After months of speculation and threats of heading overseas, Jesse Puljujarvi has signed a one-year deal with Finland’s Oulun Karpat in the Liiga.
Puljujarvi became a restricted free agent (RFA) after the 2018-19 season. The Edmonton Oilers had sent Puljujarvi a qualifying offer to keep him in their system, but the winger had repeatedly stated that he wanted a trade from the organization.
That appears to still be the case. In Puljujarvi’s contract with Karpat, he has an NHL opt-out clause, meaning that anytime before Dec. 1, he can sign an NHL contract and return to the league. If he does not have a deal in place by that date, he’ll be held out for the entire season.
New general manager Ken Holland now has his work cut out for him, as he can either try to wait out Puljujarvi to see if he’ll sign a contract with them, or try to move his rights. With the Finnish winger making it clear he doesn’t want to play in Edmonton, it will be difficult for Holland to receive very much in return.
Puljujarvi was drafted fourth overall in 2016, had never really cemented his role in the Oilers lineup. In 139 games, he had 17 goals and 37 points.
Karpat’s sports director Harri Aho discussed his excitement Puljujarvi and explains that they want to help him get where he wants to be.
“The great thing is, Jesse has decided to make a season-long deal with us. Jesse is a thoroughbred whose physics, skills and talent will surely be enough for the NHL. We want to be there to help and support Jesse towards that goal.”
Puljujarvi spent many years in the Karpat system, from 2011-12 with the Karpat U16 team until 2015-16 in the Liiga. In 71 Liiga games, he had 17 goals and 39 points.
Puljujarvi’s Agent: “This is Not a Bluff Attempt”
Earlier this month, Puljujarvi’s agent Mark Lehto explained the player’s demands, stating they weren’t bluffing.
“Puljujärvi is and has been convinced that he needs a change. He is an NHL player. This is about getting an opportunity for a new start. The salary can be almost anything.”
There’s no question that the Oilers have made some big changes this offseason, including Holland and new head coach Dave Tippett, but Lehto says it’s not enough.
“Although the Oilers have a new well-respected GM and a new coach, the team is still pretty much the same, sometimes a player and a team are not a fit. This seems to be the case here. Nothing radical about it.”
Move Overseas Good for Puljujarvi, Oilers
With the Puljujarvi situation pulling a lot of focus in Edmonton, his move overseas could good for both the team and the player. The Oilers don’t need to feel the weight of this story on them, and Puljujarvi gets a chance with Karpat to show that he’s a top-six player capable of playing in the NHL.
Puljujarvi’s trade value had already dropped significantly since being drafted in 2016 since he never really proved he deserved to be drafted fourth. He’s likely a difficult contract to move, but playing significant minutes in the Liiga should only increase his value.
It also wouldn’t be surprising to see the right-winger play the full season in Finland. He would get an extended chance to up his value as well as move on from his time in Edmonton.
This story isn’t over yet with the Oilers still holding his rights. There will still be plenty of speculation on whether or not Puljujarvi will be traded, and to whom, prior to the Dec. 1 deadline. Or, if he’ll sit out an entire NHL season. Still, it provides a bit of temporary relief for both him and the Oilers.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.