The Edmonton Oilers have put former No. 1 overall draft pick Nail Yakupov on the trading block. The Oilers are seeking a defenseman, and have plenty of scorers to give up in return. An ideal trading partner for them is a familiar team, the New York Rangers.
No, this is not 1994, a time when the Rangers acquired a litany of leftovers from the 1980’s Oilers’ dynasty for their Stanley Cup run. Today’s Rangers may be planning to go that route again in search of scoring help. Last night, a contingent of Oilers executives (and former Rangers) Kevin Lowe, Craig MacTavish and Mark Messier were in attendance for the Rangers’ game against the Anaheim Ducks. Presumably, they were there to scout Ranger defensemen, namely Dan Girardi and Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto has been a hot topic of trade rumors recently, and the Oiler contingent got to witness his best game of the season last night. Girardi has also been mentioned as a possible trading chip, as he is an unrestricted free agent following the season.
The Rangers and Oilers appear to have the right chips to make a deal. The Rangers need scoring and the Oilers need defense. Girardi, however, is a player that the Rangers can ill-afford to trade, as he is arguably the Rangers’ best shutdown defenseman. Del Zotto, however, has fallen out of favor with the organization and regressed mightily this year. Should the Oilers be interested in Del Zotto, Rangers general manager Glen Sather would be wise to pull the trigger on such a deal.
Financially, the deal makes sense for the Rangers. It would rid themselves of Del Zotto’s $2.5 million cap hit, and would only add Yakupov’s cap hit of $925,000. Plus, it gives the Rangers flexibility to make an additional move down the road. Roster wise, it is a big risk. Trading Del Zotto would greatly compromise the Rangers’ defensive depth. This is a dangerous proposition, because the Rangers do not have any players in the minor leagues ready to take Del Zotto’s place. As for Yakupov, he is a -12 with only three points so far this season. However, since the Rangers are so desperate for scoring, it may be worth the risk.
Yakupov is only 20 years old, and he may choose to go home to Russia and play in the KHL following the season. But for extra scoring depth, the Rangers need to consider acquiring the former top draft pick in order to load up for a long run to the playoffs. It is especially necessary with the continued absence of Rick Nash. Should the Rangers acquire Yakupov, there’s no guarantee he will answer the Rangers’ scoring woes. It is certainly worth a try, though.