Jesse Puljujarvi wanted out from Edmonton and on Tuesday he returned home to Finland after signing a one-year deal with Liiga’s Oulun Karpat.
While the 21-year-old forward will begin the season in Finland, his contract does include an NHL opt-out clause which expires on Dec. 1, the deadline for restricted free agents to sign and be eligible to play in the 2019-20 season.
Puljujarvi came up through the Karpat system before he was drafted No. 4 overall in 2016.
The relationship between Puljujarvi and the Oilers deteriorated over this past season which saw him play only 46 games and spend plenty of time down in AHL Bakersfield. After the season his agent reiterated to new Edmonton general manager Ken Holland that his client did not have a desire to remain with the team and wanted to be traded.
“What Jesse has been saying to (Oilers GM Holland) Kenny and everybody else, and what I’ve been saying, is we just don’t think it’s going to work out any more,” Puljujarvi’s agent, Markus Lehto, told Sportsnet 650 in June. “He could definitely benefit from a fresh start. I think he deserves a fresh start. I think he has done everything that Edmonton coaches, management, they had a plan. He went down three times to the American League. Every time he played excellent and he was brought back up, right?”
Over three seasons and 139 games in Edmonton Puljujarvi scored 17 goals and record 39 points. He was unable to find a consistent top-six role in the Oilers lineup and saw his ice time drop from 13:22 in 2017-18 to 11:57 last season.
This is a move that will probably end up being best for both sides. The Oilers retain Puljujarvi’s rights and can allow him to develop with more minutes and if there’s progress maybe a deal can be made. Holland could have sought out a trade partner now, but considering the team owns his rights as an RFA, he might as well see if his value rises rather than selling low.
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.