What the Oilers and Hurricanes get in cap-clearing Jesse Puljujarvi trade

Oilers GM Ken Holland explains the decision to trade forward Jesse Puljujarvi for a prospect, in order to free up some salary, said he approached his camp about bringing him back at a reduced salary, but Puljujarvi decided on a fresh start elsewhere.

The Bison King is on his way to Carolina.

Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland sent Jesse Puljujarvi to the Hurricanes Tuesday, for 22-year-old third-round prospect Patrik Puistola, the leading scorer for his Finnish League team.

While the Oilers will hope Puistola pays off as an NHL player in time (he is not signed yet), the real reason to do this deal was to clear cap space for the trade deadline. Puljujarvi’s $3 million just became too expensive for his bottom-six role and complete lack of offence, but instead of waiving him, the team gets an asset in return and full salary relief.

With just 20 players on the roster, Edmonton’s projected trade deadline cap space will now be roughly $4.35 million according to Cap Friendly. Holland noted, however, that he has something less than that to use in trade, since he’d rather have a 21- or even 22-man roster at least.

“In my mind (the Puljujarvi trade) doesn’t move $3 million it moves two and a quarter because if we’re going to go from 20 players to 21 I need to have 750 (thousand) to get the 21st player on the books,” Holland said. “I’m trying to get from 20 players to 21 players. We don’t want to go with 20 players the last 20 games.”

This was the starting move of Edmonton’s trade deadline plan, with at least one more acquisition to come, if not more. Edmonton’s top need is for a defenceman, and they’re in on all sorts of types, from depth guys to top-four defenders, and from rentals to players with term.

Holland, who has shied away from trading a first-round pick for a rental in the past, said he was more open to that thought this season.

“There’s a few players out there we think would fit,” Holland said. “Today I’m hoping was step 1.”

The Hurricanes, meantime, are swimming in cap space, still with over $7 million available to them by Friday. They can still make a more impactful deal to follow those around them in the Eastern Conference, but in Puljujarvi they get another project player, the sort they’ve never shied away from in the past.

While we wait and see what the Oilers — and Hurricanes for that matter — will do next, we turn to our scout Jason Bukala for his breakdown of the Puljujarvi trade from both sides.

SCOUT’S ANALYSIS

The Jesse Puljujarvi era has ended in Edmonton, nearly seven years after he was the fourth overall draft pick.

Here’s my player breakdown on the deal:

Carolina Receives

• Jesse Puljujarvi

Things obviously didn’t work out in Edmonton for Puljujarvi. But it wasn’t for a lack of effort on both sides.

The Oilers were as patient as they could possibly be waiting for the player to find another level in his game.

Puljujarvi could not have been more honest about his own struggles and lack of production.

There were some positives to take out of Puljujarvi’s game this year, though.

For example, his 112 hits show he is willing to play hard in the trenches and lean on opponents with his 6-foot-4, 201-pound frame. He will add another layer of physicality to the Hurricanes’ forward group and becomes their second-most punishing forward behind Andrei Svechnikov’s 125 hits.

The Hurricanes are a team that relies on balance more than super stardom throughout their lineup. The fresh start should be positive for Puljujarvi. He’s going to a contending team that will sit him down and outline their expectations for him. I expect him to play a full 200-foot game, finish his checks, and keep things simple.

I’m noticing some opinions floating around the hockey universe following this trade, including some suggesting Puljujarvi could settle into his new home and, eventually, have the same kind of impact Valeri Nichushkin has had with the Colorado Avalanche.

I have to give credit for the thought comparison. I understand the similarities between the two players and their struggles with the team that originally drafted them (Nichushkin – Dallas).

A more recent example is Eeli Tolvanen in Seattle. The Nashville Predators waived their former first-round pick (30th overall in 2017) earlier this season, and Tolvanen has scored 10 goals and five assists in the 25 games since being claimed by the Kraken.

The bottom line is anything is possible.

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Edmonton Receives

• Patrik Puistola

Puistola is the leading scorer for Jukurit in Finland’s Liiga (Finland’s first division). He was originally selected by Carolina in the third round, 73rd overall in 2019.

He averages between 16–20 minutes per game for Jukurit, and has 15 goals and 38 points in 56 games. The bulk of his ice time comes at even strength and the first power-play unit. He has very rarely been deployed on the penalty kill.

Puistola is quick in transition. He has a gear through the neutral zone. When he gets the edge his first instinct is to take an additional stride or two and fire the puck at the net in motion. In my opinion he has a shoot-first mentality compared to being a playmaker.

If the Oilers decide to sign Puistola, it’s going to take some time for him to adjust to the smaller ice. He will also have to pay better attention to detail defensively, but that’s an area of his game that can be coached in (he just has to buy in).

CONCLUSION ON THE TRADE

The Oilers have done well with this transaction. They open up valuable cap space and inherit a prospect with offensive upside.

The Hurricanes are an excellent team. They have a specific plan in mind when drafting, signing, and trading for players and they feel Puljujarvi fits their mold. It’s hard for me to say it’s a win for the Hurricanes, at this stage. The Puljujarvi scenario will work its way out in time.

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