Blues Should Target Jesse Puljujarvi in Trade to Spark Offense

The St. Louis Blues are in desperate need of more depth scoring. Last season, the Blues had nine players who scored 20 or more goals, and the depth scoring was a big part of the team’s success. To capture more magic from last season, the Blues should target Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi for a potential trade.

Puljujarvi recently told Finnish journalist Tommi Seppala that he has not felt like himself lately and he might be looking for a change. There was an indication that the former fourth-overall pick is not sure if he belongs in the NHL or if he needs a change of scenery. If the latter is the case, the Blues should jump on an opportunity to acquire the forward.

Despite the 24-year-old’s high draft status in the 2016 NHL Draft, he only commands a $3 million average annual value (AAV) on his salary and is a restricted free agent after the season ends. Meanwhile, the Blues do not have a ton of cap flexibility, but they have about $1.1 million in cap space with Marco Scandella and Scott Perunovich on long-term injured reserve.

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There is no timetable for the return of either of the Blues’ injured defensemen. Still, the Vegas Golden Knights and Tampa Bay Lightning have proved over the last few seasons that when dealing with a tight cap situation, you acquire a player and ask questions later.

The recent injury to Pavel Buchnevich is something to keep an eye on as well for St. Louis. If the Russian forward is going to miss an extended period of time, a player like Puljujarvi could be an excellent replacement for the Blues on the third line with Brandon Saad and Ivan Barbashev.

How Much Is Left in the Tank for Puljujarvi?

It’s rare to see a player come out publicly and question whether or not he belongs in the NHL. It’s even more rare to see a top prospect like Puljujarvi question his place in the world’s best league. These words would usually be red flags for a franchise, but the Finnish winger has a history of producing.

Jesse Puljujarvi Edmonton Oilers
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The 24-year-old is playing in his sixth NHL season, and all of them have come with the Edmonton Oilers. Most of his time in Edmonton has seen the winger play alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. In his six seasons in the NHL, he has scored at least 10 goals in half of them.

Last season, he recorded a career-high 36 points for the Oilers and received votes for the Selke Trophy at the end of the season. For his career, he has 47 goals and 57 assists in 286 games played. He has minimal production on the power play in his career, but he has scored regularly during even-strength play.

However, there is concern about his play to begin the 2022-23 campaign. In 27 games this season, he has recorded just one goal and five assists, and he is averaging 13:48 of ice time. Comparatively, Josh Leivo (7) and Noel Acciari (12) have more points than Puljujarvi.

While Leivo and Acciari were brought in as depth pieces, they both have shined so far this season for the Blues. Ultimately, what makes the potential acquisition of the Oilers’ forward intriguing is his potential. He played in multiple World Junior Championships for Finland, and his play in the Liiga in Finland earned him a high selection in the draft.

St. Louis has gone down the reclamation-type-project road before, however. Most recently was Nail Yakupov, who, after being drafted first overall by the Oilers, was acquired by St. Louis for the 2016-17 season and only registered nine points in 40 games.

His cap hit makes acquiring Puljujarvi intriguing, and his public comments could entice Edmonton to move on from their once-top prospect for less than what he would cost otherwise. A late-round draft pick or a mid-level prospect would likely get the deal done. The Blues’ organization might be able to convince the Oilers to eat some of his cap for a season as well.

While the Blues are not in a playoff position at the moment, the roster has players who have the ability to put together elite offensive seasons, and an offensive resurgence is not out of the question. Acquiring someone like Puljujarvi could be a change that both parties need.

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