The Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers have discussed a trade centered on former No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov, reports TSN’s Bob McKenzie. A deal is not “imminent” and the salary cap remains an issue given Yakupov’s $2.5 million salary, but it sounds like there’s real interest here.
McKenzie says the trade talks weren’t “too recent,” but that doesn’t mean a deal isn’t coming. Jay Zawaski of 670 The Score is also reporting the talks and says money is the primary hold up in completing a deal. The talks were first reported by Barstool Sports.
The Hawks would likely need the Oilers to retain part of Yakupov’s salary, per Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, who reports a deal isn’t imminent but also says the teams are “talking.” Spector and Zawaski are both reporting that no NHL players would be sent to Edmonton in the deal.
Yakupov, who turns 23 on Thursday, was picked No. 1 overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. Considered an electric scoring talent out of Russia, he finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting after recording 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games as a 19-year-old during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. However, his development has stagnated since then.
Over the past three years, Yakupov has been a source of frustration and trade rumors in Edmonton, where he recorded just 23 points in 60 games last season. He’s never developed into the potent top-line scoring threat he was projected as out of the draft, and has been a big part of the disappointing narrative that’s surrounded the Oilers.
There are also obvious reasons to see why the Blackhawks would want Yakupov. He’s a very gifted player who was picked No. 1 overall for a reason, and Chicago is lacking in top-six forwards. Yakupov would be a gamble, but there’s also massive upside if he can start tapping into the potential that made him such a high pick in the first place.
It’s also worth noting that he’s a Russian right winger, and I cannot help but point out the possibility of an all-Russian line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Yakupov, which would allow the Hawks to roll Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane together on the top line. Just an idea, yes, and maybe the Hawks actually envision Yakupov as Toews’ potential right winger, but Chicago’s interest here makes sense.