So here we are again. Another blockbuster trade rumor has stirred up the New York Rangers faithful. I suppose we should start from the top.
During the Rangers' 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday, the Edmonton Oilers sent President of Hockey Operations Kevin Lowe, special adviser Mark Messier and General Manager Craig McTavish to the Garden as scouts. This prompted an article from Larry Brooks talking about the Rangers' potential interest in Oilers' first-overall pick Nail Yakupov.
The Blueshirts are likely one of the few teams in the NHL apt to even consider trading for the skilled but finicky 20-year-old Russian, whom many in the industry believe is difficult to coach and liable to bolt for the KHL, an international league based in Russia.
But is the Rangers' interest in Yakupov real?
Here's my best guess: I think (and again, I have no inside information on this at all) there is way too much smoke here for there not to be at least a little fire. Now, that doesn't mean the Rangers are going to make a move for the highly-skilled winger, but it also wouldn't surprise me if the two sides were talking about it.
Like him or not, Larry Brooks is the most well connected figure in the Rangers' media pool. His contacts are second to none, and most of the time he's the one breaking the stories to the masses. Some think his story came from the knowledge that the Oilers' scouts were at the game and he ran from there, rather than thinking about the possibility that the goalie-starved Oilers were actually scouting the Ducks. But what sense does it make to travel across the country to scout the Ducks in New York when Anaheim is a much closer road trip? I'm not saying the Oilers weren't looking at the Ducks as well, but they were there to watch the Rangers for sure.
More importantly, Brooks brings up a good point above. The Rangers (read: Glen Sather) have always gambled on high-talent players who come with some risk. Sather isn't afraid to go down the Russian road, which he has before -- although not as much with John Tortorella at the helm -- and there's no reason to assume he won't do it again.
I will say a lot of this might be speculation, but there have been rumors from before the season started that Yakupov might be on the market. Elliotte Friedman -- who is the best hockey writer out there in my book -- wrote an entire article on this earlier in the year. The thought process is at least there, even if the intent isn't yet.
We had a nice big twitter debate yesterday about who the Rangers might have to move. A lot of people speculated Michael Del Zotto, but I think the Edmonton Oilers would be far more interested in Dan Girardi on defense. Maybe they want Cam Talbot as well, although he's not really a sure-thing, long-term goalie solution in their minds. And one would have to think they would desire a guy like J.T. Miller, too -- since I do believe Chris Kreider is still a non-starter with trade rumors.
To me, moving guys like Girardi, Talbot and Miller (and maybe a prospect like Andrew Yogan -- who saw his name tossed around by fans as well) is well worth it for a player like Yakupov. I don't buy him bolting to Russia. Him and head coach Dallas Eakins are butting heads right now, it happens. But it's not fair to assume he's going to float to Russia at the first sign of adversity.
There are risks, of course. But when dealing with a player that young and that talented, if you have the opportunity, you have to take risks.
Again, I'm just speculating. In all likelihood the two sides probably won't be able to come to an agreement. But I think there's way too much smoke here for there not to be fire. Just remember, general managers talk all the time. Talking doesn't mean dealing.
But hey, you never know.