Edmonton Oilers forward Nail Yakupov asked to be traded earlier in the season.
The news was tweeted by Igor Eronko of Sport-Express. According to Eronko, Yakupov asked to be traded and the Oilers gave him permission to speak to other teams.
When you came to a point to get traded, was there any ground to think it would happen?
“Absolutely. As far as I know trade has come very close. I've been out of a suitcase. Me and my agent Igor Larionov were given permission to talk to other teams. A number of teams were interested. But at the last moment something went wrong. And I'm still here.”
It was reported Montreal, Winnipeg, New Jersey and Carolina were interested. Which one was interested the most and which would you prefer?
“The list of teams that were interested was bigger, I could name couple more of them. And I don’t think it makes sense to discuss which team could get me or where I would like to be moved. Thing is this did not happen, and I'm still in the Oilers. Let’s see what will happen in the summer. There will be a lot more time to negotiate, and it will be much easier to make the trade happen. But ultimately everything depends on the Oilers.”
Did you request a trade?
“Yes, I did. But not in person, my job is just to play hockey. Agent was dealing with this.”
What Larionov advised you to do in this situation?
“Just to play. Live a normal hockey live. Everyone must do their job. I tried hard, trained a lot, worked on my game and tried to enjoy hockey. Talks on the trade - none of my business.”
Do not you think about going back to the KHL?
“No and no again.”
There are other interesting tidbits from the interview.
Yakupov also noted how much he enjoyed playing with 2015 No. 1 overall pick Connor McDavid early in the year but knew his time playing with McDavid would be short-lived when injured Oilers became healthy.
But by the beginning of the season several of our players were injured, and that's when I got the chance to play in top-six with McDavid. In the camp we were in different lines. And if there were no injuries to some guys, I would not play with him at all. Coach put us together only in the third game of the regular season. But we found a chemistry and I couldn't even imagine how everything will turn out. As soon as guys got healthy I was demoted to the bottom six.
Yakupov was also asked why he hasn’t had the same success as other Russians like Vladimir Tarasenko, Nikita Kucherov and Evgeny Kuznetsov and pointed to how “when your hands are tied up” it’s hard to help the team win, meaning if you’re not playing a top-six role.
The Oilers took Yakupov with the No. 1 overall pick in 2012. He came in with hype as a goal scorer but hasn’t reached his potential in four years as an NHL player.
He had 17 goals in 48 games his rookie year in 2012-13, but his highest total since then was 14 last season. This year he has six goals in 56 games played. He got tangled up with a linesman in late November and missed 22 games with an ankle injury.
Before the year he signed a two-year $5 million contract extension through 2016-17.
In early March, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pointed out how if Yakupov isn’t playing top line minutes, being with the Oilers may not make a lot of sense.
With Benoit Pouliot injured, Nail Yakupov moves back up the Oiler depth chart. This bears watching. There were rumours over the weekend Yakupov asked for a trade, but I don’t think that’s a fair picture. He’s got zero complaints about living in Edmonton. And, from what I understand, there are no issues when he’s with one of the team’s high-end offensive centres. However, he was moved down recently and, if that’s his future, it doesn’t make sense to keep him. He’s not suited for it. The Oilers may choose to trade him anyway.
Before the trade deadline, Edmonton general manager Peter Chiarelli said there would be changes to his team’s core. Chiarelli has often said that he needed a year to evaluate the Oilers before making major decisions.
Chiarelli has also said he’d like to see the Oilers with all their centers healthy "because you have three talented centermen, you can see how the wings can flourish.”
This is a story to watch as Chiarelli continues to try to re-shape Edmonton in the offseason. As a talented younger player, Yakupov could eventually draw some offseason interest for the right price.
With the trade request, Yakupov joins Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Kerby Rychel as talented youngsters looking to move on to different organizations.
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