An early morning report that Jesse Puljujarvi was headed to the KHL has been shot down by his agent, with Markus Lehto speaking to several reporters including Mark Spector of Sportsnet and saying that the NHL is still the top priority. Puljujarvi will be a restricted free agent this summer and needs a new deal, but hasn’t exactly thrived in his first few seasons in the Edmonton Oilers organization. That’s exactly why trade speculation is now bubbling to the surface once again, with Lehto even telling Spector that “maybe it is best for [the] team too.” Darren Dreger of TSN has also heard trade chatter around Puljujarvi from his sources.
Puljujarvi, 21, only has 37 points in 139 NHL games since he was selected fourth overall in 2016, and hasn’t even spent much time in the minor leagues to continue his development. The big winger was actually expected to go third in the draft before Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen shocked the room with his selection of Pierre-Luc Dubois. In a timely piece, Scott Wheeler of the Athletic examined the 2016 draft today and put Puljujarvi 19th in his re-draft.
Still, the Oilers have an entirely new regime in town after GM Ken Holland and head coach Dave Tippett were brought in to change things. Perhaps those fresh eyes have new plans for the young forward, and can start to pull the best out of him at the NHL level. All of that will be dependent on a new contract however, one that will require a negotiation neither side expected when he was first selected. While Auston Matthews enjoys his massive deal and Patrik Laine and Matthew Tkachuk prepare to sign theirs, Puljujarvi will have to ink something that allows him to prove he is an NHL-caliber player before ever cashing in on the type of money high picks usually receive.