Yakupov agent: 'Let the kid play'
TORONTO -- The agent for Edmonton Oilers winger Nail Yakupov said Monday night that he is concerned about the limited opportunity Yakupov is getting right now in Edmonton and that if the Oilers are unhappy with the second-year player, he would be open to a trade.
Hall of Famer Igor Larionov said he is going to Edmonton to watch Yakupov, the first overall pick in the 2012 draft, and to sit down with the organization.
"I'm going to Edmonton on Thursday to watch a couple games. Obviously a lot of questions, and I want to have some answers," Larionov said.
Yakupov has been a healthy scratch at times this season after some sophomore struggles.
"Let the kid play, enjoy the game. He's a hard-working kid. He's not lazy. He's got to be part of that team. You have to understand he's only 20 years old, he needs some support," Larionov said. "He's a goal-scorer. You've got to understand that and let the kid develop and play."
In 17 games this season, Yakupov has just two goals and is adjusting to first-year coach Dallas Eakins' system after breaking in under Ralph Krueger as a rookie. Last season, Yakupov scored 17 goals, including 11 goals in 14 April games. The strong finish raised expectations for this season, expectations that haven't been reached so far.
Larionov said he'd like to sit down with Eakins, whom he doesn't know. He said he already has had conversations with Edmonton general manager Craig MacTavish and made it clear that they would be open to a trade if the Oilers have soured on the forward.
"I asked Craig, I said, 'If you guys [are] not happy with him or you have no room for him ... we're willing to make a move. Any team,' " Larionov said. "That happens and that's part of life. Let's move on."
Eakins told the Edmonton Journal last week that Yakupov isn't going anywhere.
"This is not going anywhere. Guys like Joe Thornton ... and the kid here [Steven] Stamkos ... those guys struggled early in their careers, but, boy they turned out to be pretty good players," Eakins told the newspaper.
"Nail Yakupov is not being shopped, he's not going anywhere and I wanted him to hear that from me, to look in my eyes, and let him know we're attached at the hip. We're going to make him a better player and it's OK to struggle. I let him know about Thornton and Stamkos. It's part of the process. He's 20 years old. We're not suddenly giving up on a guy because he's going through a rough stretch," Eakins said.
ESPN The Magazine senior NHL writer Craig Custance contributed to this report.