Latest on Nail Yakupov, Ryan Malone, Rene Bourque and Simon Despres.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson wonders what the Oilers will do with struggling sophomore winger Nail Yakupov in the off-season. Should they retain him and hope to develop his skills, or seriously consider trading him? If it’s the latter, Matheson advocates contacting the Sabres, who could have two picks in the top five if the Islanders agree to hand over their 2014 first round pick as part of the deal in the Thomas Vanek trade…Matheson also believes the Pittsburgh Penguins need another puck-moving defenseman, given Kris Letang’s medical concerns, which explains why they wouldn’t part with Derick Pouliot as part of a proposed return for Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler. They could be willing to move defenseman Simon Despres…He feels Montreal’s Rene Bourque, who’s been a recent scratch of late, should be concerned about a contract buyout this summer…Matheson also suspects Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone could also become a buyout candidate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t surprise me if Oilers GM Craig MacTavish entertained offers for Yakupov this summer, but barring a solid return I doubt he’ll trade him. As his colleague David Staples recently observed, if Yakupov’s market value is low why bother trading him? Better to give him another season to develop. He’s only 20 and still has plenty of time to improve…Despres’ name has kicked around the rumor mill for a year. Don’t be surprised if he’s packaged in a deal this summer…Bourque could indeed become a buyout candidate this June, though the Habs could wait until next summer… Malone has only one season remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $4.5 million, though in actual salary he’s scheduled to make $2.5 million. It been obvious age (34) and years of injuries have caught up with him. The Lightning have a compliance buyout remaining if they wish to go that route this June. A regular buyout would cost $2.83 million against their cap next season and over $833K in 2015-16.