Are the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers talking Yakupov trade?

Craig MacTavish, Kevin Lowe and Mark Messier scouted the game between the New York Rangers and Anaheim Ducks last night for Edmonton last night. That in itself could mean just about anything, but Larry Brooks of the New York Post writes that there is a possibility the Rangers might have interest in a skilled winger – either Ales Hemsky or more likely 2012 first overall pick Nail Yakupov.

If the Oilers are in fact discussing those names with New York, what might they be interested in off the Rangers’ roster?

The most obvious option as the centerpiece of a trade is one of the Rangers’ impressive top-four defencemen: Marc Staal, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi or Michael Del Zotto. Staal is 26 and on a pretty reasonable contract for two more years while McDonagh is 24 and locked up for $4.7 million per season until 2019. Either would be a strong option for the Oilers; neither seems a particularly likely trade candidate for New York. Girardi, meanwhile, is a pending unrestricted free agent; he’s struggled mightily this year.

That leaves Del Zotto, a young (23), under-sized, offence-minded defenceman. He’s been mostly handed offensive minutes for the Rangers the last few seasons, and he’s mostly struggled in a second-pairing role. His name’s been in trade rumours seemingly forever. He’d be a decidedly odd target for the Oilers; he’s basically a left-shooting version of Justin Schultz, a player they already have. Like Schultz, Del Zotto is also a pending free agent.

Up front, Chris Kreider is off to a brilliant start; the 6’3”, 226-pound left wing is only 22 years old and might be a nice fit for the Oilers needs. The trouble is that he’s a gamble. The 2009 19th overall pick had a dismal professional debut last season, scoring at what can charitably be described as a pedestrian pace in the AHL and getting soundly thrashed in 23 NHL games where he contributed little. There’s been a night-and-day turnaround this year (he already has basically matched last year’s shot totals in only seven games and doubled his point totals) but this year’s only been seven games long and he’s been playing with Brad Richards and Derek Stepan.