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NHL rumors: Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek on Oiler radar for Yakupov?

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Miller had a .939 save percentage in five games this season. (USATSI)
Miller had a .939 save percentage in five games this season. (USATSI)

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The Buffalo Sabres have been really bad to start the season and have a pair of big-name players believed to be on the trade block going back to last season. The Edmonton Oilers have been bad this season and have had a very small falling out of sorts with 2012's No. 1 overall draft pick Nail Yakupov.

This is how rumors are born.

It's been no secret that Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek could be on their way out in Buffalo. They are both free agents after this season and don't fit the mold for the rebuild that has begun. To hear them mentioned in trade rumors at this point is nothing new. The addition of Yakupov to a rumor, though, is.

Here's what the hot stove is cooking up according to Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News.

And just so you know, there was talk Wednesday afternoon that the Sabres were working on a deal with Edmonton that would send Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek and possibly both to the Oilers in a package that would bring Nail Yakupov and more to Buffalo. Whether it actually happens is another story. But as it stood Wednesday, the two sides had considered, or were considering, a major swap.

People talk. The word gets around. Once it became clear to me Wednesday that the information wasn't drummed up on some fan website or at the bar or heaven knows where else this stuff originates, I decided to share it with you. And it makes sense.

Holy smokes.

If a deal were done between the two you would have to assume that Miller would be going to Edmonton. The Oilers are reportedly already on the hunt for a goaltender and Miller is still one of the better netminders in the league despite his team's poor performance.

FIrst things first, though. Remember, Miller has a no-trade clause and wouldn't you know it, the Oilers are on the list of teams to not be traded to.

As for Vanek, it seems people everywhere think it's fait accompli that he will join former Sabres teammate Jason Pominville in Minnesota before next season. Though he is from Austria, Vanek has a lot of ties to Minnesota including the fact that he was a star for the Golden Gophers and his wife is from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Point is, there would be a lot of risk for the Oilers there in potentially landing a player for half a season that might not be going anywhere. Plus, scoring up front isn't really their issue in Edmonton at the moment.

On the other side, it's nuts to me that the Oilers would think about trading Yakupov at this point. Despite two benchings this week, he still has an excellent future in front of him, though there's work that needs to be done. He's far from a complete player and that's something that needs to improve. That said, it's fair to wonder what a potential move to Buffalo would do for Yakupov and that pesky KHL rumor that popped up last week.

It would appear to be a risky deal all around. For the Oilers, getting two potential UFAs at season's end for a top prospect like Yakupov is a massive risk. At the same time for the Sabres there are questions about Yakupov at this point and they would grow louder with a trade to Buffalo.

There's one other little element at play with this rumor cranking up and that's the suggestions that Buffalo GM Darcy Regier is at the end of his line and nothing can force a big move quite like a GM feeling the fire under his seat.

I'm going to remain very skeptical about this deal happening because to me it just doesn't seem believable that the Oilers would give up on Yakupov so soon or that they'd want to take on one or two expensive, expiring contracts (fitting them on the cap would be another issue at play as is Miller's no-trade clause) but there has been too much smoke building on these names this week to simply ignore. In the NHL, you never know.

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