Montreal Canadiens Spotlight: Could Nail Yakupov be an Option for Marc Bergevin?
By James Stephan (@J_Habs)
Former Sarnia Sting phenom Nail Yakupov expressed his frustration with the new Edmonton Oiler’s bench boss Dallas Eakins following being a healthy scratch Saturday night. Shortly after, the twittersphere erupted with rumors that the young star may be headed to the KHL.
While fleeing the NHL to join his comrades in the KHL would be a breach of Yakupov’s NHL contract, it doesn’t stop fans from voicing their fear of the situation.
Yakupov had voiced his discontent with the situation stating that he feels out of his element; Eakins has implemented a system which forces everyone to contribute at both ends of the rink, leaving the energetic Yakupov with a sour taste in his mouth.
Dallas Eakins’ method of benching Yakupov to illustrate a point is not unorthodox as Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien implemented the same technique to Habs forward Lars Eller. Since Eller’s benching early last season he’s been the Canadiens’ best forward on most nights showing maturity, poise, skill and dominance in his overall game – where many felt there was nothing more than a third line checking center, Therrien saw otherwise.
Lars Eller’s benching last season was the best thing to happen to him – following a few nights in the press box Eller looked like a new player, playing with intensity, conviction and a hunger for the game. Eller has since forced himself into a top six role showcasing his dominant ability.
If Yakupov can take Eakins’ message with the same maturity and further develop his game to meet the goals of the many, and not of the few, he could very well follow the same dominant path that Eller has traversed.
With that being said, is there a remote possibility the Montreal Canadiens trade for Nail Yakupov?
The Nizhnekamsk native played with Habs budding star Alex Galchenyuk when they were leading the charge for the Sarnia Sting. The two dominated the OHL with flare and passion, bringing fans to the edge of their seats each time one of them touched the puck.
One can’t help but fantasize at the possibility of reuniting the duo having a Patrick Kane – Jonathan Toews – esque tandem going forward; at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft before the Montreal Canadiens made their selection rumors were rampant that the Canadiens would attempt to secure the first overall pick from Edmonton to draft both Yakupov and Galchenyuk, however as the draft came and went the rumblings around Le tricolore proved to be just that – rumors.
With Yakupov’s dissatisfaction with his current situation in Edmonton it would come as no surprise if the Canadiens surfaced as one of the parties interested in the young winger.
Are the Montreal Canadiens in need of a player like Nail Yakupov? While Bergevin would love to add another young prospect with high-end firepower to his roster, so would 29 other teams, all with deeper pockets to meet the Oilers’ organizational needs.
With young promising talent such as Sebastian Collberg, Artturi Lehkonen, Charles Hudon and Michael McCarron, Montreal’s future is looking far more promising than it was three years ago. Bergevin has successfully provided Trevor Timmins with enough tools and resources to get the job done, and while it is too early to tell for most prospects, some have already shown signs that the Canadiens made the right choice drafting them.
With the organization overflowing with quality talent at the wing position, it’s highly unlikely that Montreal makes a move for Yakupov unless the deal is simply too good to pass on. Yakupov although young, would command a high return, one of which the Oilers could use to strengthen their defensive core.
Montreal may not have the necessary assets to meet the Oilers’ demands on the blue line as Bergevin himself has been canvasing the league for a defender to fill the same need.
Teams such as the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, and St. Louis Blues to name a few, would be better suited trading partners for Edmonton as they possess enticing blue line options that Oilers GM Craig MacTavish would like to get his hands on.
When the smoke clears and the dust settles between the verbal frustration voiced by both Yakupov and Eakins, the Oilers may decide to not move Yakupov at all – drafting a young star and playing him in the NHL immediately always possesses a risk, and along with the risk comes growing pains. This is a situation where the Oilers would benefit more from if they allowed Yakupov to develop, rather than trading him at the first sign of trouble. If NHL teams did that Tyler Seguin would have left Boston much quicker than he did.
Whether Yakupov stays in Edmonton or is traded in a knee-jerk reaction to his comments about not wanting to forecheck, the team that shows enough patience with the passionate winger will end up with a high-end offensive talent with a chip on his shoulder – a forward that is an absolute force on every shift.
With that said Montreal will likely be content and show patience with the young stars they currently have in Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Lars Eller, while Bergevin looks over his shoulder with that charismatic grin knowing the talent within the organizational pipeline is damn good.