Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Habs Post-Season: Draft Pick Fallout

That didn't take long, did it?

Speculation that the Oilers could be trading down their pick started mere minutes after the draft concluded when Edmonton G.M.Steve Tambellini, after being asked whether he'd be drafting Yakupov, trading the pick for a much needed defenseman, or maybe even not selecting Yakupov at all, responded "all of the above."

So he's an open-minded guy. Rational, even.

Still, Yakupov makes no sense to Edmonton, a team whose brim has overflowed with excellent young offensive talent, but has very little on either the blue line or between the pipes. Even if three or four of these young guns score 40+ goals in future years, if Edmonton doesn't have the means to keep the puck out, they'll struggle to make the post-season next year (and beyond), which would render their rebuilding experiment a failure.

Today, the navel gazers are out in full force, lobbying Tambellini to unload the pick for a number one defensemen or goaltender.

But what exactly would it take to pry that pick out of Edmonton's mitts? It's a question on the mind of many Habs fans today because Montreal is faced with an almost inverse challenge - its defense and goaltending are relatively deep, but its offense has some pretty gaping holes that need to be filled immediately.

Yakupov, who will almost certainly be playing in the NHL next season, fits the Habs desperate needs. An amazingly skilled and agile winger who would match up perfectly with playmaking centres like Desharnais and Plekanec (or perhaps even Eller). Yakupov would be the best potential candidate to fill the void that has dogged the Habs organization for years - a forward with the potential capability to dominate a game. It's an essential element for all championship hockey teams - that one guy who can take the game into his hands, and push his team to victory.

So what now? Well, if the Oilers do trade away their top pick, it's not going to happen any time soon. Certainly not in the next few days. Tambellini is no dummy - he'll be weighing options, fielding calls (he'll certainly get many inquiries), and making a move only if it fits the immediate needs of the Oilers, as the pressure is beginning to mount in Edmonton for the Oilers to make the playoffs next season. Anything less will not be acceptable.

I cannot envision the Oilers entertaining a draft swap with the Habs involving one of Montreal's young defensive prospects, either Nathan Beaulieu, or Jarred Tinordi, both of whom have great potential, but are by no means proven NHL-capable defensemen. Certainly not proven #1 capable defensemen that the Oilers need so badly next season.

Ergo, The Oilers will almost certainly not be returning any calls by the next Habs G.M. that don't involve either P.K. Subban or Carey Price as part of the conversation.

That's a pretty hefty price tag - from all rational perspectives, far too pricy. Subban and Price represent the future of Habs fortunes - they are irreplaceable commodities.

So with the draft lottery behind us, and a night's sleep to mull over future possibilities, Habs fans can probably only dream about somehow wrenching away that number one pick from the Oilers' grasp.

The reality is, what the Habs need to offer to land Yakupov is something they simply can't afford to surrender.

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