Oilers GM praises Yakupov, fumes about trade rumor distractions


Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish bristled about an ESPN report in which Nail Yakupov’s agent Igor Larionov embraced the possibility of a trade.

Generally speaking, MacTavish isn’t very happy about those who believe that the team soured on the 2012 NHL Draft’s top pick. The Canadian Press shared his frank comments regarding that subject on Tuesday.

“I think Yak’s been treated very fairly since he’s been in our organization,” MacTavish said. “We like Yak, I’ve said that many times. It’s a much bigger story for you people, and it’s becoming a bit of a distraction for us right now because we’re having to answer these questions.”

MacTavish insists that the organization feels the same way about the 20-year-old as “the day we drafted him.” It might seem like a questionable statement because Steve Tambellini was the GM back then, but MacTavish has been back with the franchise for a while (and many believe Kevin Lowe still holds plenty of personnel sway, anyway).

Regardless, both MacTavish and head coach Dallas Eakins insist that they’re taking the long view with a winger MacTavish labelled as “dynamic.” Eakins pointed to early struggles for eventual stars such as Steven Stamkos and Joe Thornton.

Times are certainly not easy for Yakupov right now, but the Oilers are at least saying all the right things about practicing patience with the struggling prospect.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.