The Edmonton Oilers are off to their best start in decades and currently find themselves atop the NHL’s Pacific Division standings. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have picked up right where they left off last season with an incredible 30 points and 34 points respective in just 19 games. Even newcomer James Neal has 12 goals in his first 19 games. But… you know who’s missing from the team’s top-six forward group. Jesse Puljujarvi… remember him?
The former 4th overall pick demanded a trade from Oilers GM Ken Holland this past offseason and is plying his trade in the Finnish SM-liiga with Oulu Karpat until a trade materializes. Interestingly enough, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported earlier this month that Puljujarvi is happy to spend the rest of the season with Oulu.
Check it out:
“I’m hearing he’s comfortable staying all year in Finland. Obviously the Oilers might have a decision to make for what’s best for them, as they get closer to the Dec. 1 deadline where he has to be traded and signed if he’s gonna play in the NHL this year.”
“I get the feeling that’s a comfortable situation for the player. He’s trying to get his confidence back, trying to get his game back and he might be the best player right now in the Finnish Elite League.”
Well… guess what? CJ ain’t wrong.
Puljujarvi confirmed just this past weekend that he has no intention of returning to the NHL this season and plans to play out the entire 2019-20 season with Karpat in Finland.
Check out some of these quotes (translated from Finnish) from Puljujarvi after this past weekend’ Karjala Cup in Finland:
That’s the 100% focus on playing in Oulu until the end of the season and being able to play a great season there. The intention is to go far in the spring…
This news comes just a week after Puljujarvi’s own agent, Markus Lehto, confirmed that there was zero chance of his client returning to Edmonton.
“Jesse’s unwillingness to return has nothing to do with current coaches, management, the team, fans or the city,” Lehto wrote. “Like I have said multiple times, Jesse has just asked for a change of scenery and to get a fresh start somewhere else. Nothing wrong with that considering the past three seasons. It is very difficult for me to see that he would return there all of a sudden now…. If things don’t work out now with the right team and best possible fit, there is nothing wrong (with playing) the whole season in Europe.”
Lehto’s words echo Johnston’s report from last month, but interestingly enough it was also Johnston who reported this past weekend that the New York Rangers have apparent interest in Puljujarvi.
From Elliotte Friedman's 31 Thoughts column a week ago:
Chris Johnston reported last weekend that the Rangers are interested. It makes sense to consider pairing him with Kaapo Kakko.
Interesting. No doubt that Puljujarvi would be given a chance with the offensively-starved Rangers, but there’s also a sense that Puljujarvi is hoping to stay out of the spotlight. With Kakko, Artemi Panarin, Henrik Lunqvist and others hogging the spotlight in NYC, is Puljujarvi a fit?