It would have been difficult to imagine a couple of months ago the Edmonton Oilers and disgruntled forward Jesse Puljujarvi patching things up, but that may be what’s happening.
Based on recent comments made from the forward, if nothing is lost in translation, his tune has slightly changed. Furthermore, he might not be opposed to opening the door for a return to the team.
What Puljujarvi Said
According to a reported conversation between Puljujarvi and a Finnish news site, Puljujarvi noted that he’s rethinking things and his stance to force the Oilers to trade him. The Oulu, Finland news site, more specifically, a transcription from a conversation with the former Oilers fourth-overall draft pick noted, “Jesse Puljujärvi’s position on a possible return of the Oilers has softened: ‘Never say never’”.
David Staples of the Edmonton Journal is covering the story and writes:
The post itself is behind a paywall and I can’t figure out how to read it in full, but Oilers fan and Puljujarvi follower Mari Lönnberg gives this account on Twitter: “Puljujärvi repeating his stance ‘never say never’ when asked if returning to Oilers is possible. He says though that everything is open now and he hasn’t set any time lines for the decision. Playing with Kärpät is also an option for the next season.”source -‘”Never say never”: Jesse Puljujarvi muses on possible return to Edmonton Oilers, Finnish media reports’ – David Staples – The Edmonton Journal – 06/11/2020
Related: Worst Trades in Oilers’ History
So Now What Do the Oilers Do?
If Puljujarvi is softening on his stance, there are a few choices on the table for Oilers general manager Ken Holland. In fact, he’s in the drivers seat when it comes to the forward’s future.
Even though the team couldn’t figure out how to keep Puljujarvi happy in Edmonton and the player took off as a restricted free agent, the choices for the Oilers haven’t really changed, other than to suggest Holland has more leverage now. There was speculation that Puljujarvi’s rights could be traded around the draft since a deal at the deadline didn’t happen. Holland stayed firm and wasn’t willing to give the player away.
He certainly won’t do so if it’s known Puljuarvi is open to returning.
A simple conversation with the player could offer up a chance to be productive — something that was not always there — and with that production will come a ticket on the first train out of town should a team be looking for an offensive boost.
That seems to be the most logical solution for both sides if the relationship can’t be mended.
What If He Finds Success?
Of course, should he return and find success with the Oilers, Puljuarvi’s attitude towards the team could change even further.
The Oilers were not a successful group when Puljujarvi left and he couldn’t seem to find a regular spot on a pretty bad team. This past season, Edmonton seems to have turned a corner and if you ask most insiders, winning changes a lot. Should Puljujarvi return and secure a complimentary role, producing alongside some very talented forwards, his comfort level could jump, making the relationship a win/win for all parties.
At the end of they day, this would be the best way for the Oilers to maximize the player’s value since the market for him in trade may still be extremely low. A happy fourth-overall pick doing fourth-overall things would make an already dangerous Oilers team even stronger.
But, Do the Oilers Even Want Him Now?
One interesting question worth asking is, ‘How bad do the Oilers actually want him?’
Puljujarvi risked being replaced when he left the team and in some respects he was. A strong season but not one where he lit up the Finnish league (53 points in 56 games), the Oilers were able to bring in Kailer Yamamoto and the small, skilled forward with unmatched determination landed a top-six role on the team, producing at a level Puljuarvi never did.
If Puljujarvi’s return came at the expense of a player like Yamamoto, there won’t be a lot of time for the conversation in Edmonton. That said, Puljujarvi is unique in that his size, ability, and shot are missing from the Oilers lineup. It’s the kind of player the team might be looking for.
The Oilers have Yamamoto, Alex Chiasson, James Neal, Josh Archibald, Zack Kassian, and Patrick Russell on right wing. There is talk of Neal being moved or bought out. If that happens, there’s a potential opening.
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