The Edmonton Oilers are likely to trade Nail Yakupov this summer, with one year left on his deal before restricted free agency. It’s been four years since he was taken first overall in the NHL Draft; it can be argued that his value has depreciated ever since.
The Oilers have some areas of vital need, like the blue line, and there’s been some thought that Yakupov could bring help via trade. But after a season that saw him notch 23 points in 60 games, including a career-low eight goals, it appears his value has fallen off a cliff.
“The price on Yakupov, if and when he gets traded, and he’s not paired with something else, we’re talking a third-round pick right now. The value is just not there. I think they’re holding out, waiting and hoping, but that range of a low second-round pick or a third-round pick is what’s out there.”
That was echoed by a scout in the Edmonton Journal:
“Yakupov’s value has dropped significantly over the last two years … they may have to take somebody else’s failed prospect. I don’t think the Oilers will get a whole, big return for him,” said one long-time NHL pro scout who has watched the right-winger in person on a lot of nights.
“I’d describe him as a pond hockey player. He’s got NHL skills and the ability to create stuff and there’s times when he’s quite effective,” said the scout, “but he sees himself as one type of player when he’s really not. He can’t do things by himself. He has to learn to use the players around him better and become responsible (without the puck).”
“He’s not the first No. 1 pick who hasn’t panned out. How about the guy Ottawa took? (Alexandre) Daigle? In terms of ability, there’s similarities there.”
To us, Yakupov remains a solid reclamation project. Stephen Burtch thinks getting him for a third is a steal, given his stats and his potential. And he’s right, which is probably why the Oilers are hoping the trade market somehow turns around on him.
All it takes is the right system and the right coach; but most importantly, it takes him getting out of the toxicity of Edmonton, where Yakupov has been treated like a pariah and had his confidence stripped from him systematically over his career.
There is hope for those wayward souls in Alberta – let Justin Schultz be your north star and follow him to freedom!
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