NHL rumors: Is Nail Yakupov on New York Rangers' radar?

Nail Yakupov may be on the trade block in Edmonton after slow start. (USATSI)
Nail Yakupov may be on the trade block in Edmonton after slow start. (USATSI)

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The Edmonton Oilers had a contingent of team president Kevin Lowe, general manager Craig MacTavish and special advisor Mark Messier at Madison Square Garden for Monday night’s Rangers game against the Anaheim Ducks, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.

With the Oilers mired in last place in the Western Conference, the team could be looking to make some deals.

More from Brooks:

Edmonton, which has opened 3-10-2 under first-year coach Dallas Eakins, is believed to be accepting offers for veteran winger Ales Hemsky while also exploring the market for second-year winger Nail Yakupov, the first overall selection in the 2012 Entry Draft.

Blueshirts would have to maneuver to get under the cap in order to accommodate the 30-year-old. Hemsky is on the final year of a contract worth a $5 million cap charge and is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.

It is unclear whether the organization would have (or be willing to part with) the necessary assets to match Edmonton’s needs and acquire the extremely talented Yakupov, who led the Oilers with 17 goals a year ago, but has just one goal and two assists in 13 games after being scratched twice in the early season.

Especially with all of Edmonton’s top brass in New York for the game, something could really be brewing. If the Rangers were going to gamble a little, Yakupov brings much more value to them than Hemsky’s large cap hit and expiring contract.

Though New York got off to a rough start, the Blueshirts are still in the thick of things in the disastrous Metropolitan Division. With Rick Nash still sidelined with a concussion and no real timetable set for his return, the Rangers might need an influx of skill.

That could be Yakupov. The speedy Russian forward is in only the second year of his entry-level contract, which gives the Rangers some time to see if things could work out in New York if they so choose.

Yakupov has struggled in his sophomore campaign after tying for the rookie lead in points last season, but his potential remains incredibly high. Though the Oilers seem to have soured on him, the price tag should still be relatively high as well.

Yakupov may be falling victim to the perception of Russian players being unreliable, enigmatic, uncoachable and whatever other stereotype you might throw his way, but in Yakupov’s case in particular, those allegations seem unfair.

After coming to North America to play in the Ontario Hockey League two years ahead of his NHL draft season, Yakupov made a fairly early commitment to playing in the NHL. Any Russian could be considered a KHL flight risk, but Yakupov’s risk would seem to be quite a bit lower than average, particularly with former NHLer Igor Larionov as his agent.

For the Oilers, it could be a bit of a short-sighted move to deal Yakupov as rumors continue to swirl that he's available, but their youthful roster could use a dose of experience. Still seems a tad early to be shopping one of the three players Edmonton nabbed with a first overall selection in consecutive years.

A potential deal involving a No. 1 pick is always intriguing. When it’s one year after his rookie season, even moreso. If Glen Sather was looking to make a splash, it appears he at least has the chance. It'd be a gamble, but there's potential for high reward if New York has interest in putting together a deal.

CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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