Agent: Yakupov ‘loves’ Edmonton, but needs a ‘fresh start’

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Yesterday, we passed along a report claiming Nail Yakupov had requested a trade out of Edmonton.

Today, his agent confirmed that report.

“Nail loves the city of Edmonton,” Igor Larionov said, talking about the Yakupov situation with Sportsnet’s Fan 590. “He loves the fans, and obviously he would like to stay there.

“But I guess at some point, he needs some fresh start, and fresh air, to move on.”

Yakupov, the first overall pick in 2012, is struggling through a difficult season, arguably his worst since breaking in with the Oilers. He has just six goals and 19 points through 56 games — his 0.34 points-per-game average is the lowest of his four-year career.

Still just 22 years old, it stands to reason that this could the the offseason Yakupov and the Oilers part ways. It’s worth remembering Yakupov’s had a number of regime changes — four different head coaches (Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins, Todd Nelson and Todd McLellan) and three different GMs (Steve Tambellini, Craig MacTavish, Peter Chiarelli) — and given how new regimes often try to overhaul perceived errors from the previous one… well, it’s not too hard to see why Yakupov’s had a tough go in Edmonton.

That said, some blame — most, some will argue — has to fall on the player.

Yakupov’s hockey sense and IQ have continually been questioned since turning pro. While Larionov said his client needed minutes with a quick-thinking center — enough minutes to develop some chemistry — there are others who feel Yakupov’s never matured as a player.

From Mark Spector’s big Sportsnet piece on the situation:

The 22-year-old Russian has been most productive when played alongside Connor McDavid, but the line that dogs Yakupov around Edmonton is that he plays the game like he’s being chased by a swarm of bees. It has stuck, mostly because of its accuracy.

“It’s so obvious now,” said a scout, who had cautioned against Yakupov’s hockey sense and foot speed. “Watch him away from the puck — he still doesn’t know where to go. His feet are moving 100 miles an hour, his stick is beating the hell out of the puck, and he doesn’t have a clue where he’s going and what he’s going to do with it.”

So with the situation now out in the open, this figures to be a really interesting summer in Edmonton. Yakupov has one year left on his deal at $2.5 million per, so he’s entirely movable — and one has to think that move could come at the draft, where Edmonton will, once again, have a pretty high selection.

Quite possibly the first overall pick.