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Oilers clear cap space by trading Puljujarvi to Hurricanes for Puistola

The Carolina Hurricanes acquired forward Jesse Puljujarvi from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Finnish forward Patrik Puistola on Tuesday.

As an underperforming $3-million six-foot-four winger who has scored just five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 58 games this season, Puljujarvi has bounced around the Oilers lineup and been a trade and waiver candidate all season. 

Oilers GM Ken Holland said during Tuesday’s media conference that after discussing a new contract with Puljujarvi’s agent in recent weeks, he decided it would be best if the 2016 fourth-overall pick got a new start somewhere else, especially given the winger’s reduced ice time and low stats.

Holland added that making the trade at this point was mainly about moving salary ahead of Friday’s trade deadline. “Today was more about getting $3 million in cap space,” he said. He added he was open to the idea of a rental this season, and that upgrading his top-four defencemen was his priority.

It’s been a dramatic career in Edmonton for Puljujarvi, anointed “The Bison King” by Oilers fans after he posed with a buffalo at nearby Elk Island National Park. 

Chosen in 2016 ahead of Matthew Tkachuk (sixth overall), Mikhail Sergachev (ninth), Jakob Chychrun (16th) and Alex DeBrincat (39th), among others. At the time, Puljujarvi dropping unexpectedly to No. 4 seemed a steal, and a pick that 31 other NHL general managers likely would have made in that spot. 

But Puljujarvi was mishandled by then-Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli and developed more slowly than expected, eventually going home to play for Oulu Karpat of the Finnish league, just as current GM Ken Holland arrived in Edmonton. Puljujarvi returned to Edmonton for the 2020-21 season, but almost three full seasons later, Puljujarvi has descended the roster to the point where he is the forward who makes room for a regular’s return. 

Mostly because the player is so popular with the Oilers fan base, Holland gave him one last contract last summer, qualifying the restricted free agent on a one-year, $3-million deal.

“Jesse possesses a great blend of size and skill, and he will add to the depth of our forward group,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said in a statement. “He has familiarity with some of our other Finnish players, and we see him as a great fit for our team and locker room.”

The 22-year-old Puistola, picked in the third round (79th overall) by the Hurricanes in the 2019 draft, has not played in the NHL — so the trade clears some cap space for the Oilers.

The Finnish native is playing in his country’s top league with Jukurit Mikkeli. He has 15 goals and 23 assists for 38 points in 56 games this season.

Puistola played in the 2020 World Junior Championship for Finland, registering five goals and three assists in seven games. Finland finished fourth.

– with files from Sportsnet’s Mark Spector


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