a·cu·men [ak-yuh-muhn] noun: keen insight; shrewdness

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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

04/10/12 Yakupov or Trade?

Poor Scott Howson.
Now that the order is set and the Oilers lucked into their third straight first overall pick, the question becomes whether they should use it or trade it for help. Let's see who might be interested in the pick, what they might be willing to part with, or if keeping the pick is the best course.

The List

When compiling a list of teams that might be interested in the first overall pick, we have to set some guidelines. First, the consensus number one prospect is Nail Yakupov, and we can approach trading the first overall pick with the mindset that the Oilers are essentially trading Yakupov to another team. Yakupov is a right winger, and after two years in Junior where he collected 170 points in 107 games (80 goals), we can assume that he's going to be in the NHL next season. That means a trading partner should probably need a boost on the right wing, but they should definitely be a team in need of scoring help next year.

Minnesota: Lowest scoring team in a decade, and their second-highest scoring right winger was Cal Clutterbuck. They would love to add Yakupov, but the Oilers would be taking an awful risk trading him within the division. Minnesota's second best prospect is Jonas Brodin, a very highly rated shutdown defenseman from Sweden who is 12th in 2012 The Hockey News Future Watch top 50 prospects outside the NHL. Minnesota picks 7th in this year's draft, so the Oilers might consider trading down. Or the Oilers could ask for Tom Gilbert back. Ha-ha...

Los Angeles: The Kings were the second-lowest scoring team in the NHL this year, but their problem is on the left side. The Kings are extremely rich in defensive prospects but the Oilers need help for next year. Much talked-about rearguard Slava Voynov (8-12-20 in 54 NHL games) may be available, but he would just be the start of a deal.

Florida: This team had trouble putting the puck in the net this year, and they might be interested in a forward who wears #10 because of former Panther Pavel Bure. For the first time in a long time the Panthers won't be picking at the top of the draft, and after making the playoffs this season they'll surely want to continue that success next season. Goalie Jacob Markstrom had a 0.923 Sv%  and 2.66 GAA in 7 games with Florida this year, and will push for a starting job in 2012-13. The Oilers might also have interest in defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, whose points per game have increased every year since he was a rookie in 2009-10.

Colorado: The Av's were 25th in scoring and they could use a high end replacement for the aging Milan Hejduk at right wing. However, Colorado doesn't have what the Oilers need on defense to make a trade worth while. Matt Duchene could be available, but the Oilers would probably rather roll the dice with Yakupov. Also, Colorado doesn't control its own first round pick thanks to the Varlamov trade. Unlikely to be a deal here.

Anaheim: Two words: Cam Fowler. The Ducks were 23rd in scoring despite Selanne, Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan, and there's every chance that the Finnish Flash won't be back. Fowler is unpolished defensively, but he's got offensive tools that the Oilers lack. However, the role that Fowler would fill on the Oilers could potentially be filled by another player whose time as Ducks property may be nearing its end: Justin Schultz. Schultz may become an unrestricted free agent, and another high end forward combined with a lacking defense would make Edmonton an attractive destination for defender like Schultz. Anaheim picks 6th, but it's not clear if they have any assets that would entice Edmonton to trade down.

Phoenix: 18th in scoring, with Ray Whitney and Shane Doan both UFAs at season's end. One way to encourage fan interest in the desert would be to add a young potential superstar into the mix to replace their aging core. Oliver Ekman-Larsson would be the target here. He picked up 13-19-32 in 82 games this season, and played over 22 minutes per game. Ekman-Larsson may not be enough on his own for a player like Yakupov, but he's a very good start.

Buffalo: Oilers fans would probably like to see Tyler Myers come to Edmonton, but with the Sabres having added Cody Hodgson at the deadline they may be hesitant to make a major deal. However, there is an ambitious owner in that city who may want to make something happen. Myers is a former rookie of the year, but his point totals have declined in the two years since then.

Carolina: Could use some help on the wing, and will be picking 8th this year. May consider trading up by using defensive prospect Ryan Murphy, who is an assist machine with Kitchener. Murphy is small, however, which doesn't necessarily make him a fit in Edmonton.

Washington: For all their scoring prowess, the Caps are fairly weak at right wing, and would probably love to add another Russian sniper; especially with Alexander Semin set to become a UFA. If John Carlson could be had the Oilers might listen, but it will take more to land the Yak. Mike Green is a name that might seem attractive, but his injury history and $5.25 million cap hit will spook just about anyone.

Winnipeg: Lacking a game breaker on the right side, like a lot of teams. Right handed shooting defenseman Zach Bogosian would be a nice addition, especially coming off a career-high 30 points in 65 games. These rumors were out there last summer as well, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them crop up again or even for something to get done this time.

***

Having said all that, trading the first overall pick would mean passing on a player who scored 80 goals in 107 OHL games. That's a better rate than Taylor Hall scored at with Windsor and we all know how he turned out. Not quite at Stamkos' level with Sarnia when he was there, but close. Can they afford to pass?

If Ales Hemsky has a bounce-back year he could once again become trade bait and the Oilers will be comfortably set at right wing with Eberle and Yakupov. A lot of things can happen between now and the start of next season, let alone the end. Imagine two or three years down the road. And if it's a matter of adding a defenseman, the Oilers may be able to do it by trading other pieces or by signing UFAs. Having a forward group as lethal as this one will be can be nothing but attractive to the league's best defensemen.

It's a nice problem to have. Either way, the Oilers should be very much improved in the near future.

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