The Edmonton Oilers have avoided arbitration with restricted free agent Jesse Puljujarvi, agreeing on a one-year, $3MM contract according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Puljujarvi was the next scheduled arbitration hearing, set for this Friday, which will no longer be necessary.
The 24-year-old winger had been issued a qualifying offer before he filed for salary arbitration and had a rather strong case after scoring 36 points in 65 games this season. Selected fourth overall in 2016, Puljujarvi has had a rocky career with the Oilers so far (including a stint spent in Finland) but is starting to show signs of being a strong two-way winger that can contribute and help drive play.
This season, he set a career-high in points, assists, shots, and average ice time, while also even earning a fourth place Selke Trophy vote. His defensive ability has developed nicely, even if his overall offensive ability is still incredibly inconsistent.
There have been many who believe a change of scenery is the best option for both the Oilers and Puljujarvi, a thought only amplified when Ken Holland said at his end-of-year media availability that he had to “sort out” the situation and talk to the coaching staff before making a decision. Reports have continued to surface in the weeks since that though there were a handful of teams interested, the Oilers would be selling him for a relatively low return.
That could still happen after this agreement, and in fact, it might help any trade talks move along. Teams rarely target players headed for arbitration as acquiring them means preparing for the hearing as well. In Puljujarvi’s case, figures would have been exchanged tomorrow and once the hearing began, no settlement is allowed.
Now, the Oilers sit over the cap with a 19-man roster, though Mike Smith and Oscar Klefbom are both expected to spend the entire season on long-term injured reserve, giving the team a bit of flexibility. Edmonton still has two key restricted free agents to go, including Kailer Yamamoto whose arbitration hearing is set for August 7. When that case is settled, they will receive a short buyout window that could be used to clear additional cap space, if they chose to use it.