Yakupov to Chicago Rumour Heating up

This morning, Twitter has become abuzz surrounding a near imminent deal between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks, centered around Oilers forward Nail Yakupov. The initial report came from Barstool Sports Chicago and fuel was added to the fire once TSN Insider Bob McKenzie commented on the rumour that is now running rampant.

This deal is a natural fit for both Yakupov and the Blackhawks, who need some support in their top six. If you’re following the story as it develops, the Hawks are looking at juggling their offensive lines to spread out their firepower across their top nine. The duo of Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane, which received much fanfare in 2015-16, is splitting and the Hawks offensive units could look something like this:


Artemi Panarin

Jonathan Toews Nick Schmaltz

Tyler Motte

Artem Anisimov Patrick  Kane
Richard Panik Marcus Kruger

Marian Hossa

Andrew Desjardins Vinnie Hinostroza

Jordin Tootoo

There are two rookies in the Blackhawks’ top six, and the team would probably like to rectify that situation. Schmaltz has shown the ability to play both wings in the past during his time in college, and if he were to move onto the second unit, there is a natural right-wing spot open for Yakupov to play next to Panarin and Jonathan Toews. It would allow the Hawks to send 21-year-old Tyler Motte down to the AHL as he’s waiver-exempt and still on a valued entry-level contract (ELC). 

Related: Kane & Panarin Will be Splitting up

McKenzie (TSN) took to Twitter to address the rumours with his insider knowledge. According to McKenzie, if Edmonton and Chicago made a swap for Yakupov, the Oilers would obviously need to take some salary back:

If True, What Should Edmonton Want Back?

The thing with rumors is this: you never know what’s true and what isn’t. It’s entirely a magical land of pixies, fairy dust and voodoo magic. Every once in awhile things actually come together, but for the most part, it’s pure speculation. That said,  let’s speculate.

Edmonton needs a depth defenseman and possibly some help in the bottom-six forward positions, preferably a big-bodied forward. It just so happens that the Hawks can fill both those needs for the Oilers. Ville Pokka, 22, is a right-handed defenseman and the Oilers just to happen to be in dire needs for more defensemen on the right side. He’s on a cheap ELC at $925,000 and is a restricted free agent (RFA) next summer.

Related: What Do The Oilers Want To Do With Yakupov

Mark McNeill, 23, is a 6-foot-2-inch 215-pound power forward that can play both center and right wing, immediately replacing the loss of Yakupov on the offensive depth chart. The difference between the two is that McNeill needs to clear waivers for the Hawks to re-assign him to their AHL affiliate. McNeill fits right into the Chiarelli-mold of players — a bigger-bodied forward with a nasty streak and decent forechecking abilities. He’s a former 18th overall pick (2011) that hasn’t broken through at the NHL level, similar to Yakupov. Both players need a change of scenery, and naturally, there’s a match here.

Related: Yakupov Could Start Year in Oilers Press Box

Yakupov does have a higher offensive ceiling, so the Oilers would want a sweetener. That said, the team went from valuing him in a trade for first-round picks to something similar to what they got for Justin Schultz at last year’s trade deadline: a third round pick. It’s entirely possible for both teams to make this a hockey trade, even if that includes Edmonton retaining some salary on Yakupov’s $2.5-million cap hit.

What Does It All Mean?

Back at that 2011 NHL Draft, the Oilers were very high on McNeill. They’d just taken Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall, and they had the 19th overall pick. The Hawks took McNeill one pick before the Oilers got to the podium and they ended up taking stud-defenseman Oscar Klefbom. You couldn’t arrange marriages better back in my home country than the fit of McNeill in Edmonton.

Related: Oilers Trim Roster, Major Decisions Still Looming

Here’s a quick shot at the Oilers’ current depth chart up front, with Yakupov:


Milan Lucic

Connor McDavid Jordan Eberle

Benoit Pouliot

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Leon Draisaitl

Patrick Maroon

Drake Caggiula

Jesse Puljujarvi

Kris Versteeg Mark Letestu

Zack Kassian

Tyler Pitlick Anton Lander

Nail Yakupov

As stated earlier, trade speculation is a make-believe land. Then again, we’ve seen some interesting moves this summer and both Bowman and Chiarelli are two GMs that aren’t afraid to make bold moves. If the Oilers can get a pick and a prospect further in their development (someone who’s close or can be NHL ready), I think you’ve got a deal that makes sense here for both sides.