Russian coach slams Yakupov, says his absence helped Russia medal at World Championship

Jared Clinton
Nail Yakupov (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Life in Edmonton hasn’t been easy on winger Nail Yakupov over the past few seasons, and he can’t even catch a break at home in Russia.

Following Russia’s 7-2 thumping of Team USA in the bronze medal game at the World Championship, Russian coach Oleg Znarok let it be known that Yakupov’s absence from the team didn’t have any impact on the nation’s inability to capture its first gold medal at the tournament since 2014. In fact, Znarok said the lack of Yakupov on the Russian roster was beneficial to the team, calling it “addition by subtraction,” according to Slava Malamud.

That’s an unpleasant way for a national team coach to describe one of his potential players and almost assuredly means Yakupov won’t be suiting up for any of Znarok’s teams in the future, which includes the upcoming World Cup.

The situation between Znarok and Yakupov had been bubbling since the 22-year-old was left off the team. Malamud had reported there was a public blowup between Znarok and Yakupov after he wasn’t named to the squad, and Yakupov said the claims he was fighting an injury were “bogus.” Znarok fired back saying Yakupov was denying his injuries in order to facilitate a new contract or trade, though Yakupov said he was cleared by NHL doctors to play at the World Championship. Read more

After tough season, Kassian lands one-year, $1.5-million deal with Oilers

Jared Clinton
Zack Kassian (Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Zack Kassian will have a lot to prove in 2016-17, and he’ll get the chance to do so with the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers announced Thursday that Kassian, 25, has signed a one-year, $1.5-million deal that will keep him in Edmonton next season.

Over his career, Kassian has twice been a 10-plus goal scorer and he was nearly a 30-point player during the 2013-14 campaign while with the Vancouver Canucks. At 6-foot-3, 214 pounds, Kassian has the frame to be a stellar bottom-six power forward if he can get his game on track. He looked like he was starting to find his legs late last season, and that’s a good thing considering how the past season began for Kassian.

Kassian’s career was nearly derailed last October when his off-ice troubles saw him involved in an early morning car crash only days before the regular season was slated to begin. And if he can find his groove with Edmonton, there’s a chance he’s one of the feel-good stories of the upcoming campaign. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Trading core player could help Oilers land top-pairing defenseman

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers need for a top-pairing defenseman remains a hot topic among the media. With their depth in young scoring forwards, it’s assumed one of them will be dealt to address the Oilers’ blueline needs.

Appearing last Friday on 630 CHED radio, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman discussed with host Bob Stauffer what it might take for the Carolina Hurricanes to pry center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins out of Edmonton. Stauffer feels it’ll take more than defenseman Justin Faulk while Friedman countered it could take more than Nugent-Hopkins to land Faulk.

If the Oilers and Hurricanes are discussing Faulk, the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson points out Hurricanes assistant GM Rick Olczyk used to hold a similar position with the Oilers. He could help GM Ron Francis assess Oilers right winger Jordan Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Canucks, Oilers set to have busy off-seasons in search of winger, blueliner

Loui Eriksson (Getty Images)

It’s been nearly a month since the Vancouver Canucks’ season came to an end. That hasn’t stopped the local media from speculating about the club’s off-season roster plans.

The Vancouver Sun’s Ben Kuzma lists five things he believes the Canucks should and shouldn’t do this summer. Among those they should do is look into the trade status of Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Jonathan Drouin, though Kuzma expects the asking price could be the Canucks first-round pick (fifth overall) in this year’s draft plus a roster player.

He also recommends pursuing Boston Bruins right winger Loui Eriksson or the New York Islanders’ Kyle Okposo via free agency to skate on the Sedin line. That would buy time for younger players, such as Jake Virtanen, to develop. Read more

Capitals will be back – and they’ll win a Stanley Cup someday

Braden Holtby  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Tuesday night was a terrible night to be a Washington Capitals fan. Wednesday will be an even worse day to be one. And the coming days, both in the short- and long-term in the off-season, will be tinged with regret and lamentations about what might have been.

This was a year when the Stanley Cup was the Capitals to lose…and they lost it. With a number of the heavyweights already out of the tournament in the first round, the Capitals came into the second round as the best team in the NHL and the prohibitive favorite. Instead, the Capitals and their fans will be left to ponder why a team with such an abundance of talent at all positions is such an abject failure in the playoffs.

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Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli says calls already coming for fourth-overall pick

Jared Clinton
Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

After the Oilers landed the fourth-overall pick in the upcoming draft, Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli said there was a “real, legitimate chance” the pick would be traded leading up to or on draft day. And it turns out the wheels may already be in motion to flip the fourth selection to bolster the Oilers’ roster.

In an interview with CHED 630 in Edmonton, Chiarelli reiterated that he was disappointed the Oilers dropped to the fourth-overall selection — he said he believed if they fell, it would be to the third spot — but it does appear the door is wide open for Edmonton to move the pick. Chiarelli said he’s already started to get calls about potential trades for the selection.

“I’ve had four or five teams call me already,” Chiarelli told CHED’s Bob Stauffer. “I’ve made it known that we’ll look to trade down if the right deal is there, in the context of a pure trade down or a trade down of giving up the draft numbers and getting a draft pick and an NHL player. So we went through a lot of scenarios at the amateur meetings…but there’s some real stuff that could come across our desks in the next few weeks.” Read more

Rumor Roundup: Islanders, Oilers could be perfect off-season partners

Travis Hamonic battles with Matt Hendricks (Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the New York Islanders eliminated from the second round of the 2016 playoffs, they head into the offseason facing the possibility of some significant roster changes.

Newsday’s Steve Zipay reports pending unrestricted free agents Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin face uncertain futures with the Isles. Of the trio, the 28-year-old Okposo stands to cash in the most. He’s completing a five-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $2.8 million, though he earned $4.5 million this season in actual salary.

Since last summer, contract talks between Okposo and the Isles have been almost non-existent. It’s assumed he won’t be back, meaning the Isles need a suitable replacement at right wing.

Citing defenseman Travis Hamonic’s request last year to be dealt to a Western-Canadian team, Newsday’s Mark Herrman suggests shipping the 25-year-old blueliner to the Edmonton Oilers for one of their good young wingers. ESPN.com’s Craig Custance recommends acquiring Jordan Eberle to replace Okposo. Read more

Update: Prized NCAA free agent Caggiula signs two-year, entry-level deal with Oilers

Jared Clinton
Drake Caggiula celebrates with Brock Boeser and Nick Schmaltz (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers may not have won the draft lottery, but it appears they’ve won the sweepstakes for top NCAA free agent Drake Caggiula.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Friday evening that Caggiula, 21, will be signing with Edmonton after a weeks-long process that saw him visit more than half a dozen teams in determining where he would sign his entry-level deal. Throughout much of Friday, it was reported both the Oilers and Canucks were close to signing the University of North Dakota product, but McKenzie stated that Vancouver was told they wouldn’t land Caggiula shortly before he chose Edmonton.

In signing Caggiula, the Oilers land one of the NCAA’s top scorers from the 2015-16 campaign. Caggiula scored 25 goals and 51 points for North Dakota this past season, and 62 goals and 127 points in 162 career games in the NCAA. He was especially impressive in the Frozen Four tournament this season, though. Caggiula scored six goals and seven points in North Dakota’s four victories, including two goals in the final as UND won its first national title since 2000, and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Read more