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Yakupov 'didn't go upstairs and ask for trade'

Oilers forward downplays report in Russian media he wanted out by deadline

by Derek Van Diest / Columnist

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers forward Nail Yakupov downplayed reports out of Russia he asked to be moved prior to the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29.

The No. 1 selection in the 2012 NHL Draft has six goals and 19 points with a minus-16 rating for the Oilers. Yakupov will be on a line with left wing Taylor Hall and center Leon Draisaitl against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday (9 p.m. ET; FS-W, SNW, NHL.TV).

"My agent [Igor Larionov] and the team had discussions about it, but I don't know any details," Yakupov said Monday. "That's it. I'm still here, I'm still playing for the Edmonton Oilers and I'm just focusing on my game right now. I didn't go upstairs and ask for a trade."

According to Sport-Express of Russia, Yakupov said in an interview he asked for a trade and was given permission to speak to other teams; eight were interested, but something went wrong.  

Video: MIN@EDM: Yakupov steals the puck, slams it home

"There are four games left, I just want to finish strong and continue to be a professional player," Yakupov said. "I'm not talking about that, we have people who can talk about that. I'm just here to play hockey, whether it's here or there. Now I'm here, I'm still here, I'm playing with great guys and I still want to be part of it while I'm here."

Edmonton has been eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 10th consecutive season. Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli is expected to overhaul the roster this summer, which could involve moving No. 1 picks Yakupov, Hall (2010) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011).

"We'll see, we'll finish the year, we have lots of time in the summer and we'll see what happens," Yakupov said. "I'm just playing the game right now. I'm playing the game with good players, Hall and Leon, and I'm just trying to get better every day, trying to play the best game I can every day and just keep moving forward."

Oilers coach Todd McLellan also downplayed the comments made to the Russian media outlet.

"With that, I'd be a little bit careful and you have to err on the, 'What was really said?' side," McLellan said. "A Russian reporter goes through a translator, then it's tweeted out seven times. I remember going to kindergarten and you whisper into 15 people's ears and by the time you got around, what was pink was red. I would be a little cautious when it comes to that and the fact that he did or didn't; really for me, it's not really that important right now. It's the group, we're here to take care of the group and no one is bigger than the group, and that's how it's always going to be."

Yakupov has 48 goals and 107 points in 248 games over four seasons with the Oilers. He has played for four different coaches in Edmonton and been used throughout the lineup with a combination of linemates.  

"[Yakupov] is a young player and he still has a lot of time in this League," Hall said. "He's been given some opportunities and maybe he hasn't done as well as he's wanted to, but that doesn't take away from the fact he's been a real good teammate. Playing from the fourth line to the first line, he hasn't changed his attitude coming to the rink. We'll see what happens this summer, not just with [Yakupov], but a lot of guys could be gone. It's going to be tough, but that's the way it goes."

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