1) Jim Matheson has tossed out the possibility of Nail Yakupov starting the season in the pressbox. His days with the Oilers are obviously numbered, how soon do you see him being traded? What are you expecting in return?
Alan: I don't see it coming much before Christmas even if it shakes out this way. With the expansion draft this summer I don't think teams are going to pay very much for anyone who wouldn't be part of their protected list because they could just lose the asset a few months later. I think injuries will create opportunity for Yak to get into the line-up and I think betting on Caggiula and Puljujarvi to seamlessly adjust to the NHL is foolish. Even with Versteeg I think there's value in having Yakupov and I find it somewhat incredulous that nobody sees value in pumping his trade value by having him play 30 games with McDavid and letting Eberle help strengthen a line with RNH and Pouliot. That said, I think he's dumped for very little sometime between Jan 1 and the trade deadline. It's possible he gets moved within the next couple of weeks, but if it's not for something meaningful like part of a package for a young Dman, I don't see why they should.
Jeff: Nail Yakupov's time in Edmonton has been an unmitigated disaster from the minute Ralph Krueger was fired via Skype. I've got him going much sooner than later (like, by the season start) and for not more than a mid/late round pick. It's a bargain-bin purchase if your team is down a wing come opening night.
Ryan: Nail Yakupov is an NHL player, not one worthy of a first overall pick, but an NHL player. Of course, worrying about where he was drafted is irrelevant now. If you can see past assigning roles for every line, I think a smart team would see what they have in Yakupov and would find a way to get him into the lineup; the Oilers either can’t or won’t do that though. If they could trade him tomorrow, I think they would, but they don’t seem to be able to make a deal work, and sitting him in the pressbox isn’t going to make things any easier. I think he bounces from the pressbox to the third/fourth lines all season, hanging around until the trade deadline, and the Oilers will get a third round pick at most for him. That third round pick probably won’t turn into an NHL player as useful as Yakupov either.
2) Last week we all agreed that, barring some sort of miracle, that the Oilers won't make the playoffs. What do you think the standing in the Pacific Division will look like at the end of the year?
Alan: LA and San Jose are the class of the field to me. Guys I respect like Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath on twitter) have LA in contention for the President's trophy, but I'm honestly not sure they're still at that level or that they are better than San Jose. That said I think those two are clear of the rest in the Pacific. I think the likely 3rd playoff team is Anaheim, though they are a bit of a wildcard due to aging stars, unsigned young core players like Rakell and Lindholm and a horrible exchange of coaches from the brilliant Bruce Boudreau to the horrendous Randy Carlyle. I think Anaheim comes back to the pack a fair bit, but not enough to miss the post season. Both wildcards go to the Central which is clearly stronger. I think it's anyone's guess as to where Calgary, Arizona and Edmonton shake out...I think I might put Calgary slightly ahead due to the strength of their defence and their improved goaltending, but I honestly am not sure. Edmonton could easily surprise me and finish 4th in the division this year. I don't think that's outside the realm of possibility. Vancouver is out of it by November 30th and is battling for the #1 overall spot in the lottery most of the year.
Jeff: I've got the Oilers ahead of the Canucks and the Flames. I hope that's not just wishful thinking. Here are my final standings:
- San Jose
- Los Angeles
Ryan: Vancouver sucks and the California eams are still tops, that’s what I think we know about the Pacific Division right now. The Sharks and Kings are really close at the top of the division; I’m going to give the Kings the edge because of their short summer. That puts the Sharks in second spot and the Ducks in third. The next three are again close, but assuming Johnny Gaudreau gets a deal done and is in the lineup from day one I think it’ll be the Flames who come out on top. Followed by the Oilers and then the Coyotes. And lastly the Canucks who are going to have a very long, painful season.
3) Who's your Stanley Cup Final matchup? And who win's it?
Alan: I think in the East I'd lean towards Tampa. Pittsburgh and Washington are certainly still pretty strong contenders, but Tampa has the depth at forward a dynamite top pair on the blueline and two strong goaltenders. They just look built to last out the long year if Hedman and Stralman stay healthy. I also think there is something small to the fact that this is likely their last ride as a group. That team is at risk of coming apart at the seams next summer. They've got to have a lot of urgency to get there this year. That fact is not going to make a bad team into a good team or a good team into a great team, but it can serve to motivate an already great team to maximize their potential knowing there may be no tomorrow for them.
In the West, I've got my hopes tied to Nashville (beyond the Oilers) but I just don't think they've got the goaltending to get there. I think the Central is a war again. St. Louis is still good though not as deep, Chicago will be there and Dallas looks good but what a disastrous month they've had which gets them off to a rocky start. Winnipeg and Minnesota are going to have to play like it's the playoffs from opening night through to April if they want to get in. Ultimately, I think I might hitch my wagon to San Jose. I think they have as good a chance as anyone but ultimately I think Nashville, Dallas, and St. Louis all have goaltending questions and I like San Jose's depth more than LA or Chicago at this point. That's what decides it for me. I'll say Tampa wins it all, which means they probably have no shot and may miss the playoffs entirely.
Jeff: I've got Pittsburgh taking the Cup again. And once again over the Sharks.
Ryan: I like the Penguins but I don’t pick teams to repeat. The Penguins had a short summer to begin with, one that was made shorter by the World Cup for a few key players, it’s just too much to overcome. This could be the Capitals year, I sort of hope it is, but coming out of the Eastern Conference I’ll take Tampa Bay this season. On the other side of the bracket I’m going to stay away from the Pacific Division, looking instead to the Central and the Nashville Predators. Setting up what I am sure is a dream matchup for the folks in the NHL’s head offices.
Canadiens fans got to watch Patrick Roy lift the Stanley Cup the same season that he was traded to Colorado. I think history will repeat itself and they’ll get to see P.K. Subban do the same in Nashville this season.
For more from our writers be sure to follow them on Twitter.