When Jesse Puljujarvi recently signed a one-year deal in Finland, Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland was quick to clarify that it didn’t change the young forward’s situation much. The Oilers still would not be forced into a trade that didn’t bring back substantial value, and reports surfaced that the team was looking for a draft pick and prospect in exchange for the 2016 fourth overall pick. Last night Elliotte Friedman joined the NHL Network to give his thoughts on the situation, including a couple of teams that may be interested in acquiring Puljujarvi:
I think two of the teams that [the Oilers] have had a lot of conversations with are Tampa Bay and Carolina. I think Carolina is willing to give them one of their prospects, maybe a guy like [Julian] Gauthier, but they’re not so interested in doing the pick. I think Tampa Bay they have kind of flirted with back and forth. I think they kind of know which Tampa prospects they might be able to get, but I think again it’s a combination of finding the exact group of two things they want–a pick plus the prospect.
Friedman goes on to explain that he believes there has been interest from other Canadian teams but that Puljujarvi would rather go somewhere “a little quieter” in the USA. Tampa Bay and Carolina both represent smaller markets than some of the big Canadian cities, but there’s certainly no guarantee he would be out of the spotlight given that both teams are expecting to contend for the Stanley Cup this season after their performances in 2018-19.
Carolina does have a huge number of young prospects that they could dangle in front of Holland and have several Finnish connections on the roster already. The team has also been looking for offensive contributors for some time and may believe they can turn Puljujarvi’s career around and turn him into the dominant power forward he was expected to become. Still, with more than enough forwards to round out the roster already after the acquisitions of Ryan Dzingel and Erik Haula this summer, there may not be enough room to give Puljujarvi that top-six opportunity he is looking for.
In Tampa Bay, that kind of opportunity is even less likely. The Lightning have one of the deepest forward groups in the NHL and enjoy a rock solid top-six that would leave little room for Puljujarvi on the powerplay. The team recently added Patrick Maroon to the mix up front and also have salary concerns given Brayden Point’s continuing negotiations. Puljujarvi is still a restricted free agent and will need a new contract wherever he ends up, if in fact he returns to the NHL this season.