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Nail Yakupov: Low cost, potential high reward

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

When the St. Louis Blues traded for Nail Yakupov, there were no fireworks in the city of St. Louis. No one went to a local bakery, bought a cake, and headed over to Scottrade Center. He isn’t a flashy acquisition, but he could be a valuable asset in a transitional season.

That’s right. You didn’t miss the memo, did you? The Blues are getting younger, faster, and gearing their future in the eyes of Mike Yeo. The coach to be may be standing behind Ken Hitchcock, but with the change in the Blues approach and strategy this offseason, the gears are already churning for 2017-18.

What’s the sexy part of this deal? Yakupov is 23 years old, has speed to burn, and is friends with Vladimir Tarasenko. The Russian friendlies can only help each other in St. Louis, as Yakupov breaks away from Edmonton. This is a low liability, potential high reward move.

Yakupov has tallied 50 goals and 61 assists in 252 career games, with 16 power play goals spread amongst those 50 scores. There’s nothing here to light up the fantasy airwaves, but what if the kid is paired with Paul Stastny. What could the veteran do for the right winger’s game? Since the STL line won’t be broken apart for at least another year, why not take the opportunity to tap into Yakupov’s potential by pairing him with Stastny?

The kid is making 2.5 million before becoming a restricted free agent next season. He cost the Blues a conditional pick and 22 year old Zach Pochino, who spent the past year in the ECHL. The latter was more of a “Here, take him” addition than anything truly valuable. The Blues got a good one here and someone who feels good about his new surroundings.

The one thing you’ll never hear a player go is, “Man I love playing for the Oilers.” Kevin Shattenkirk reportedly vetoed a trade there in the offseason and players run far from there as possible. Yakupov told the Post Dispatch, “I don’t know what winning is.”

Kid, welcome to the town that wins. Well, regular season wins at the very least.

He joins a crew that values depth. Jaden Schwartz is already down. Robby Fabbri battled an injury this preseason. Alex Steen just got back from surgery. David Backes and Troy Brouwer are gone. David Perron is a huge question mark. The Blues need offensive depth and Nail provides just that.

Put this way. Yakupov gives the Blues one more reason to send Magnus Paajarvi packing. Lottery ticket #56 had all the chance in the world to grasp a future last season and blew it. He played in enough games and with top talent and didn’t impress. Yakupov, at the very least, represents an upgrade in injury depth.

Best case scenario, Yakupov can challenge for third line October minutes and maybe crack higher if there are persistent injuries. He’s young and hungry, coming from a place where playoff events are relics.

While it’s not champagne inducing excitement, the more I think about this acquisition, the more I think General Manager Doug Armstrong scored a sleeper here. Well done Dougie. You bought potential here and I like it. Is it like buying a cool rug from a thrift store? No. Is it picking up a shiny penny off the ground and sticking it in your pocket?Maybe.

Blues fans, there will be hockey in four days. Buy more bourbon.