- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- Fifteen games in and the trade rumors have already begun.
Speculation of a potential trade with Edmonton started Monday night when some top executives from the Edmonton Oilers -- team president Kevin Lowe, general manager Craig MacTavish and Mark Messier, who is currently serving as a consultant -- descended upon Madison Square Garden for the Rangers' 2-1 loss to Anaheim.
Those rumors are sure to only intensify as the trio took in its second game in three nights at MSG, watching from press row as the Rangers dispatched the Penguins 5-1.
Sputtering at the bottom of the Western Conference, the Oilers are prime candidates to make some changes and shake things up. Their needs seem to be clear: either a defenseman, a goaltender, or both. What remains to be seen is what they're willing to part with asset-wise in return.
Talented forward Nail Yakupov would be the most enticing piece for the Blueshirts, but that would be more than a bit surprising if the Oilers were willing to cut bait on the former first overall draft pick so soon. Yes, he has been inconsistent during his short tenure in Edmonton, but his skill is irrefutable and he's still only 20 years old. What's more is that coach Dallas Eakins reportedly assured the young Yakupov, emphatically, that he is not going anywhere.
It's worth pointing out that Lowe is also a part of the leadership group for Hockey Canada responsible for assembling the team that will travel to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Olympics, but the presence of both MacTavish and Messier seems to suggest there was more on the agenda.
Though the Rangers could still use some additional offensive punch to bolster their lineup, their needs will likely be dictated by the availability (or lack thereof) of injured winger Rick Nash, who has been out for almost a month with a concussion.
Whether he is eligible to return soon will play a role not just in their immediate needs, but their salary-cap situation as well. The Rangers have not had any reason to place Nash on long-term injured reserve but they can still place him on the list retroactively whenever needed.