Oilers News & Rumors: Puljujarvi, Koivu, Athanasiou, Nicholson

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, OEL President Bob Nicholson sat down to discuss the plans for the team this offseason and gave a hint at Ken Holland’s agenda. There is news that the Oilers have decided the future of forward Andreas Athanasiou and an interesting team appears to be kicking tires on Jesse Puljujarvi. Could the Oilers be looking at Mikko Koivu and why was Gary Bettman so impressed with the city of Edmonton?

Nicholson Says Oilers Will Merely “Tinker”

Oilers Entertainment Group President Bob Nicholson took some time to speak with Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now and was fairly direct in his assessment of the way the Oilers finished out the 2019-20 season. Saying the team wasn’t good enough, he noted there would be changes.

Bob Nicholson, Ken Holland, Daryl Katz
Bob Nicholson CEO and Vice-Chair of Oilers Entertainment Group Hockey Operations Staff, new GM Ken Holland and Owner Daryl Katz pose for a photo after announcing the hiring of Ken Holland, in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday May 7, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Interestingly, Nicholson said those changes wouldn’t be big. He told Stauffer that his GM is going to make smaller moves to fix what didn’t work. Nicholson explained:

“We’ve got two of the best players in the world and we’re not going to make huge changes but Ken will tinker with this line-up and make us a better hockey club and maybe more importantly get us to where we’re more consistent, so maybe not just one year but a number of years ahead of us.”

Does this mean the Oilers are out of the running for players like Oliver Ekman-Larsson? Perhaps. But, there’s also a thought that the messaging here is intentional. If the Oilers fail to make any big moves in an offseason where moves will be challenging as teams deal with a flat salary cap, if nothing gets done, Nicholson can always come back to this interview and say the team was never planning a big shakeup.

Related: Time Is Right for Canadiens GM Bergevin to Spend to Cap

Trouble Moving Athanasiou?

One of the changes Holland will likely make is moving out forward Andreas Athanasiou. It appears the Oilers have decided they’re going to try and move him versus agree to his qualifying offer of $3 million.

Athanasiou is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. As a result, Frank Seravalli of TSN notes that the Oilers are actively trying to trade Athanasiou before the Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. ET. deadline.

Andreas Athanasiou Edmonton Oilers
Andreas Athanasiou, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

It will be intriguing to see how Holland handles this. Opposing GMs aren’t likely going to want to have to pay Athanasiou’s qualifying offer of $3 million either so it serves them better to just wait out the deadline and sign him as an unrestricted free agent. But, can Holland somehow work Athanasiou into a bigger deal in an attempt to offload salary to a team that has cap space?

If Holland fails to land any return for Athanasiou, that means the Oilers paid the price of two second-round draft picks and got an unproductive 13 games out of the player.

Related: Best NHL Goalies of the 1980s

Blue Jackets Interested in Puljujarvi?

According to Elliotte Friedman, the Oilers might have an interested party in Jesse Puljujarvi’s services. A team who passed up on the player when they could have drafted him might be re-visiting the idea of Puljujarvi on their roster.

Friedman notes the Columbus Blue Jackets are “looking to add some skill” and said, “I had someone text me this morning and say, ‘there’s some names out there that you guys haven’t even considered.’” He added, “Columbus Blue Jackets were one team that had interest in Jesse Puljujarvi.”

Could Oilers Be Interested in Mikko Koivu?

Now that Mikko Koivu officially won’t be returning to the Minnesota Wild, would a team like the Oilers be a good fit?

There’s been no comment from Koivu as to his future but from an Edmonton perspective, Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins points out that it might make sense to inquire.

Mikko Koivu Minnesota Wild
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He writes:

“…if Koivu wanted one more year and you can make the numbers work, could you find a veteran 3rd Line Center better suited to shepherd young Jesse Puljujarvi through a return to the NHL than his fellow Finn?”

source -‘In times anything but normal might the Edmonton Oilers off-season not be, either?: 9 Things’ Kurt Leavins – Edmonton Journal – 09/19/2020

Leavins notes that Koivu’s numbers have dropped but he can still play and he is a tremendous face-off man. He wonders if a third line of Koivu, Tyler Ennis & Puljujarvi four around $4-5m/year total would work?

Bettman Praises Edmonton

During his annual pre-Finals media address, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke highly of the work Edmonton has done to make the NHL bubble system work. He noted that with how smoothly things have gone, events like the NHL Draft or the All-Star Game are certainly in the city’s future.

In speaking with Terry Jones of the Ottawa Sun, Bettman said:

“Terry, as you know I was a proponent of this arena and the Ice District and worked very hard with Daryl Katz and then-mayor (Stephen) Mandel to make this a reality and I always said we would bring league events here, be it the NHL Draft or All-Star Game.

Source’ JONES: ‘Gary Bettman sings praises for Edmonton as Hub City’ – Terry Jones – Ottawa Sun – 09/19/2020

As for when, Bettman couldn’t commit to anything. He said, “I think we need a better sense of when we’re going to get to normalcy before we can commit to any dates.”

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