Should the Leafs kick tires on Nail Yakupov?

While the focus in Edmonton appears to be on the sudden maybe-sweepstakes for Montreal Canadiens defenceman PK Subban, gossip has floated around regarding former first overall pick Nail Yakupov and his future in the city. 

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In a city that has recently only been successful in harvesting draft picks, Yakupov is perhaps the least successful of those selections. Despite being considered by many to be the best player available in the 2012 Entry Draft, the Russian winger has largely been a disappointment, putting up 111 points in 252 games with the Oilers over four seasons.

To his defence, Yakupov has played second, third, and even fourth fiddle on the Oilers in the past few years, getting third-line usage for much of his tenure. But he hasn’t done much to earn that those minutes, dragging down the possession numbers of his linemates in every season he’s played and letting his rate production slip.

Yakupov did seem to find chemistry with Connor McDavid this season. Granted, McDavid is a presumed generational talent and already one of the world’s best players as a teenaged rookie, so playing better with a player of his calibre should be a given. However, McDavid’s GF% and CF% were also better with Yakupov than without him, giving credence to a theory many have had since Yakupov’s junior game; that he’s a triggerman who needs a playmaker.

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While speculation remains that the Leafs are going to be armed to the teeth with one, if not two shooting centres next season, they do have two creative puck-dispersal players coming up in William Nylander and Mitch Marner. Yakupov might be able to find success on their opposite wing, though there’s not much of a guarantee.

As for the price, a third round pick would be easy for the Leafs to cough up, given the eleven draft selections they have over the next two days. The Leafs could also reach into their cupboard of secondary prospects or roster players as well; players like Josh Leivo or Stuart Percy could intrigue the Oilers staff, as could a soon-to-be-expiring winger replacement like Milan Michalek or Colin Greening. The latter would be a much preferred situation for the Leafs, seeing as it would cancel out Yakupov’s $2.5 million cap hit for next year.

If I were a betting man, however, I’d suggest that the Oilers go the distance with the Habs and close out this Subban trade with Yakupov in the package. Acquiring a former first overall pick that has played well with Alex Galchenyuk would help sell the deal to the fanbase; something that will likely be necessary with the already existing outrage that the Habs are even entertaining shopping their star. 

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  • giproc

    It may be worthwhile to gamble on Yakupov if we are talking a 3rd round pick and or depth prospects like Percy. That being said, I don’t know if there is room for him to be successful seeing as the Leafs already have an abundance of talent at RW. If Yakupov could play LW then it would make more sense but despite shooting left, he has not been successful at LW with the Oilers.

  • giproc

    There’s probably not a player in the league whose production wouldn’t improve exponentially by playing with CMD, so that tidbit is not a factor.

    But for a 3rd or 4th and an RFA we’ll be losing anyway, I’d like to see what Babs can get out of Yak.

  • giproc

    Stay away from YAK… at all costs. He’s a bust with little upside and a horrible defender.

    The only Oilers worth enquiring about is Leon Draisatl. Big, fast enough, great hands and vision.

    If Lou can pry him away from Chiarelli… he’d be worth MORE than Shanny is paying him.

  • Gary Empey

    I’m excited as any leaf fan to see a big strong Arizona kid put on a leaf jersey in about 2 hours and 40 minutes. Having been a leaf fan for more than 60 years I also realise the rebuild has just begun.

    Obviously the leafs will be a higher scoring team, a more entertaining team but a club in which the rookies have to learn to win at the N.H.L. level and the veterans have to taste more playoff action with several having only 7 playoff games in their career. Thus winning to these veterans is also a skill that has to be learned.

    Having said that I thnk realistically the leafs remain a top 10 drafting team next year which is fine with me as the leafs can simply look for a top defenceman in the 2017 draft.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the leafs are getting closer to crossing the river to the promise land. But as I change my moniker soon to what’s 50 years, we need patience to watch the pillars being put in place and the finished product completed to the standards of being capable of bringing the cup home to Toronto.

    Fellow leaf fans have a blast tonight and to the crew of the leaf nation, whoop it up big tonight in your big party. To quote the nature boy, the styling , profiling, jet flying, limousine riding, kiss stealing, wheeling and dealing Ric Flair WHOOOOOO WHOOOOO WHOOOOO.

    • Gary Empey

      Re- “realistically the leafs remain a top 10 drafting team next year ”

      Normally I would advise people to always listen to their “elders”……. unless of course they have been dipping into the elderberry wine.

      As I have stated earlier. Barring a catastrophic injure situation,

      ” The leafs are a lock to make the playoffs this year.”