It’s official: the Edmonton Oilers have traded Nail Yakupov to the St. Louis Blues.
The Oilers acquired prospect Zach Pochiro and a conditional draft pick in return.
The condition surrounding the draft pick is based on Yakupov’s production this year. Edmonton is set to receive a 2017 third-round draft pick but will instead receive a 2018 2nd-round pick if Yakupov scores at least 15 goals this season.
It’s definitely not surprising Yakupov has been shipped out of Edmonton. He has failed to meet any of the expectations associated with being a first overall pick.
Yakupov, 23, has been linked to many trade rumors since the conclusion of his rookie season in which he scored 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games. Unfortunately, that is as good as it would get for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft’s first overall pick. He scored a career-high 33 points in the 2014-2015 season and never hit the 20-goal mark.
It was reported during this past season that Yakupov and his agent requested a trade. However, Yakupov survived the trade deadline and finished the season with the Oilers. After the Oilers made a big splash by trading Taylor Hall to the Devils this summer, it was expected that Yakupov would at least start the season with the Oilers. But for whatever reason, Yakupov has not panned out in Edmonton.
“There was a lot of changes and there were a lot of coaches (in Edmonton),” Yakupov said. “There’s a lot of good players [in Edmonton], and I can’t say nobody [didn’t try] their best. … I don’t know what’s wrong with the organization and with the team, and I don’t know why they don’t make the playoffs for that many years (since 2005-06). I tried everything I could. I played with heart. I went about my business and tried to help my team win games.”
For the Blues, this is an extremely low-risk, high-reward transaction. At worst, the Blues send a 2nd-round pick and an untested 22-year-old prospect to Edmonton for a former first-overall draft pick. If the Blues can somehow tap into Yakupov’s potential in a way the Oilers were never able to do, then this trade becomes extremely lopsided in St. Louis’ favor.
“We started talking about [the trade] a little more in earnest yesterday,” St. Louis Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. “I don’t want to call it a gamble, because it’s a former first overall pick that probably needs a change of scenery. He’s excited to be here; we’re excited to have him.”
Armstrong is confident in Yakupov’s potential and believes St. Louis will be a good fit for him.
“It just seemed like a short- and long-term risk worth taking. [Yakupov’s] obviously got talent and skill, and I think maybe playing with a veteran team in a defined role will help him. We’re going to let his play dictate where he plays and who he plays with.”
Yakupov is excited to be joining the Blues.
“Obviously I think it’s a good thing for me,” Yakupov said. “For the last couple days, there were a lot of rumors and I was expecting something, but I didn’t expect it was going to be St. Louis. I didn’t want any thoughts in my head, and I play for my team, but now that it’s happened, it’s a really good move for me. I’m going to be playing for one of the best teams in the League. When I played against St. Louis, it was always hard. They had some big bodies and it was really, really tough to play against that team. I’m really looking forward for it.”
At this point in time, given the minimal information surrounding the cause for this move, the deal appears to be a steal for St. Louis. Pochiro is a former fourth-round draft pick and has not played in one NHL game so far in his career. The Blues, on the other hand, receive a player who was once a highly-touted prospect and who could find his game in a new environment in St. Louis. Yakupov should add another offensive element to an already-strong crop of forwards.
Yakupov, who has 50 goals and 111 career points in 252 regular-season games, is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of this season. He is in the final year of a two-year, $5 million deal; he carries a $2.5 million cap hit this season.
As for the Oilers, this is one more example of how the new management team led by general manager Peter Chiarelli is willing to do anything to try to change the culture surrounding the struggling hockey club. This is the second time this summer the organization has traded a former first-overall draft pick. Both moves are being met with heavy criticism based on the value received in the respective deals. Only time will tell if these were the right decisions.
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