Placed alongside 2020 Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl and skating with the hard-working and skilled Zach Hyman, Dylan Holloway scored three goals and an assist on Monday evening. Granted, the Edmonton Oilers’ 7-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks came at the expense of an AHL-heavy opponent, but Holloway was flying, looked poised, ready, and confident — much like he has most of this preseason.
The live responses from fans and insiders as the game went on were fascinating to watch. For example, Mark Spector of Sportsnet was publicly crucified for his take on the status of Jesse Puljujarvi after seeing how strong Holloway looked. His position was that there isn’t enough room for everyone and with the salary cap issues the Oilers face, Puljujarvi is the obvious option to trade. Whether he is right or wrong, one thing is clear, the Oilers probably need to make a move.
What will that move be? Could the Oilers run with a 21-man roster? Absolutely. Is that the best plan? Maybe not. Are there other options available? Let’s take a look.
Is Jesse Puljuarvi Now Expendable?
Spector was making the argument on Monday night that Holloway’s play has bumped Puljujarvi out of a top-nine spot on the team. He wrote, “Like I said, the third line in Edmonton is set. It’ll be [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins] RNH between [Warren] Foegele and [Ryan] McLeod. So if you’re not Top 6, you’re Bottom 3. At least to start.”
Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic also discussed the idea of moving Puljujarvi and wrote, “Holloway’s emergence will almost certainly spell the end of Jesse Puljujarvi’s time with the club, whether that’s next week or next year.” He goes on to add that Puljujarvi has been on the trade block for some time and he likely would have been traded already if the market wasn’t soft on the player.
However, Nugent-Bowman also points out:
Trading Puljujarvi when his value is tumbling isn’t good asset management. It’s almost certainly a losing proposition. Advocating for dealing him now is folly, unless by some unexpected turn of events a manager on a rival team changes his mind and ponies up. Patience is a virtue here for Holland.source – ‘Dylan Holloway’s emergence for Oilers puts Jesse Puljujarvi’s future into focus’ – Daniel Nugent-Bowman – The Athletic – 10/03/2022
The question becomes, can the Oilers afford to keep both players? Will the team have to prioritize cap need over roster want and does Holloway’s play give them the flexibility to do so?
What About Warren Foegele?
Another player who had a great game on Monday night was Warren Foegele. Again, while it was preseason, it may have been one of Foegele’s best games as an Oiler since being acquired in a trade for Ethan Bear last season. He was a forechecking machine, but he added finish, potting two nice goals in a matter of seconds.
Foegele is naturally a left-winger who can play on the right side. His underlying numbers are steady but he was healthy scratched in the playoffs when the Oilers needed to run with their most consistent offensive producers. There’s a huge portion of the fan base that would rather see Edmonton move his $2.75 million for two more seasons than Puljujarvi’s one year at $3 million. And, the market might not be as soft on the player, even if he won’t fetch a great return.
The thing about Foegele is that he might be the glue that holds the third line like Nugent-Hopkins and McLeod together. Both players are speedy and gifted two-way forwards, but neither offers much in the way of physicality or forechecking. Can Puljujarvi play that role and never run out of gas? If so, he’s worth keeping around, especially if he can add 12-16 goals in a season. It’s a question the Oilers will be asking.
Tyson Barrie Is The Long-Shot
There would be a market for a talented, offensive defenseman with finish around the NHL. That’s what Tyson Barrie is and he showed it again last night, finishing off a nice passing play as the Oilers broke out from a failed Canucks’ dump-in. Barrie has a contract worth $4.5 million for two more seasons and he could easily be traded if the Oilers wanted to clear up their cap issues in one move. That’s a long shot for many reasons.
The Oilers like Barrie. They believe the depth he offers on the blue line will be critical to their success this season and he gives Evan Bouchard a cushion to make some mistakes. What trading Barrie does not fix is the logjam at forward if Holloway continues to show he’s got what it takes to play in the top six. Moving Barrie is a money move. The rest will still have to be sorted out.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”