Should the Edmonton Oilers trade Nail Yakupov?


It’s an interesting, unsettled time for the Oilers’ franchise as new general manager Peter Chiarelli settles in and remakes the team in his preferred image. We don’t know what that image is or who will be sacrificed in its creation, and the rumour mill to-date has been all over the map and not so reliable.

Still, it stands to reason that Nail Yakupov should probably be more unsettled than many of his teammates.

Yakupov is of course no stranger to trade rumours, so this weekend’s report out of Pittsburgh linking him to talks with the Penguins organization must be taken with the same grain of salt as previous dispatches. It’s also worth noting the total lack of chatter leading up to the Griffin Reinhart and Lauri Korpikoski trades; Chiarelli took some justifiable glee over the draft weekend in the fact that Reinhart conversations had been ongoing for some time but had not been reported in the press.

The shift in management and restructuring of the organization has, for the moment at least, apparently plugged some of the leaks in the good ship Oiler.

Even with those caveats as to the reliability of printed rumour it’s worth at least wandering down the path of a Yakupov trade and reasoning on its likelihood and the probable return in the event it’s consummated.

Peter Chiarelli

We know that Chiarelli is unafraid to take risks. It’s a quality I truly admire in the man; he’ll trade Phil Kessel or Tyler Seguin if he thinks it’s in the best interests of his team. He gets criticized a lot (including by me) for the Seguin deal, but it’s wrong to look at that trade in isolation from the Kessel deal which originally spawned. But I digress: the point here is that Chiarelli would likely have little compunction about trading the 2012 first overall pick if he felt it was in the best interests of his team.

Would it be?

Late season explosion aside (his final 30 games were the best hockey he’s played as an Oiler, far better than his shooting percentage-fueled rookie campaign) Yakupov has largely been an albatross throughout his entry-level deal. He’s been given sheltered minutes and the Oilers have been stomped when he’s on the ice for most of his career. He hasn’t come close to scoring enough to make up for it; his presence on the team has been damaging to the club’s on-ice results.


But he’s also a special player in a lot of ways. He started coming around in February and by March he was exceptional at five-on-five, one of the team’s most consistently effective forwards. If that’s him turning a corner, if that 30-game run represents his actual level of ability going forward, than that’s a player well worth keeping. He’s 21 years old, he’s on a modest contract for two seasons and he’s under team control for two more seasons after that.

Trading him would remove a question mark from the team and allow the Oilers to button down one of those wing positions, taking a lot of uncertainty from the forward position. It would also mean sacrificing that potential.

In the right deal, such a trade might make sense. It might particularly make sense if a young player were coming the other way. Using the Pittsburgh example, there’s probably a deal to be built around Yakupov-for-Derrick Pouliot that would make sense for the Oilers; like Yakupov Pouliot was a 2012 draftee and bringing a player of that age aboard would be palatable under the right conditions.

In contrast, trading for someone like Brandon Sutter would make no sense at all. Five years older than Yakupov, Sutter has already peaked and that peak isn’t that impressive. He’s a decent checking line forward whose scoring rate over the last three years is a touch shy of Jay Beagle’s; it would be a little like trading Yakupov for a younger version of Boyd Gordon. He’s also a free agent next summer.

Basically, it comes down to this: Yakupov isn’t untouchable. But there’s a lot of potential there and many years of team control, so if he goes the Oilers had better make sure they’re getting a player back who at least stands a chance of being a comparable long-term asset.


  • Joy S. Lee

    I don’t mind being Captain Obvious today. The Oilers have 3 stud centers, and elite wingers in Hall and Eberle. Its time to balance out the team.

    I have no issue with Yakupov in a package for a young dman and something something. If the Oilers could get a young dman who could be part of a top four of Nurse, Klefbom, Reinhardt, I believe the Oilers can be perennial favourite sooner and longer.

    Oiler fans have a love affair with him, but the reality is which draft in the last 7 years would he have been a top pick other then 2012. He would not even been a top 5 pick this year. He is still defensively irresponsible, does not create possession, and you can argue he will never score 30 goals or put up 65 points. I love the occasional flair, but the elite talent you occasional see if sporadic.

    I think currently you could sell him on potential. Oiler fans fall in love with certain players, and they need to address the hole that is the backend.

