Today’s 5 PM EST deadline has come and gone. Both Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujärvi are without contracts, and have elected to file for arbitration. Arbitration is never a fun thing for player or club. Though it’s still possible for a deal to be reached before an upcoming arbitration hearing, I think it’s pretty likely that at least one of these players will be awarded a one year deal after the completion a hearing.
Yamamoto and Puljujärvi are two of Edmonton’s right wingers, and the Oilers do not have a full-time right winger signed for the 2022-23 season at this time unless the plan is to flip Zach Hyman from left to right wing. Even if the Oilers do end up flipping Hyman, they’ll need at least two more right wings to help fill out the roster. Yamamoto and Puljujärvi are two wingers, and they’d fit the bill as they did last year.
I’ve written more about Jesse Puljujärvi over the last two years than I’ve written about any player in modern Oilers history not named Connor McDavid. His second season back in Edmonton saw him turn in a 36 point performance over 65 games, it was a season that saw Puljujärvi battle Covid and an ankle injury yet still turned in 65 games. His detractors will say that his lack of finishing will keep him from deserving another contract, but they are wrong. I think he’s a prime candidate to receive an award for three million or more. He’s a top six right wing on this Oilers club by any test you’d like to use. If he doesn’t get his deal in Edmonton, he will elsewhere.
Kailer Yamamoto finished with five more points in sixteen more games than his teammate, and I believe he’ll be in line for a similar award. Like Puljujärvi, Yamamoto played almost exclusively in the top six in the 2021-22 season. It’s my opinion that the Oilers appear to be more keen on signing Yamamoto to a deal, but it’s not like they’re loaded on the right side and not in a position to be particularly choosy. The best case scenario for the Oilers is to get deals done prior to any hearing.
Cap space is a significant part as to whether both of these players can get a deal done with the Oilers. As things stand today, the Oilers will be dipping into their LTIR pool - a little under 6 million - to try and fit both of these players in. Don’t forget Ryan McLeod, who has yet to accept his qualifying offer of 814K. Ridding themselves of either Warren Foegele’s deal (2.75x2) or Tyson Barrie’s deal (4.5x2) could go a long way in re-signing both of these players without a need for a hearing. The Coyotes took Zack Kassian for a couple of picks. Are the Canadiens interested in Tyson Barrie?
Whatever the arbitrator awards, the Oilers will be forced to sign the player for that number or the player will become an unrestricted free agent free to sign with any club. There is no compensation for the Oilers if they choose to walk away from an arbitrator’s award. This is why it’s kind of important to get a deal done if at all possible prior to any hearing. If the arbitrator awards something like 4.5MM for either Yamamoto or Puljujärvi, it could really cramp whatever plans the Oilers might have had for the other player. ‘
Hearings are set to start on July 27th. More info about Yamamoto and Puljujärvi’s dates will come early this week.