One of the more interesting storylines early on in the season has been the status of Nail Yakupov with the Edmonton Oilers. The young Russian has already served as a healthy scratch on multiple occasions, which immediately led to him being the subject of trade rumors.
Those trade rumors have refused to die, and likely will not at any point this season. Some outside of the organization have scoffed at the very thought of moving a highly talented quantity like Yakupov, especially since he’s only been in the league for a year, but there is some logic behind such a potential move.
The primary reason for the early Yakupov trade rumors are due not only his individual struggles, but the struggles of starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Yakupov has had a rough start, with only one point (an assist) in seven games so far, which has led to him sitting out and changing positions.
At the same time, the Oilers haven’t had much success early on this year, and the issues that Dubnyk has had between the pipes have been a large cause of that. He seems to have put it back together recently, but he only has one win on the year, and his goals against average is a rough 4.20, with a .877 save percentage.
Much of the trade talk surrounding Yakupov has centered on a goaltender. Do they ship him out for someone like Ryan Miller? While it’s been mentioned, you’re talking about a guy who is a free agent after the season and likely wouldn’t be anything more than a rental, unless the Oilers had an indication they could create some sort of long term relationship.
Where a Yakupov trade makes more sense is for a defenseman. The Oilers need help on the blue line. They have a couple of pieces, but not the impact type presence that they really need in order to make this a solid unit. Moving a quantity like Yakupov, who has major upside, would be something that they could fetch that type of talent with.
At the same time, though, it’s much too early to be discussing a Yakupov trade. One may very well happen. At some point, the Oilers are going to have to start selling off some of this offensive talent in order to keep the puck out of their own net. Yakupov may very well be the first. But that should be in a trade for a d-man, not necessarily a goaltender.
Again, it’s not the concept of trading Yakupov that is that outlandish. They Oilers need more help on the defensive side than they do on offense, where they possess several impact players. It’s a matter of keeping the puck out of their own net. Yakupov may very well be traded to serve such a purpose some day. Just not yet.