    • His last 30 games of this year would make a strong argument against this sort of thinking. Only people who spend most of their time honing their Excel skills believe elite athletes improve on a straight line trajectory.

  • Milhouse Van Ched

    I would’t trade Yaks unless theys’d steal something back worth more than Yaks…He has a lot of potential and playing on the top 6 with Mc D or the Nuge will make him come in to his own plus Yaks is getting better in all aspects of the game. Some of the hits he did last yr under Nelson on the forcheck! He hammered some guys that were a lot bigger than him and dropped them so I’d see how he plays this year with some really talented players. Go Oil

  • OilCanFan1

    I’m firmly in the “NO” camp when it comes to trading a cheap young skilled forward. Wait to see what he can do with a bit of confidence and most likely playing with a good skilled center.

  • Joy S. Lee

    Really great article and I totally agree with the idea that Yakupov has much greater potential value than meets the eye, and what JW said is exactly why. I missed a healthy portion of this past season, so I didn’t see the transformation, but am very glad to hear that. I like the player. I like his energy, his passion for the game, and his willingness to do whatever it takes, including playing physically almost to a point of intimidation, he’s so good at it sometimes. He just didn’t know how to play. Someone teach the kid, please – it’s up to him to translate it, of course – but I think he’s willing. He’s a very unique player, as well, and I like that about him, too. He doesn’t play like everyone else plays, he plays the way he plays. That’s part of his challenge, to mesh a technical understanding of the game with his own style, make some adjustments in his techniques according to the smart new coach – and be the player he can be. I’d like to see him try it here, now, because he hasn’t exactly been handed anything, like some others might have been. His own worst enemy at times, I know, but decision-making is part of that technical aspect he has to learn. Maybe he’s been doing that, and maybe he’s ready to play better, as was mentioned. And with better players. Maybe Yak gets a chance here, to make good on his promise. Because he’s got lots of it. That’s what I hope.

  • Milhouse Van Ched


    There has been much talk and subsequent pain of having the Oilers take the path of a “rebuild.” Everyone bought into the fact that a rebuild could take five years until you start to see results. I’m not sure when “officially”, the rebuild commenced. Some say 2010 when Taylor Hall was selected first overall, while others suggest it was 2009 (Magnus Paajarvi 1st round 10th overall) or 2008 (Jordan Eberle 1st round 22nd overall).

    Regardless, everyone (fans included) spoke of having to be “patient.” The Oilers have had the good fortune of having the first overall selection in the first round four times in the past 6 years. Yak was 1st overall in 2012, three short years ago. In addition to Yak, and going back to 2008, we have Eberle (2008), (Lander was selected in the 2nd round in 2009), Hall (10), Nuge (11), Nurse (13), Draisaitl (14) and McDavid (15).

    These are top draft picks! Give them time, like everybody (media, fans and bloggers) all said five or six years ago.

    The Oilers need to do what Chiarelli has done the past couple of weeks. Compliment these young stars who need more time to mature and develop, with better skilled, veteran talent.

    Things are finally starting to turn. Don’t give up on these young 1st round picks just yet. Let the Oilers improve more in the standings, which there is potential given the calibre of coaching this team now has. Once the team starts to gain momentum, then look at potential trades of these players when their value is higher than what it is today.

    In the meantime, lets give the new coaches time to work with the incredible young talent this team has.

    More patience… please!

  • OilCanFan1

    Gotta keep Yak. The roster is already a reflection of PC and he’s still got lots of spots and lots of time.

    Yak could be on the same line with Hall & McDavid. The 1-1-1 line.

    Yak’s $ is low enough he could be a great bang for the buck player this season. Plus if he is trending up under Todd and JJ then PC has the reins for 4 years.

    This trade talk EBs is garbage. Where’s the love for our right wingers?

    Purcell could be moved but that might be a March deadline deal.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    OK….I’ll probably take a lot of Flak for this one, but, does…..

    Yak + Nikitin + 2016 3rd Rd pick = Shattenkirk?

    Or is that too much of an overpay?

  • Zarny

    No way we trade Yak unless it’s in a package where the return is a bona-fide #1-2 dman. This kid has huge upside. He is still very young. And he hasn’t yet found the right chemistry with linemates yet. It’s bound to happen. And when it does…this kid could b one of the premier shooters in the game. I want to believe that McClellan will get the most out of yak. Look for a solid campaign