TORONTO — Craig MacTavish isn’t taking too kindly to comments made by Nail Yakupov’s agent about his client’s role with the Edmonton Oilers.
A day after Igor Larionov told ESPN.com that he’d be open to a trade from the Oilers, MacTavish accused the reporter who wrote the story of "manufacturing it" and defended the team’s treatment of Yakupov.
"There’s nothing changed from our perspective on Yak," MacTavish said after the NHL general managers meeting in Toronto. "The only thing I will say is that adversity in my mind is something that helps spur development. Yak’s facing a little bit of adversity, but there aren’t too many players of that age that haven’t. That’s really all I have to say about it."
Larionov’s message to the Oilers, via ESPN.com, was to let the 20-year-old Yakupov play. The 2012 No. 1 overall pick was a healthy scratch for two games earlier in the season and is averaging 15:28 of ice time a game.
"I asked Craig, 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 told ESPN.com. "That happens and that’s part of life. Let’s move on."
Coach Dallas Eakins told the Edmonton Journal that Yakupov was not going anywhere, a sentiment MacTavish repeated Tuesday.
Asked if Larionov might have a point about Yakupov getting a chance to play more, MacTavish voiced support for Eakins’ decisions.
"I think Yak’s been treated very fairly since he’s been in our organization," he said. "We like Yak, I’ve said that many times. It’s a much bigger story for you people, and it’s becoming a bit of a distraction for us right now because we’re having to answer these questions.
"We feel the same way about Yak as the day we drafted him. He’s a dynamic player that’s going to need time to develop and get to the level that we all expect him to get to. Is it a smooth line from where he is now to what he’s going to become as a player? No, there’s going to be ups and downs along the way, and anybody that’s been in the game for any length of time will tell you that that is the case."
MacTavish said Yakupov’s struggles are part of his development and that "anybody with any common sense would tell you the same thing." He then told reporters to relax and left abruptly.