- Craig Custance
TORONTO -- The red carpet before the Hockey Hall of Fame inductions can be a gold mine for catching up with some of the biggest names in hockey. Monday night was no different, even if the space was shared with Chris Chelios' friends from Hollywood. Wayne Gretzky stopped to talk, as did John Cusack and Tony Danza. But the most interesting comments came from Hall of Famer Igor Larionov, the agent for Edmonton Oilers winger Nail Yakupov. Before taking his seat, Larionov stopped to chat and the subject of his biggest client, Yakupov, led to very pointed comments.
"I'm going to Edmonton on Thursday to watch a couple games against Dallas and New Jersey. Obviously a lot of questions, and I want to have some answers," Larionov said. He added he's concerned about the limited opportunity Yakupov is getting right now in Edmonton, in his second season in the NHL.
"Let the kid play, enjoy the game. He's a hard-working kid. He's not lazy. He's got to be part of that team. You have to understand he's only 20 years old, he needs some support," Larionov said. "He's a goal-scorer. You've got to understand that and let the kid develop and play."
In 17 games this season, Yakupov has only two goals as he adjusts to Dallas Eakins' system after breaking in under Ralph Krueger as a rookie. Last season, Yakupov scored 17 goals under Krueger, including 11 goals in 14 games in April. The strong finish raised expectations this season, expectations that haven't been reached. Yakupov was the series of two posts in this space earlier this season.
Larionov said he'd like to sit down with Eakins, somebody he said he doesn't know at all. He said he's already had conversations with Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish and made it clear that they'd be open to a trade if the Oilers had soured on the forward taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
"I asked Craig [MacTavish], I said, 'If you guys [are] not happy with him or you have no room for him, we're willing to make a move. Any team,'" Larionov said. "That happens and that's part of life. Let's move on."
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