Oilers' Ken Holland has 'some optimism' Jesse Puljujarvi will return

Edmonton Oilers right-wing Jesse Puljujarvi skates with the puck. (David Becker/AP)

As the Edmonton Oilers prepare for an off-season where acquiring depth will be a priority, it seems possible that 22-year-old Jesse Puljujarvi could be back in the fold.

"I do have some optimism he will return to us for a variety of reasons," Holland told NHL.com. "He's a restricted free agent and can't play in the NHL unless we [sign him] or trade him, and I'm open to doing anything, but it's got to make sense. So far, nothing has been offered that struck a deal.

"I've been talking to his agent, Markus Lehto, over the summer, and I think I'll have some better understanding where I'm going here as we head into next week with regards to the relationship or non-relationship with Jesse."

The fourth-overall selection in the 2016 draft, Puljujarvi left the Oilers in 2019 after his entry-level contract expired and returned to join Karpat in Finland's SM-liiga. He led his team, and finished fourth in league scoring, with 24 goals and 53 points in 56 games.

Puljujarvi's agent had previously said his client didn't want to return to Edmonton and that a trade was preferred, but that was under previous management. With Holland in the GM chair and Dave Tippett as head coach, it appears the relationship between the two sides may be improving.

"I think Jesse going back last year and playing in Finland, he feels good about himself and he had a great year, top five in scoring in Liiga," Holland continued. "I think he had probably lost his confidence a little bit, like many young players do, and got that back, so [he] feels better about himself. Certainly, there's opportunity here for young forwards. We're always looking for good young forwards. There's as much opportunity here as there is in other cities."

In August, Sportsnet's Mark Spector reported that Holland and Lehto had been meeting about a potential Puljujarvi return and that in July the GM and agent were joined by Puljujarvi and Tippett on a Zoom call.

"We talked about our team, where we saw him," Holland said at the time.

Puljujarvi's 2020-21 season with Karpat has already begun and he scored a goal in the one game played so far. Sportsnet's Chris Johnston reported that Puljujarvi’s deal with Karpat includes an NHL out-clause, which would allow the young Finn to return to the Oilers for the 2020-21 season.

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