The slow start of the Edmonton Oilers has many in the fan base slamming the panic button. The team is loaded with young talent – which will happen when you have the top draft pick for three straight years – but currently sit at a paltry 4-10-2. Their ten points are just barely above the Philadelphia Flyers for dead last in the entire NHL.
New coach Dallas Eakins clearly has a lot on his plate. One of the biggest issues is the trade rumors running wild about various players on his team, mainly second year forward Nail Yakupov.
It was reported earlier this week that a group of Oilers front office executives were seen at a New York Rangers game, prompting the suspicion it was to scout for a possible trade. Earlier this year, rumors spread about a proposed deal involving Yakupov and Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. This was debunked soon after, as it was revealed that Edmonton was on Miller’s no-trade list.
Either way, Yakupov has seen his name pop up numerous times in trade rumors. This, combined with his early season slump, is very likely affecting his game overall. However, Eakins recently revealed to the media that the Russian winger has no need to worry about being shipped out of town.
“I wanted to also let him know that all of these reports in the media – the people that are making up trades for him – are absolutely, 100 percent untrue.” Eakins said. “This kid is not going anywhere.
“He’s 20 years old and we’re not going to just suddenly give up on a guy because he’s going through a rough stretch. And the people writing their columns and their blogs, they can create their excitement that way, but all of what’s out there is 100 percent untrue.”
Eakins went on to say he’s talked to Yakupov about other successful players who struggled early in their careers, highlighting the fact that they were able to turn things around.
“Guys like [San Jose Sharks forward] Joe Thornton, [Tampa Bay Lightning forward] Steven Stamkos, those guys struggled early in their careers and boy they turned out to be pretty good players. So Nail Yakupov is not being shopped, he’s not going anywhere, and I wanted him to hear that from me, look me in my eyes and let him know that, ‘hey, we’re attached at the hip.’ We’re going to make him a better player, and its okay to struggle. I let him know about Thornton and Stamkos; it’s part of the process.”
This is a very wise move for the Oilers. Yes, the team is struggling, and yes Yakupov is stuck in a nasty slump in which he has three points in 14 games. Still, bear in mind that he’s only played 62 games in his entire NHL career. To give up on a player before he even plays a full season’s worth of games seems highly unproductive for a franchise.
There have been plenty of rumors that Yakupov hasn’t been receptive to coaching, accusations further increased when he was benched for a couple games this season. But it would be absolutely foolish if the Oilers were just willing to wash their hands of him this early in his tenure with the club.
For now, it looks like Edmonton is willing to work with their young forward. If a team wants to make a trade with the Oilers, they’ll have to look at someone else on the roster.