Updates on Nail Yakupov’s trade request, prospect Jimmy Vesey testing the UFA market and talk of Alexander Radulov joining the Maple Leafs. 

Latest on Nail Yakupov.

Speculation is heating up over possible offseason trade destinations for Oilers winger Nail Yakupov.

Speculation is heating up over possible offseason trade destinations for Oilers winger Nail Yakupov.

EDMONTON JOURNAL:  Robert Tychkowski reports right Nail Yakupov, his Oilers teammates and head coach Todd McLellan downplayed a report claiming he requested to be dealt before last month’s NHL trade deadline. Regardless of Yakupov’s request, Tychkowski believes that trade will happen as soon as management finds a suitable deal. Yakupov is well-liked by his teammates but his performance hasn’t measured up to expectations.

David Staples lists nine key points in assessing Yakupov’s trade request. Among them: Yakupov asked for a trade in his second season when he was unhappy over his role under then-coach Dallas Eakins, his agent Igor Larionov claimed three teams showed a “good level of interest” in the young winger, he’s played well when skating alongside a swift playmaking center and for coaches who are motivators. Staples lists the Buffalo Sabres, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Vancouver Canucks and the Montreal Canadiens among teams in need of a scoring winger.

EDMONTON SUN: Jim Matheson believes the Oilers have a fading asset in Yakupov on their hands, one they cannot try to trade as a former first-overall pick. Instead, they must sell him as a promising young player who hasn’t panned out yet.  If the Oilers move Yakupov at the draft, Matheson speculates the return could be another failed first-rounder. Larionov also dismissed the notion of Yakupov returning to the KHL.

TSN 690 (via TODAY’S SLAPSHOT): Bob McKenzie believes the Oilers stand a better chance of moving Yakupov at this year’s draft, suggesting he might have more value as a complimentary piece in a package deal. He believes Yakupov wants a fresh start and feels the youngster was going to be traded anyway. He also wonders how much damage the constant coaching changes and losing has had on young players like Yakupov and the recently departed Justin Schultz.

SI.COM: Allan Muir lists the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks as potential destinations for Yakupov.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t blame Yakupov for requesting a trade and seeking a fresh start. He probably already knew he didn’t have a future in Edmonton so why not try to get the ball rolling sooner. There’s no question the years of mismanagement, frequent coaching changes and constant losing took a toll upon some of the young Oilers, some (like Yakupov and Schultz) more than others. Maybe a change of scenery is what Yakupov needs to get his career back on track. He’s only got a year remaining on his contract at a very affordable $2.5 million. For the right price, like swapping a comparable player or as part of a package deal, he could be a worthwhile gamble for a club seeking a promising young scoring winger.

As for the potential destinations, the Canadiens reportedly had little or no interest in Yakupov at the trade deadline, but maybe they’ll change their minds this summer. I don’t see the Leafs looking at a reclamation project when they’re busy restocking with their hand-picked young talent and perhaps considering a plunge into free agency or targeting clubs with limited cap space. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has enough on his plate with Steven Stamkos’ contract talks, trying to trade Jonathan Drouin and re-signing other key players without adding another potential headache. The Penguins are squeezed for cap space next summer, so unless the Oilers are willing to take back some salary, I don’t see them as a fit. The Canucks could pursue a free agent like Boston’s Loui Eriksson this summer, meaning they won’t have interest in a player like Yakupov. The Hurricanes, Sabres and Devils appear the more likely trade destinations. 


Updated on Vesey and Radulov.

TSN.CA: Frank Seravalli reports the decision by Nashville Predators prized prospect Jimmy Vesey to become an unrestricted free agent on August 15 left Predators GM David Poile in shock. “For whatever reason, and after all the time and resources that we invested in Jimmy Vesey’s development, we could not get a meeting with Jimmy, his family and his representatives all together,” said Poile. “That’s the only thing I asked for after [last week] and they would not accommodate us on that.” Seravalli notes the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Vesey’s father Jim as a scout and selected his brother Noah in the 2014 draft. The Boston Bruins could also be a favorite for the Reading, Mass. native. He also points out this isn’t about gaining financial leverage, as rookie base salaries and bonuses are capped at $925K and $2.8 million respectively.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: For whatever reason, Vesey wasn’t keen on joining the Predators. He’s using the only leverage he has (unrestricted free agency) to decide were he’ll begin his NHL career, something few prospects get the opportunity to do. Looks like the Leafs and Bruins have the advantage, but it’ll be interesting to see if there are other clubs he’d consider as destinations. 

TSN:  Responding to a European report linking KHL winger Alex Radulov to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bob McKenzie reports he’s not aware of the Leafs having any interest in him. McKenzie notes Radulov’s brief return to the Nashville Predators several years ago “was a bust”. The winger’s put up some decent numbers in the KHL, though he’s not even a .5 point per game player there.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be very surprised if the Maple Leafs actually sign Radulov. For that matter, I’ll be surprised if any NHL club takes him on.