Whether it happens today or in the summer, nobody will be surprised if Nail Yakupov is traded.
The Edmonton Oilers have already moved out one of their “players who have underachieved and may need a new venue,” as GM Peter Chiarelli put it the other day. On Saturday, Chiarelli sent defenseman Justin Schultz to Pittsburgh.
Yakupov, the first overall pick in 2012, has just five goals in 42 games this season. The 22-year-old has 47 goals in 234 career NHL games.
The Montreal Canadiens are one team that’s come up in speculation. Yakupov was a junior teammate of Habs forward Alex Galchenyuk, who went third overall in 2012. The Sabres and Devils have also reportedly shown interest.
Despite Yakupov’s less-than-impressive offensive numbers this season, and despite his less-than-stellar defensive reputation, there will be teams who see a talented player that could possibly be turned around, just like the Pens saw with Schultz.
What’s unclear is a potential return. On the one hand, this is a guy who not long ago was deemed the top prospect in all of hockey. On the other, so was Alexandre Daigle when he was Yakupov’s age.
Yakupov is signed through next season for a cap hit of $2.5 million, after which he can become a restricted free agent.