The clock is ticking for Jesse Puljujarvi and the Edmonton Oilers.
By the time the calendar turns to Dec. 1, 2019, the Finnish forward will know his fate for the remainder of this season. Come that Sunday Puljujarvi will either be with the Oilers, on a new NHL team, or knowing that he will be playing with Liiga’s Karpat through the end of the 2019-20 campaign.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement states that Puljujarvi, a Group 2 free agent, has until Dec. 1 to sign a contract or he will be ineligible to play this season. An unsigned restricted free agent, the 21-year-old has excelled since signing a one-year deal — which features an NHL opt-out clause — with Karpat while waiting to see how his future unfolded.
In 17 games Puljujarvi has 11 goals and 18 points and doing everything the Oilers hoped he would. Those that watch him play on a regular basis say his game has improved, according to Sportsnet’s Mark Spector. His play has also earned him a call up to the Finnish national team for the upcoming Karjala Cup, which general manager Ken Holland will be attending.
Now come the questions for Holland: Do you bring him back over? Do you look to make a trade if a return to Edmonton isn’t in the cards? Or do you let him build his confidence for a season at home and re-visit the situation in the off-season?
Holland has the leverage in this situation with Puljujarvi’s RFA status, and given the player’s struggles in his first three NHL seasons, between injury and finding it difficult to carve out a regular spot in the Oilers’ lineup, option No. 3 is probably the best for all parties. Let him stay in Finland to continue improving his game and figure out a plan in the summer. If he still wants to move on then a strong season with Karpat would encourage other NHL teams to make their interest known. If he’s open to re-signing, then the Oilers would certainly welcome him back considering their need for depth scoring up front.