PITTSBURGH - The Edmonton Oilers face a decision with the first overall selection at the 2012 NHL entry draft on Friday evening.
Do they select the consensus best prospect in Sarnia Sting talented offensive forward Nail Yakupov or fill a need by choosing a defenceman? Or does Edmonton trade back in the hopes of landing immediate help on the blue-line?
When Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini met with reporters at a downtown hotel here late Thursday afternoon, he did not sound like he was close to dealing away the first overall selection. He has sifted through a few offers, but nothing has come close to the "significant package" he desires.
The Oilers have narrowed down their choice to two prospects. But Tambellini did not want to tip his hand on whether his club favours Yakupov or a defenceman like Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, or Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings.
In the past two drafts, when the Oilers selected Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall, Edmonton didn't finalize its decision until after the organization's final scouting meeting, which will take place this time on Friday morning.
"You take the best player, Yakupov," said a chief scout from another team who has a Stanley Cup ring. "Is an 18-year-old defenceman like Murray going to help you right away like Yakupov, a natural goal scorer, can?
"Defencemen take time to develop, and I'm not even convinced that Murray is the best defencemen in this class. Will he be any better than [Morgan] Rielly, Griffin Reinhart, [Matt] Dumba, [Jacob] Trouba, Cody Ceci or the Swedish kid [Hampus] Lindholm? I don't think so."
Our scout compares Murray to Karl Alzner, the Washington Capitals reliable 23-year-old defenceman who was chosen fifth overall in 2007.
If history can teach the Oilers anything, they should take Yakupov. They can always make a trade later to improve their club like the Quebec Nordiques did two decades ago.
The Nordiques were the last NHL team to make three successive first overall picks. They selected Mats Sundin in 1989, Owen Nolan in 1990 and Eric Lindros in 1991. All three were traded away by the time the Nordiques had moved to Denver and won the Stanley Cup in 1996.
The Lindros trade, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next Saturday, was significant because the Nordiques received in return Peter Forsberg, Steve Duchesne, Ron Hextall, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci and Chris Simon as well as two first-round draft picks and $15-million US.
We're not saying that Yakupov or Hall or Nugent-Hopkins can fetch this sort of return. But taking Yakupov certainly makes the Oilers a better team immediately and gives them more options to improve the entire roster.
Staal spurns 10-year contract offer from Penguins
The agent for Pittsburgh Penguins centre Jordan Staal confirmed that his client has turned down a long-term contract offer, reportedly a 10-year, $60-million deal.
Staal's agent, Paul Krepelka said, "He is not prepared to enter a contract extension at this time."
Staal, who will be married in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont. on Friday, has one more year on his current $4-million a season deal with the Penguins. He hasn't asked for a trade nor has he ruled out the possibility of staying with Pittsburgh.
It's up to Penguins GM Ray Shero to decide whether to move Staal or wait to take another crack at extending his 24-year-old forward.
Nash stays with Columbus for now
Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson and Joe Resnick, the agent for Rick Nash, met for about an hour in Pittsburgh on Thursday. While Howson would not reveal what exactly the two discussed, the Blue Jackets GM did state that he is no closer to trading his star forward than he was at the trade deadline four months ago.
But Howson did remark that he has more legitimate offers from teams than he did back in February. The New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators have interest in Nash. But the 28-year-old Nash controls his destiny because he has a no-trade clause in his $7.8-million a season contract that has six years remaining.
Odds and Ends
Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin confirmed that his club will take goalie Carey Price to salary arbitration this summer to guard against the possibility of another team signing Price to an offer sheet. "It's just a technicality that the CBA allows you to do ... Carey knew before that we were going to do that and their party is all fine with that." ... The Vancouver Canucks have talked to a few teams about a trade regarding veteran goalie Roberto Luongo, but no deal is imminent ... Tambellini said the hiring of the next Oilers head coach likely won't happen until next week.
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