Dreger shared this assessment of the Yakupov situation during TSN's Thursday night broadcast (via EdmontonJournal.com):
“I would say it's unlikely that he's an Edmonton Oiler next season. So it makes sense that they'll try and move him. They were trying to move him at various points this season. Word is out that Nail Yakupov is available. The problem is, no one really wants him. Certainly not for the value that the Edmonton Oilers are going to need to get back in return. And you can see why. He had opportunities in this game early on. He scored one goal in his last 11 games. He was on the ice late in the game when the Blues scored to tie the hockey game. He's an NHL worst -30. He lacks commitment. He thinks that skill is enough to be an NHL player. And the unfortunate reality for Nail Yakupov is that, yes, he's a skilled player, but not an elite level skill player. And until he finds a way to absorb the message, the market on Nail Yakupov isn't going to be great. They might have to package him with a collection of assets to get something better in return.”
Harsh words from Dreger, but he usually has a finger on the pulse of this sort of thing. The situation in Edmonton is far from ideal, and this has been an ongoing thing all year. Yakupov, however, had 31 points in 48 games as a rookie, showing there's a pretty good player in there.
This year, he may be in what could be considered a significant sophomore slump. Yakupov has just 24 points in 61 games and hasn't looked nearly as dangerous as he did a season ago. There is a chance that Yakupov is not meshing with the new coaching staff as well. If that's the case, then maybe it is time for a change of scenery.
The young winger will still have a year remaining on his entry-level deal, making him an affordable addition to any team with a mere $925,000 cap hit. Even if there are character concerns (which could be overblown), if that means his value is plummeting, you would think there would be a number of teams willing to take that risk for a potential high reward.
There's also the added risk of Yakupov leaving to play in the KHL after his entry-level deal expires, which would also mean diminishing returns for the Oilers in any trade scenario.
As Dreger notes, perhaps they could include Yakupov in a package with other roster players or picks to sweeten the deal, but it seems like it is far too early to call it quits on a 20-year-old hockey player with clear offensive tools.
If his value is decreased to a certain degree, however, the Oilers should be the team taking a chance by keeping him. If general manager Craig MacTavish is concerned about the return, it's worth it to see if Yakupov can take another step next year as he gets more confident and more experienced. Should it not work out, then the ELC is up after next season, he becomes a restricted free agent and though he can't control his own destiny within the NHL, Yakupov can decide to jump to Europe if need be.
Based on the fact that Yakupov came over to North America at a young age to improve his NHL stock – he spent two years in the OHL - I don't think the youngster is done in the league. It would be a shame to see talent go unrealized because he wasn't given much of a chance to turn things around.