Oilers News and Rumors: Neal, Puljujarvi, Gardiner, More

There is plenty going on on in Oil Country as the Edmonton Oilers have made news over the past few days. There are rumors and updates regarding a player the team just acquired and players the team might be interested in. There have been some changes to the coaching staff and speculation about Jesse Puljujarvi.

James Neal to Get Big Opportunity

When the Edmonton Oilers got Milan Lucic to agree to waive his no-trade clause the join the Calgary Flames and picked up scoring winger James Neal in the deal, there were many who were shocked the Oilers were able to pull off such a deal, while others pointed out Neal actually scored fewer points than Lucic last season.

Calgary Flames James Neal
Former Calgary Flames left wing James Neal (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

What the latter group has somewhat ignored are the fewer games Neal played and the linemates he played with while in Calgary.

Neal started last season off well but fell out of favor with coach Bill Peters. He then wasn’t able to get his game back on track and lost many of the opportunities he was afforded on the first-unit power play or other prime spots where a goal scorer needs to be. In Edmonton, things should, and probably will be different.

Neal will be playing alongside either Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2019-20. In Calgary, he spent most of his time with Mark Jankowski or Sam Bennett. There’s a good chance he’ll start beside McDavid who Neal has been working out with this summer.

The story behind Neal’s lack of production last season was that he came into camp a bit out of shape and slower. Playing alongside McDavid this offseason, he’ll be much quicker and the pressure to keep up with McDavid’s expectations will exist. Essentially, McDavid will take some responsibility for ensuring Neal is ready to go.

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Oilers Hire Brian Wiseman

The Edmonton Oilers have hired a new assistant coach to work under Dave Tippett. His name is Brian Wiseman and he spent the past seven seasons with the University of Michigan as an assistant coach.

Wiseman will now join a group that consists of associate coach Jim Playfair, assistant coach Glen Gulutzan, goaltending coach Dustin Schwartz and video coach Jeremy Coupal.  

Wiseman said to Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer, “I love offence. I love being creative.” In short, it sounds like Wiseman was specifically chosen for his experience in working with speed and skill.

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Oilers Interested in Jake Gardiner Rumors

Rob Soria of The Hockey Writers wrote a piece today suggesting the Oilers should consider making room to sign Jake Gardiner. The suggestion being that if Gardiner is being forced to sign a one-year deal with a team because other franchises are unsure of his ability to live up to a long-term deal at $7 million per season, the Oilers offer a great opportunity to boost his numbers for a better extension next summer.

But, is there anything to the suggestion Edmonton and Gardiner might be a potential fit for each other?

Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While Oilers fans might be intrigued by the idea, the immediate answer is probably no. There has been no indication from any sources considered NHL insiders linking the Oilers to Gardiner. The only update seems to be that Gardiner might not be back in Toronto despite the type of deal he signs.

Remember, the Oilers would need to move contracts to make room for Gardiner and while the team was able to move Lucic, there aren’t many deals happening in the NHL these days where teams are simply willing to take on salary. It would require Edmonton moving a player like Kris Russell without the Oilers taking much salary back.

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Jesse Puljujarvi Updates Few and Far Between

There’s not been much news over the past few days as it pertains to Jesse Puljujarvi. The latest is that he’s still looking for a fresh start somewhere else but the feeling is that he may actually rejoin the Oilers and try to boost his production.

If he can showcase well the Oilers will have better luck moving him, assuming he still wants to leave after working with the new coaching staff.