Found November 06, 2013 on NY Sports 24/7:
Larry Brooks of the New York Post may have pulled of a feat that would have made P.T. Barnum envious. He appears to have convinced many in and around the hockey world that two plus two equals five and that aliens do in fact exist in laboratories buried under the Nevada desert. Well, actually he made an assumption based on the presence of several members of Edmonton’s operations staff that there might be trade discussions going on between the Rangers and Oilers and that isn’t necessarily all that far-fetched. However, his report (http://nypost.com/2013/11/04/rangers-interested-in-oilers-phenom-yakupov/) that the Rangers were interested specifically in RW Nail Yakupov has taken on a life of its own with many fans of both teams beginning to believe the story has some legs to it. Brooks wrote a piece that appeared in the Post Tuesday postulating that since Edmonton president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, general manager Craig MacTavish and special adviser and New York Ranger god Mark Messier (or what Brooks referred to as a “scouting expedition”) attended Monday night’s game between the Blue Shirts and Ducks, it could only mean that the Oilers were scouting the Rangers. Using his powers of deduction and rehashing the age-old Ales Hemsky trade rumors, Brooks suggested the Rangers, without top goal scoring threat Rick Nash for the foreseeable future, might be interested in the veteran winger. That sounds rational enough. Hemsky is in the final year of his contract and could indeed be a trade target of the Rangers or for other clubs looking to roll the dice on an oft-injured and inconsistent scoring forward as the season drags on. But that wasn’t the real jaw dropper in Brooks’ column. After innocently suggesting Hemsky to the Rangers was a possibility, Brooks mentioned that Edmonton could also be entertaining offers for Yakupov. Here’s the actual quote: “Edmonton, which has opened 3-10-2 under first-year coach Dallas Eakins, is believed to be accepting offers for veteran winger Ales Hemsky while also exploring the market for second-year winger Nail Yakupov, the first overall selection in the 2012 Entry Draft.” He ties Yakupov to the Rangers saying, “It is unclear whether the organization (Rangers) would have (or be willing to part with) the necessary assets to match Edmonton’s needs and acquire the extremely talented Yakupov, who led the Oilers with 17 goals a year ago, but has just one goal and two assists in 13 games after being scratched twice in the early season.” The Brooks article has since spawned follow-up pieces from Jonathan Willis of The Edmonton Journal (http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2013/11/05/are-the-new-york-rangers-and-edmonton-oilers-talking-yakupov-trade/) and this one from Chris Peters of CBS Sports (http://www.cbssports.com/nhl/eye-on-hockey/24191908/nhl-rumors-is-nail-yakupov-on-the-new-york-rangers-radar), among others, in which the logistics of such a hypothetical trade are explored. Now I’m not saying the Rangers have no interest in Yakupov, or that a trade of some kind between the two teams will not happen or even that Edmonton wasn’t there to scout the Rangers in some capacity. I am saying that assuming Lowe, MacTavish and Messier were there specifically and only to scout the Rangers as a prelude to a Yakupov deal is a huge leap challenging basic logic. The last time I checked Edmonton was in dire need of players that could help them in the goal prevention department; more specifically a goaltender who can stop the puck with some modicum of regularity. Oiler net minders have posted the league’s worst Save % (87.5%) and GAA (3.81). My guess, given the plethora of quality goalies the Ducks have in their organization was that the Oilers might be there to see Frederik Andersen, who stopped 32 of 33 Ranger shots Monday and is now 4 – 0 on the season. That seemed to be the most plausible scenario but what do I know. Maybe it makes more sense for the Oilers to scout the Rangers in advance of dealing off Nail Yakupov just 17 months after making him the first overall selection in the 2012 entry draft. Of course that’s just how rumors get started. Someone makes anything from an improbable presumption to a semi-reasonable deduction based on a piece or two of tangible evidence and publishes it, either in writing or via a visual medium, and that rumor spreads like wildfire. Once it’s picked up by enough credible outlets, even if it is referred to correctly as a rumor, it seems to transform into something that is unquestionably true. It follows the “where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire” principle. It’s why thousands of people strenuously believe that 8’ tall, previously undiscovered primates exist en masse in the Pacific Northwest or that aliens from other worlds have kidnapped and conducted bizarre tests on unsuspecting humans. No matter how improbable those stories seem, enough people have claimed them to be true and there is just enough physical evidence supporting those assertions that it can’t be wholly dismissed as fiction. Getting all worked up over these rumors is natural. Most people do it. In the case of NHL trade rumors it’s fun to discuss the possibility with other fans, including those that follow your team and ones that bleed for the other squad involved in the rumor. I’m not knocking it, I’m just saying that we need to take the rumors with a grain of salt and at least apply some rational thought when discussing them. In fact, I’ll take the bait and briefly weigh the possibility of a trade being consummated between Edmonton and New York involving the skilled winger. As I stated earlier, Edmonton is in desperate need of players who can help keep the puck out of their own net. They won’t get Hank and the Rangers don’t have any other goalies in the system worth enough of a crap to be of value to Edmonton. That means any deal involving the two teams will have to involve a defenseman going to Edmonton. The Blue Shirts do have some excellent blue liners that could appeal to Edmonton. However, Ryan McDonagh, signed to a long-term extension this past summer is likely and definitely should be, off-limits. Dan Girardi is poised to be a UFA next summer and as a rental wouldn’t seem to be a realistic target of the Oilers. That leaves either Marc Staal or Michael Del Zotto as the most likely alternatives. Del Zotto is a skilled offensive blue liner but struggles defending in his own zone. The Oilers have enough problems in that regard so Del Zotto wouldn’t appear to make sense for Edmonton either, even if Nick Kypreos says the Oilers have always liked Del Zotto. Staal, under contract through next season, may be the most obtainable and realistic option for the Oilers to purse. However, Staal alone is unlikely to satisfy Edmonton’s requirements. The Oilers have plenty of skill up front but could be enticed by a solid, two-way forward with a bit of a physical game. That sounds a lot like J.T. Miller to me. Miller is versatile enough to play center or on the wing in a top-nine role. He could prove to be a terrific complement on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Jordan Ellerbe or Taylor Hall providing a defensive conscience, some grit and scoring ability. Would a Staal + Miller package be enough to entice Edmonton? Perhaps it would. At least it would probably get discussions off on the right foot. Would Ranger fans accept weakening their blue line core and dealing off a former first-round pick plus additional assets for a player as dynamic as Yakupov? We know how much Sather covets players with high-end skill-sets like Yakupov. Is some form of this deal about to happen? We’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime let’s try not to read too much into what’s being said out there. Otherwise, before you know it we’ll be discussing a Sasquatch-for-gray-alien trade.
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