The fourth overall pick from 2016 is still without a contract for the 2019-20 season. Jesse Puljujarvi has made it clear he wants a fresh start somewhere other than with the Edmonton Oilers and is willing to wait for that opportunity. Today Finnish outlet MTV Uutiset reports (via Google translate) that if Puljujarvi can’t find a deal in the NHL he will play for Karpat this season. According to his agent Markus Lehto, several NHL clubs have expressed interest but he would not speculate on whether a trade will actually happen.
Puljujarvi has ties to Karpat going back years, as he was developed in their junior system and played two seasons for the Liiga club before joining Edmonton. Playing there likely wouldn’t be as financially rewarding, but it could get the 21-year old back onto a solid development path. That has to be the biggest worry for any interested NHL clubs right now. Puljujarvi hasn’t shown enough to indicate he’s ready for full-time NHL action, but he also can’t go to the minor leagues without first clearing waivers. There’s no way anyone wants to give up something of value just to risk him to the entire league afterwards, meaning the offers for the young forward are likely underwhelming for Oilers GM Ken Holland.
In fact, letting him play in Finland for a year may not actually be the worst course of action for the Oilers. While he won’t be helping their club try to get back to the playoffs, he may be able to build up a little more value by having a solid season. He’s already shown in the past that he can compete at the Liiga level, and he’s still young enough that playing overseas wouldn’t get him a year closer to unrestricted free agency.
There is of course always a chance that he ends up signing with Edmonton after this game of chicken ends. If that happens, it will be extremely interesting to see if new head coach Dave Tippett can turn around his career or if the bridges have already been burned to the ground through this holdout.