Oilers’ Puljujarvi Could Still Be Traded Before 2022-23 Season

Frank Seravalli recently spoke on Oilers Now about the ongoing topic of Jesse Puljujarvi with the Edmonton Oilers. He said, “I wouldn’t fully close the door on the Edmonton Oilers moving on from Jesse Puljujarvi before opening night.”

The young forward has had a rollercoaster of a career thus far, to say the least. He bounced between the NHL and the American Hockey League (AHL) for his first three seasons of pro (2016-2019), went overseas to play in Finland for a season and a half, and returned to the Oilers to play the past two full seasons. Though he is much better and more experienced now than he was earlier in his career, there are still doubts about his potential, finishing ability, and place in the team’s future.

Jesse Puljujarvi Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Oilers have plenty of options in front of them that make a possible Puljujarvi trade more likely than it was a short time ago. Between a professional tryout (PTO), a great performance in the Oilers’ Young Stars tournament, pressure to stay under the cap, and the testing of a left winger on the right side, it seems like he is being pushed out. He could very well be traded before the regular season starts, as it would make sense to allow him time to participate in another team’s preseason games (from “Will Oilers make a trade? McDavid’s right winger? 10 questions to address in training camp”, The Athletic, 9/21/22).

Virtanen Signed to PTO

As the Oilers have become known for, they have once again made a controversial decision and signed Jake Virtanen to a PTO this season. The team has enjoyed success by giving players in bad situations chances. We saw it first with Zack Kassian and then with Evander Kane just last season, and Virtanen could very well be the next.

But, if Virtanen were to earn a contract with the Oilers, that would mean the roster is that much more crowded. He was the sixth overall pick in 2014 and still possesses a great deal of talent. His career was just taking off when he scored 18 goals and 36 points in 69 games in 2019-20 in a third-line role with the Vancouver Canucks.

Virtanen’s stats speak for itself the following season (2020-21) as he was clearly dealing with a lot. He scored just five goals in 38 games and then the Canucks released him. He played in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) last season and put up nine goals and 16 points in 36 games. Again, his game was likely affected by what was going on in his personal life.

Related: Virtanen PTO May Indicate Oilers Closer to Puljujarvi Decision

Holland doubled down on the decision to sign Virtanen to a PTO saying, “I’m trusting the legal system in offering a pro tryout. Jake feels terrible about what happened. If we lose faith in the legal system, it’s not a good thing.”

Holloway Has Impressed This Year Already

Dylan Holloway seems to be on a path to making the Oilers out of training camp this season. He was stripped of the opportunity last season because of an injury suffered right before camp opened. Now that he’s got his reps in the AHL for half of last season, one playoff game for the Oilers under his belt, and a Young Stars Tournament, he looks to be primed to earn a spot on the team.

Bob Stauffer said, “he played very well in Penticton, has a legitimate shot at making the Oilers.” That would also mean one less roster spot in the bottom-six. Holloway can play all three forward positions, but like most prospects just entering the NHL, he should start on the wing.

Holland said, “I’m not putting players on the team because they are going to be good three years from now.” This could be a hint to Holloway, but we will have to wait and see how he fairs in preseason games.

Foegele Will Spend Time on Right Wing in Preseason

With Holloway looking to be gunning for a spot in the top-nine this season, that means less room for Warren Foegele. It may be a big hint that, per Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, “Holland said we can expect Warren Foegele to get some looks at RW during the preseason. Foegele has experience at that position from his Carolina days.”

As the Oilers have lots of good options at left wing, they may be in need of immediate help on the right wing. In the event of a Puljujarvi trade, Foegele could get increased playing time on the third line. After Kassian was traded at the draft, and if Puljujarvi gets traded, the Oilers would be limited in options on the right side if nothing is done.

Foegele’s test in preseason on the right side could indicate a better opportunity for him to ply higher in the lineup or a safety net for the Oilers in the event of a trade.

Oilers Still Need Cap Space With McLeod Signing

Among the topics Holland discussed before training camp kicks off, he was hopeful to have Ryan McLeod on the ice with a new contract. McLeod has been hanging around and skating with the team until this point, and a deal got done.

The Oilers are right against the cap, and it was a steal of a contract with the position the team is in. With the expected rise in the salary cap in the next couple of years, the money given to depth players will likely rise with it. They will have to free up salary, and trading Puljujarvi seems like the solution that many, including Holland, could have in mind.

It’s not ideal for the Oilers to go into the season with less than a 23-man roster, but they may very well have to. Holland spoke on Puljujarvi and revealed the reason why he may still be with the team for now, even if the Oilers may trade him before the season. He said, “ultimately, to push this team, we need internal competition.” That can work during the season, but it also could during the preseason when players are fighting for positions.

Whatever the Oilers do, they must find room for McLeod and his new contract to fit into the lineup. Holland doesn’t care much if the Oilers run with a 21-man or 23-man roster. He just wants the best product on the ice to give the team the best chance to win. Puljujarvi may stick around, but he could very well be dealt for any of the reasons outlined above.

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