Oilers Would Benefit From Puljujarvi Return

Rumors regarding Jesse Puljujarvi’s future with the Edmonton Oilers are beginning to pick up steam. On a recent episode of the Oilers Now podcast, Brian Lawton said Puljujarvi, who was drafted by the team in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, should be happier than he was during his last contract negotiation.

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Lawton said that all the players care about in contract negotiations is if a player, such as Puljujarvi, can help the team win. Lawton also expects the team to offer Puljujarvi a one-way contract worth around $1 million.

Puljujarvi’s time in Edmonton has not been ideal, especially when viewed through the lens of the players drafted ahead of him in 2016. He was selected fourth overall and has only scored 17 goals and tallied 20 assists in 139 games played for the team. At 22 years old, he will be more equipped to handle the pressures of playing in Edmonton than he was when he first signed with the team.

If this deal gets done, it would be a good one for the Oilers as they are in a bind when it comes to the salary cap for next season, with just $11,256,182 in projected cap space. They have other issues, including a backup goaltender, that need to be addressed. As a result, general manager Ken Holland will try to get Puljujarvi to sign a contract with an average annual value of less than $1 million.

For the 2019-20 season, Puljujarvi finished fourth in points in Finland’s Liiga. While this league is not on par with the NHL, the Liiga is the top men’s hockey league in Finland. For context, there have been six top-five draft picks out of Finland in the last four NHL drafts. If Puljujarvi continues this level of play, he can fit in as a winger on a top line.

Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers
Jesse Puljujarvi (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Because of COVID-19 throwing all things into chaos (including sports leagues’ seasons) this year, the Liiga is expected to start its season on Oct. 1. The NHL expects its season to start in either December or January. That would give Puljujarvi around two months to play with Kärpät until he possibly comes to Edmonton.

Puljujarvi Could Help Oilers’ Offense That Struggled Against the Blackhawks

It could be said that if Connor McDavid wanted Puljujarvi on the team, he would already be there, especially given how the team played against the Chicago Blackhawks in the return-to-play format.

Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Ross D. Franklin)

Puljujarvi’s time with the Oilers has been difficult to break down. In minimal ice time, he has been put in high-duty roles. According to PuckIQ, he faced “elite” competition and bottom-end competition at the same rate. This was nearly the identical role that Zack Kassian played during that year and faced stiffer competition than Anton Slepyshev. This is a strange role for a rookie to play.

Ivan Provorov, Jesse Puljujarvi
Edmonton Oilers’ Jesse Puljujarvi, and Philadelphia Flyers’ Ivan Provorov (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Matt Slocum)

This was the same case for Puljujarvi’s 2018-19 season. Even though he averaged 12 minutes of ice time per game, he faced the seventh-hardest deployment of any of the Oilers forwards. It is mystifying that the Oilers used him as a fourth-line grinder instead of a goal-scoring prospect.

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The Oilers should use Puljujarvi in a different role if they sign him to a new contract. They have not put him in the best position in the three seasons he has played with the team. Pairing the talented Finn with McDavid can put the team in the best position to advance further in the playoffs than they have recently. At $1 million, the contract would also alleviate any salary cap concerns the team has going forward.

Puljujarvi was quoted in Finnish media as saying ‘never say never’ about a return to the Oilers. It seems that Puljujarvi’s feelings about a return to Edmonton have changed since Jim Parsons wrote that he was feeling disgruntled.

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