Some fans in Edmonton are probably wishing that Jesse Puljujarvi would just fade into irrelevance in Europe so that they can stop hearing about him. However, the reality is that Puljujarvi is excelling in his native Finland and it is only creating more buzz about his availability. The Oilers have been adamant that they will not rush into a trade for Puljujarvi and will wait for a fair return, but as he continues to put up points for Karpat in the Liiga, the more likely that offer will come. The Athletic’s Allan Mitchell tries to put Puljujarvi’s production into context rather than let the hype train run wild. He writes that there is some question as to the quality of a few of Puljujarvi’s six goals on the year and, more importantly, adds that his point-per-game pace in the Liiga is only equivalent to approximately 0.43 points per game in the NHL. Puljujarvi’s level of play in Finland lends itself to a projection of a third-line forward in the NHL in Mitchell’s estimation; however, given his upside and natural size and athleticism, the 22-year-old is worth more than your typical third-liner. The Oilers will eventually get an offer that they like for Puljujarvi and this story will go away, but the question is whether or not that deal occurs before the December 1st signing deadline for Puljujarvi, a restricted free agent, to play this season. Mitchell does not add any new names to the list of teams interested in Puljujarvi, but reiterates that the Carolina Hurricanes remain intrigued, as do the Oilers do in ’Canes prospect Julien Gauthier. Mitchell also posits that Dominik Bokk, a raw, but talented prospect recently acquired by the Hurricanes in the Justin Faulk trade, could be another target of Edmonton’s in a Puljujarvi trade. Carolina sought a regular NHL forward in exchange for Faulk, but settled for the upside of the young Bokk. Perhaps the team could be convinced to flip him for Puljujarvi. One way or another, the Hurricanes lead the pack when it comes to the most likely landing spot for Puljujarvi until new information emerges on the race to land the divisive young forward.
- Another Edmonton prospect could also be looking at an extended stay in Finland. Defenseman Markus Niemelainen, the team’s third-round pick in 2016, has signed a one-year extension with Assat of the Liiga, the team announced. Niemelainen is in his first year with the Aces after growing up in the system of HPK, as well as two seasons with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit. While the big defender has been held scoreless through 12 games, he brings a well-rounded game that balances checking ability and defensive awareness with mobility and play-making ability. Niemelainen has the makings of a player ready for the jump to North America, but claims in the team’s release that he is happy to continue developing with Assat. It seems likely that the Oilers will have to wait until 2021-22 to see Niemelainen cross the pond.
- The “Taylor Hall-back-to-Edmonton” rumors were inevitable once the New Jersey Devils entered the season without an extension in place with their superstar and then subsequently got off to a rough start. Despite what many may think, Hall never requested a trade when he was with the Oilers, the team that selected him No. 1 overall in 2010, and actually enjoyed playing in Edmonton. It’s possible that Edmonton could continue to build off their hot start to the season and put themselves in position to be a real contender and a potential rental destination for Hall later this season. However, The Athletic’s Jonathan Willis all but rules out Hall as a possible free agency target and long-term fit. With the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, James Neal, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins signed long-term on substantial contracts and a number of other top players in need of new contracts, there doesn’t appear to be space for Hall, who Willis expects to command a contract in the vicinity of $11MM per year. Even taking into account salary cap inflation, Willis feels that the Oilers would need to shed considerable salary to afford Hall and questions whether that would be the right play. Edmonton’s days as home to Hall are likely exclusively in the past.