DISCLAIMER: I have no source, not trying to add fuel to any fires or speculations. Just looking at two teams that have the assets that each other may be interested in. The chances of any of what you are about to read happening is highly unlikely but IF it does just remember where you read it!
Usually I leave the speculation to the speculators but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think that a swap of Adam Larsson and Nail Yakupov between the New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers makes sense for both sides; and both players. Larsson has played in only one of the first eight Devils games this season, the Oilers are deficient of NHL caliber defensemen and the 21-year-old Swede would likely look forward to a change of scenery. He also seems to have (possibly) fallen out of favor with the coaching staff, losing his ‘job’ in training camp to rookie Damon Severson. Basically Severson came to camp, punched him in the mouth, took his job and Larsson hasn’t responded well enough to earn a spot back in the lineup.
Yakupov was virtually invisible in two of the first nine Oilers games, the Devils are looking to add a possible scoring dynamo and the 21-year-old Russian seems tired of the constant media attention he is receiving in hockey-mad Edmonton/Canada. The attention on a day-to-day basis is significantly different in New Jersey, and the culture along with the leadership group in the Devils locker room might be better served to help the former no. 1 overall pick mature into the player we all expected he could be.
Nail Yakupov makes it clear he’s tired of talking about defensive responsibilities everyday:
Yakupov: Every day I’m talking to media just all about defense, so I don’t want to talk about this. Sometimes it just piss me off. So, let’s do something different. Let’s talk about different things.
Journalist: What pisses you off? I don’t understand what you’re saying.
Yakupov: Everyone asking me about defense. I’m not defensive and I like to play forward. OK, let’s do another question.
The salaries are nearly identical, Larsson earns $900,000 this season and Yakupov is due $925,000; both are set to become restricted free agents after this season. One would assume that New Jersey would likely have to add another player in the deal to sweeten the pot so to speak, and they can likely do so by including either Tuomo Ruutu ($5 million per, 2 seasons) or Dainius Zubrus ($3.1 million per, 2 seasons); the Oilers might even send back Jeff Petry ($3.075 million) to balance the monies out. Currently Edmonton has $3.021 million free under the salary cap and New Jersey is $3.646 below it.
Either Ruutu or Zubrus would likely slide right into Edmonton’s top nine forwards (maybe even top-six) and Petry would be the seventh defenseman for the Devils. Larsson would get more playing time on the Oilers blue line alongside the likes of Justin Schultz, Mark Fayne, Andrew Ference and Nikita Nikitin. They should have drafted a defenseman with one of their top picks (or traded back for one, also accumulating other assets). New Jersey still has Scott Gomez practicing with them (unsigned) and GM Lou Lamoriello is likely looking for a way to free up a roster spot before signing him. He could even sweeten the deal for the Oilers, sending a package of Larsson, Ruutu OR Zubrus and Jacob Josefson ($800,000, 2 seasons) in exchange for Yakupov and Petry.
From the Devils angle they have quite a few players coming off the books this summer and Yakupov would be a nice piece to add as they transition towards the end of the decade. The forwards New Jersey has signed for 2015-16 are: Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, Ryane Clowe, Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique, Stephen Gionta, Josefson, Ruutu and Zubrus; also assume that the ageless Jaromir Jagr likely will come back on another one-year deal. Adding Yakupov to that mix, along with other youngsters — Stefan Matteau, Reid Boucher — could make for an intriguing team.
Let’s get really crazy and project what the forwards could look like for the next opening night:
Stranger things have happened, but do the Devils want to add another Russian former number one overall pick to their team after the last one didn’t work out so well?
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.