I’ve seen many comments about two Edmonton Oilers, calling for them to be traded: one, their top defenceman, and the other, a young forward with lots of potential. I understand the frustration when they don’t perform every night because Oilers fans are spoiled with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who do incredible things on a nightly basis. But the players around them can’t, and the team must have confidence and patience as better times are ahead. Here’s a look at why these players won’t be traded this offseason.
Trading Nurse Before His Contract Starts
I want to lead off with this since it’s the most outlandish of the trades I’ve heard mentioned. It seems to be a mix between his cap hit and his play, at least from last season. I will address both of these and argue why Darnell Nurse will likely spend most of his contract with the Oilers.
Nurse logs over 25 minutes a night, and although he doesn’t play on the power play – the team has the luxury of two other defencemen fully capable of doing so – he is still able to if needed. Always matched up against the opponents’ top line, it’s not as easy to shut down the best players on each team on a nightly basis, especially injured as he was throughout the playoffs. That’s where a ton of criticism came from.
After the Oilers were eliminated, Nurse revealed that he was playing through a torn hip flexor throughout the playoffs, and that’s what makes his perseverance and play that much more impressive. He may have been on the ice for 16 five-on-five goals against, but he was also on the ice for 17 for, and the Oilers didn’t get the luck or gifted goals that their opponents did.
The Oilers’ top defenceman can generally stay healthy and hadn’t missed a game since 2016-17 before missing 11 this season. He has tons of offensive talent as he’s scored 10-plus goals in two of the past three seasons and put nine in the back of the net this season. He is big, strong, and fast while also being willing and able to take the body and get in front of shots. The Oilers need him, and the contract he was given had to be done. Edmonton hasn’t generally been a top destination for free agents, given the weather and taxes, so bringing back home-grown talent for a little more is the price to pay.
Oilers Will Give Puljujarvi a Bridge Deal to Prove Himself One Last Time
Given Jesse Puljujarvi‘s production in the second half of 2021-22, far too many fans have been calling for him to be traded. For starters, he was making just $1.175 million for the past two seasons, and he put up 29 goals and 61 points in 120 games. Look around the league, and it would be hard to find better offensive players just off of their entry-level contracts for that cheap. You won’t find many forwards better than him defensively either, no matter the cap hit.
Look at the upside. The Oilers will be able to once again sign him for much cheaper than expected after his start to the season. They can either opt to go with a bridge deal to play it safe for the short-term but risk a breakout of Valeri Nichushkin proportions where the Oilers would then have to pay Puljujarvi much more money to keep him around. Qualifying him would cost $1.4 million – the Dallas Stars gave up on Nichushkin at age 24, and he is a very good player now.
Puljujarvi is still young and developing. Jay Woodcroft spoke about his struggles offensively during the season and would be concerned if he wasn’t getting in the right places to score, but he still helps generate tons of scoring chances with pressure and work all over the ice. He may not play on special teams often, but that’s not for lack of ability.
There was uncertainty about who would assume the net-front role on the top power-play unit at the beginning of the season, and Zach Hyman outplayed Puljuajrvi in that role. Hyman had a stellar year, so it’s hard to fault Puljujarvi in that department. As for killing penalties, he has all the skills to do so with efficiency, but the Oilers are already stacked in that regard. Given the opportunity, I guarantee he will outperform expectations.
It was a tale of two seasons for Puljujarvi, showing his potential in the first part while also showing what he must work on in the second half. He started the season hot, scoring six goals and 13 points in the first 11 games, and had all the confidence in the world. Woodcroft also mentioned the need for Puljujarvi to regain his confidence, which could happen as quickly as a few strong games.
General manager Ken Holland can’t make the same mistake as Peter Chiarelli did, trading Jordan Eberle after one poor playoffs and having it spiral to nothing. It would also be unfortunate to see Puljujarvi turn into the strong two-way player – which he has the potential to become – on a different team after all he and the Oilers have been through together.
Both players will work hard to get healthy and back on track this offseason and deliver a solid all-around 2022-23 season for the Oilers.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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