If Nail Yakupov is available this offseason, the Washington Capitals should take a flyer on the former first overall pick.
The Washington Capitals are going to likely lose at least two forwards due to free agency. They could lose as many as three if they don’t re-sign T.J. Oshie. While the Capitals have enough depth to fill two top six forward spots, their forward depth is still a bit lacking.
Who replaces Andre Burakovsky if he gets a promotion? What if they don’t bring back Brett Connolly? These are questions that the Caps will have to answer next year. With their right wing depth lacking, Washington needs to add at least one via free agency even if they re-sign Oshie. Nail Yakupov is an intriguing option. Let’s take a look at him.
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Yakupov is perhaps best known as the biggest first overall pick bust of the post-2004 lockout era. Every other first pick has at least been a quality NHL player. However, Yakupov hasn’t been one since the 2014-15 season and he’s quickly slipping.
In 40 games last season with the St. Louis Blues, he put up a career low nine points and saw the lowest average ice time of his career. Yakupov is clearly trending in the wrong direction.
Why Sign Him?
So why should the Capitals sign him? First of all, the right wing market is mighty shallow once you look past Oshie, Alexander Radulov, Justin Williams and Patrick Eaves. Radim Vrbata is a quality option, but other than the aforementioned players, it’s an unimpressive market.
Secondly, if the Capitals want a skilled option, Yakupov might be next in line. Yes, he’s been a bust so far. But Yakupov was a first overall pick for a reason – he has undeniable skill. The problem has been putting it all together. Sound familiar? It should. Connolly faced a similar situation a year ago.
His advanced stats aren’t impressive, but they aren’t terrible either. Yakupov had an adjusted even strength relative CorsiFor percentage of -0.65 percent. His relative expected goals for percentage was 2.57 percent, which is encouraging. Yakupov might be a cheaper option than Connolly. And in an offseason where the Caps will have to pinch pennies to keep Oshie, that’s relevant. Looking at his stats, his 2016-17 season looks terrible. But, there is still some hope.
If (and this is a fairly big if) the Capitals can get him back to what he was before last season, he could provide decent forward depth at a cheap price. Maybe Yakupov can have success with the Capitals. They have Alex Ovechkin, Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Part of Yakupov’s failures might be that he’s rarely been around countrymen. Russians often face a bit of a challenge in the NHL. The Caps have a strong locker room, the kind Yakupov might need to flourish.
The Capitals could do a lot worse than giving him a chance. His skill is very intriguing. Yakupov will likely sign for something close to the league minimum if the Blues don’t keep him (and they probably won’t). If the Caps are going to get past the Penguins, they need more skill. Yakupov has skill, making him a solid match for the Capitals.
So what do you think Caps fans? Assuming Yakupov comes at a very cheap price, would you give him a shot?