Nail Yakupov is one player the Florida Panthers should go after in the off-season. With low value, the Cats can sign Yakupov for cheap.
Nail Yakupov’s career hasn’t gone as planned. The former 1st overall had big expectations heading into the NHL. Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, his years there were very sour, especially towards the end. Last summer, the Oilers pulled a trade which sent Nail heading over to St. Louis.
Many thought that the Blues would be a team that could help Yakupov turn his career around. Instead, that wasn’t the case. Nail would ultimately hit rock bottom in his play, which resulted in career low stats. Playing in just 40 games, he recorded 3G, 6A, and 9P all together. He went from 23 points the previous year (2015-16) to 9 points last season (2016-17). A very deep drop off if you want to say.
Yakupov will become an RFA this summer, and it’s very unlikely that the Blues will re-sign him. Or throw him an offer. It’s likely that he’ll have to find another team to play for next season. While most of you call him a “bust” and state that his career is “washed up”, Nail can seriously rejuvenate his play here on the Cats.
First things first, if we were to sign Nail, the deal would be very cheap. One year to two years would sound like a reasonable length. In terms of his salary, don’t expect a raise at all. Especially considering his lack of production the last couple of seasons. His $2.5 million dollar salary may be all will need to offer him. There is also a chance he’s willing to take a pay cut, considering he puts his career first mentally.
Hypothetically, if we were to sign Nail to a one or two-year deal, we must think where he would fit into the lineup. It’s unlikely he cracks our top 6, so throwing him on the 3rd line wouldn’t hurt at all. Currently, we only have two players on our 3rd line heading into Free Agency. Bjugstad and Marchessault would be the two. Vanek is a UFA and will likely not be back. Replacing Vanek with Yakupov wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
Even though Nail is a right-winger, there is plenty of flexibility for positions between the three (Bjugstad, Nail, and Marchy). While his defensive game is fairly weak, it’s something he can really improve on down here in Florida. Depending on who we hire as coach, he will definitely improve/tweak Nail’s play on the defensive end. It isn’t something I worry about too much.
Overall, Yakupov is the type of player who holds a low value profile and could definitely thrive on this team. What he needs is a fresh slip on a new team, where he can put aside what had happened in the past. It’ll be up to Dale on whether he goes after Nail in Free Agency. I’d personally take a gamble on Yakupov, and sign him for a year. You never know what he could become here on the Cats.