Jesse Puljujarvi is signed but now what?

Yesterday, the Oilers announced via their social media channels that the team had avoided arbitration with Jesse Puljujarvi and signed the winger to a one-year, $3 million contract. What happens from here? Your guess is as good as mine.

Can I be honest for a second? I didn’t think this Jesse Puljujarvi contract was going to get done, at least not here anyway. Once the season was over and the local media started speculating about our precious Finn moving on, I assumed the next contract Puljujarvi would sign would sign somewhere else and that we Oilers fans would spend the coming weeks and months wishing our sweet Jesse farewell. That’s not to say that a trade couldn’t still happen — we’ve heard plenty of rumours about how potential trade partners were shying away from a deal because of the unknowns that come with an arbitration hearing — but I wonder if Ken Holland’s patience may keep the kid around again just like it did post-Finland. Am I the only one that thinks this way? I mean it probably is just me but let’s see if the salary cap can help us figure this whole situation out.

According to PuckPedia’s tweet shown above, the Oilers have about $2.67 million in cap space to get both Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan McLeod signed, which doesn’t seem like a whole lot of wiggle room to get these contracts done if you ask me. According to The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman, McLeod’s next deal should land somewhere around $1 million give or take a couple of one hundred thousand, and that leaves only $1.67 million to get Kailer Yamamoto signed to a new contract as well. Seeing as Yamo just put up 20 goals and 21 assists, I think it’s probably safe to say that’s not going to happen for much or anything less than Puljujarvi got, right? Then again, Puljujarvi has more goals and a better PPG than Yamo does over the last two years so maybe we’ll have to wait and see? Either way, how is Ken Holland going to make everything fit?

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How are the Oilers going to upgrade the defense when we’re pressed right up against the salary cap ceiling? Is it even possible? Not without someone getting moved, it’s not.

Unless you feel like the roster is set and ready to go for October — I certainly don’t — the Oilers will need to clear some salary to get some upgrades onto the roster, and I am endlessly fascinated to see where those dollars come from. As Gregor mentioned in his tweet, having Puljujarvi locked in on a one-year contract that leaves him as an RFA when the season ends could mean other teams come circling back again. Maybe now other clubs will look at Jesse as a risk worth taking, inflating the potential return from a lowly draft pick to a player that can help now? That’s a pretty big maybe, though, ya know? For my money, I’d rather see the Oilers keep Puljujarvi and look elsewhere on the roster for potential savings. I’d rather a less productive player be sent out than one that’s still brimming with upside. Remember, Puljujarvi had 23 points in his first 28 games last year before having his year derailed with injuries and COVID over the final half, and I’d really like to see if that first chunk of the year was a fluke or not.

So then what can you do?

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If I was Ken Holland, I’d be looking to move a guy like Warren Foegele over Jesse Puljujarvi and it’s not particularly close. In his first year with the Oilers, Foegele put up 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points and I don’t think that value is good enough for a guy making $2.75 million for another two years. I mean, that’s 10 fewer points in 82 games played (Puljujarvi played 65) for only $250K less on the cap? That ain’t gonna work for me. In fact, if you expect Dylan Holloway to crack the roster in October, his inclusion would push Foegele down to the 4th line and I really don’t think you want to have a guy making a shade less than $3 million locked into a line that plays less than 10 minutes per night. Seeing as his salary is so close to Pulju’s, I’m surprised more people aren’t talking loudly about why Foegele should be the odd man out if for no other reason than his cost-per-point basis. Then again, I say that not knowing a lick about what the organization and players think, meaning what I personally see as an easy decision might not be so black and white behind the scenes.

Regardless of who stays and who goes, it’s looking like the Oilers will need to move another roster player out just to make everything fit under the cap, and while Jesse Puljujarvi may be the frontrunner to go in a lot of people’s minds, I’m not so sure that’s anywhere close to being the right move. From my side of the TV screen, I still see a kid with a lot of upside and even though things haven’t necessarily gone his way over the last half of the 2021-22 campaign, he showed me enough throughout the year to believe that there could be more there. At the very least, I’d be willing to gamble on him progressing for one more year. As for a guy like Foegele that produces less and still comes in around Puljujarvi’s price point on the balance sheet? I’m not so sure. We’ll see what Ken Holland decides, I suppose. As I mentioned earlier, I still think this roster needs upgrades on the back end and it’s going to take some cash and creativity to make that happen. Can it even be done? What would you do?

All I know for sure is that Jesse Puljujarvi has a new contract with the Oilers, and now that this is done, I’ll be waiting to see what happens next. Are we heading towards a sign and trade, or will we be right back here talking about his contract status a year from now when this new deal is up again?

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