a talented one shot scorer that you will be looking for again in a couple of years. Thanks for overpaying (in cash and term) for soft as butter players like Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Gagner who just aren't tough enough to ever make Edmonton a winner. The Boys on the Bus II model is a complete fail. You, Daryl and 6 time Stanley Cup champ Kevin Lowe all deserve to be put on blast for 8 years of ineptness. I look forward to backlash being at a fever pitch for the rest of the year. Oiler fans deserve better -- you fools have taken their loyalty for granted way too long.

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#98 Geoff
November 11 2013, 11:36PM
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After reading this article $^%& trading yak. Trade someone else.

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#99 season not played
November 12 2013, 07:13AM
Trash it!
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Cheers
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I was going to run down a list of reason why, but that is played. I'll keep it short and sweet.

The Oilers are a joke.

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#100 Spydyr
November 12 2013, 07:26AM
Trash it!
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lenny wrote:

And you know that exactly how? I guess Katz called you personally and informed you of his decision! Now I am mad at him because he did not call me!

You must not be a tier 1 fan.

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