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A Jesse Puljujarvi Reunion May Be More Likely Than Originally Thought

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Tule Pian Kotiin, Jesse

Edmonton Oilers v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Oh good, another article about Jesse Puljujarvi.

Sign the player. There, I said it.

NEVER SAY NEVER

Whether you can’t stomach the idea of having 98 on the roster, or whether you think he might fit in just fine, the Puljujarvi talk has gone on longer than any of us would like. I’m not going to rehash the guy’s entire career, just a few facts.

  • He was the 4th overall pick in 2016
  • He spent his entire ELC bouncing back from Bakersfield and Edmonton, only to play a grand total of 53 AHL games over those three years.
  • Young Puljujarvi spent most of his time in the NHL on a line with Milan Lucic, which was a blast for everyone involved.
  • It didn’t work.

Questionable narratives about his lack of command of the English language began to surface as general unrest about whether or not he would pan out began to grow from whispers to murmurs. Puljujarvi went unsigned last season, and played with Oulun Karpat of the SM-Liiga where he finished fourth in league scoring.

EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES?

Ken Holland came in right as things looked to be irreparable. Puljujarvi’s agent made a trade request, it looked like there was zero chance that we’d see Jesse back in an Oilers jersey.

Fast forward to this week, and that may have changed. With reports that Puljujarvi has said “never say never” about a return to the club, it leaves the door open. Maybe it’s open just a crack, but it’s not shut completely. The Oilers ought to take advantage of Puljujarvi’s return to the middle for a couple of reasons. The most important one? Let’s see what we’ve got here.

Puljujarvi’s time as a pro has been all over the place. He’s played in the NHL on the top line, but he’s also played in the bottom six. He’s been scratched. He’s been demoted, he’s been injured. He played 53 games in the AHL. At the end of his ELC, he’s put up 37 points in 139 games. That’s not blowing off the doors, but remember he’s only four months older than Kailer Yamamoto. Yamamoto has found success on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl in the second half of the season, though his journey to the NHL was a bit different. I’m not ready to give up on a 22 year old Jesse Puljujarvi; not yet anyway.

Secondly? If Ken Holland can convince Jesse Puljujarvi to sign for a year, there’s little to no risk whatsoever. Puljujarvi picked up some confidence in his native Finland after several years of stagnant growth in North America. For a year, Puljujarvi’s probably due not much more than 1MM, which is right in the Oilers’ price wheelhouse. (Side note: barring a salary dump or a compliance buyout, the Oilers are once again right up against the cap in 2020-21). Sign the guy to a year and wind him up, let him go.

If it’s an absolute bust, you can try to move him out. Worst case? Bakersfield, though he’d almost certainly get picked up on waivers.

It’s a no-risk move. Bring him back for a year, let’s see what he’s got.