Well, it was bound to happen eventually. The Edmonton Oilers need a goaltender and have a young Russian that could be considered expendable in Nail Yakupov. The Leafs have a good, young goaltender who is in a contract year in James Reimer. Sounds like a perfect match, right?
Maybe not. Dave Naylor of TSN asked his colleague Darren Dreger if the Leafs would trade Reimer for Yakupov.
Notice that Naylor asked if it would be a straight one-for-one deal. I don’t want to put words in Dreger’s mouth, but if the Leafs were to put in a second round pick or a defensive prospect along with Reimer, maybe his answer would change.
However, would the Leafs be interested in Yakupov? Even with all of his talent, the “Russian Factor” will always hang around in some minds around the NHL. If Yakupov were to go back to Russia to play in the KHL, that would put the Leafs in a bad position.
While that might be a possibility, the fact that Yakupov decided to play all of his junior hockey, except for last year’s lock-out shortened season, in the OHL with the Sarnia Sting, I have to believe that he wants to play in the NHL for the foreseeable future.
So the Leafs should be interested in Yakupov, as should any team. He would give the Leafs a dynamic offensive talent on the second line to go along with Kessel on the first line. Also, a line of Joffrey Lupul, Nazem Kadri and Yakupov might be downright scary. That would give the Leafs some scary depth at forward. Here would be the projected lines.
The more I think about it, I would definitely trade Reimer and a pick or prospect for Yakupov. Whether the Oliers would do it is another question. If they can’t acquire Ryan Miller, Reimer might be the best option for them.