With an unprecedented offseason ahead of us in the NHL, many teams are going to look for trades to help get under the flat $81.5 million salary next season. This includes the Edmonton Oilers, as general manager Ken Holland will need to make some moves to keep his team a contender. However, in the case of the Detroit Red Wings, they are in a favourable position as they have an excess of cap space (approximately $35 million) and a surplus of assets, including four draft selections in the first 54 picks of this year’s draft. It’s why trading for Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi makes sense for the Red Wings.
Puljujarvi’s Career in Edmonton
Puljujarvi was drafted by the Oilers fourth overall in 2016, a pick that was respected at the time, but has not panned out like each side had hoped. In 139 NHL games, he’s scored 17 goals and 20 assists for 39 points. It’s a tough pick to live with when you see Matthew Tkachuk and Clayton Keller were taken by fellow Pacific Division rivals at sixth and seventh overall in that same draft.
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That’s not to say that the Oilers have given up on Puljujarvi. Although he played for Karpat of the Finnish Elite League last season (scoring 53 points in 56 games), Holland is keen on bringing the 22-year-old back. (from ‘Reconciliation between Jesse Puljujarvi and Edmonton Oilers may be imminent, Spector reports,’ Edmonton Journal, 08/21/2020) But even though Holland wants him to return, interest on Puljujarvi remains high.
Just this past week, Elliotte Friedman reported that one team who had an interest in Puljujarvi was the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s somewhat ironic considering that the Blue Jackets passed on him at third overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, but there is no doubt teams will be shopping around asking about him.
How Would Puljujarvi Fit in Detroit?
That’s a fascinating question. Detroit has plenty of roster spots available, and Puljujarvi would certainly be a candidate for a forward position if he was on the team. Earlier in September, Oilers radio analyst Bob Stauffer tweeted that he sees Puljujarvi starting on the third line and working his way up in Edmonton’s starting lineup.
As Stauffer said, it all comes down to his attitude. If Puljujarvi gets traded to Detroit, his chances of winning a Stanley Cup as a member of the Red Wings is worse. But his situation would ideally improve as he’s more likely to get extra ice time and receiver a better role compared to if he was in Edmonton.
I would say there are three or four forwards with guaranteed roster spots next season for the Red Wings. There’s no reason why you couldn’t bring in Puljujarvi and have him join the team as a second or third-line forward. It’s similar to the Adam Erne trade that GM Steve Yzerman made last year with the expectations that surely this team can’t be even worse next season.
The Likelihood of This Trade Happening Is…
Slim to none. But some key factors could make this trade possible. First, there’s the Holland-Yzerman connection. We know about their time together in Detroit, but they also made two trades at this season’s trade deadline. There’s no reason why they couldn’t make a move in the offseason.
Second, there’s the issue of cap space. With Edmonton only having approximately $10.5 million in cap space and still needing to re-sign some key pieces, Holland might use Puljujarvi as a sweetener if he decides to unload a large contract. (from ‘Sheahan, Ennis are UFA’s on the hot seat as Edmonton Oilers seek to upgrade roster,’ Edmonton Journal, 09/21/2020) As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the Red Wings have plenty of space if the Oilers wanted to move someone like James Neal and maybe they’ll throw in Puljujarvi to get a deal done.
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Finally, the goal is to make each respective team better. The Oilers had 83 points and were second in the Pacific Division before the season stoppage in March. All of that was without Puljujarvi, and while I’m not sure he would’ve put Edmonton over the Chicago Blackhawks in the play-in round, the Oilers aren’t rushing to bring him in. For the Red Wings, this is an opportunity to bring in more talented, younger players and Puljujarvi fits the bill.
A Deal that Makes Sense for Both Sides
Edmonton could decide to cut the cord on the Puljujarvi experience while he still has some value left. That puts a team like the Red Wings in contention to acquire him since they have the assets to make a move for him. It could be a worthwhile transaction for both sides but we’ll see if anything comes about it this offseason.