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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

News and Notes: Jesse Puljujarvi Interest, Neal for Lucic, and more

Good morning, Nation. The Oilers are 3-0 for the first time since 2008-09. While you read that line and feel warm and fuzzy inside, here are a few pieces of information from the last few days about the Oilers and the rest of the league for your interest.

On Jesse Puljujarvi…

Jesse Puljujarvi is finding his groove playing in Finland. Through nine games, the former fourth-overall pick has three goals and five assists and is tied for the team lead on Oulun Kärpät. The key for the disgruntled young winger was finding a consistent environment in which he could get himself comfortable and it seems he’s found that back home.

According to Darren Dreger, interest around Puljujarvi is already starting to grow…

“Well, it’s the old cliché. I mean, general managers are always open for business and [Ken] Holland is certainly in that position as well,” Dreger said on Insider Trading. “A bit of an update on Jesse Puljujarvi, who we understand is playing well in Finland and that’s caught the attention of at least a few NHL clubs who have expressed interest [in] Puljujarvi in the last week.

“There’s nothing doable from Edmonton’s perspective, but it is interesting to say the least. Something could develop in the weeks ahead; if not then Edmonton is willing to stand pat.”

As Puljujarvi continues to play well and re-establish himself as a high-calibre prospect, the interest around the league will grow. It’s difficult to remember sometimes that he’s only 21 years old. If he were North American, he would just be eligible for his second AHL season out of Major Junior right now.

I still doubt that Puljujarvi will play for the Oilers ever again, but stranger things have happened. Alexander Radulov returned to the Nashville Predators after five years in the KHL and Valeri Nichushkin returned to the Dallas Stars after a couple of seasons overseas. Anything’s possible, especially if the Oilers continue to improve stability under Ken Holland and Dave Tippett.

Still, it seems most likely that a trade will be the end scenario with Puljujarvi. Holland isn’t going to rush into a deal, which is a good thing. Alexander Nylander, who’s the same age as Puljujarvi, netted a good prospect in Henri Jokiharju in a one-for-one swap. There’s no reason Puljujarvi can’t net a similar return.

If the Oilers are in contention come trade deadline time, I bet we hear Puljujarvi’s name heat up in the rumour mill more. He won’t be eligible for a return to the NHL if he doesn’t sign a contract by Dec. 1, but any team acquiring him would be doing so as a long-term addition anyway.

On the Neal for Lucic swap…

Elliotte Friedman spoke about this summer’s Milan Lucic for James Neal swap yesterday in his 31 Thoughts column…

14. Through two games each, you can see both the Flames and Oilers are determined to make their off-season trade work. James Neal scored twice against the Kings, and got a couple of even-strength shifts with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the opener. Everyone saw Milan Lucic go after Nikita Zadorov in Colorado, but Calgary also put him out there as the extra man when they pulled David Rittich late against the Avalanche.

Lucic clearly has the aggression when he feels a teammate is being bullied — where he needs to recover it is during the flow of play. As the extra player, he stayed to the perimeter. Against Vancouver on Saturday, he skated with the puck up the left wing opting for a shot Jacob Markstrom turned away. If he uses these opportunities to go harder at the net, Calgary’s got something.

15. I think the Oilers knew Vancouver was an option for Lucic, but made it clear to all parties they preferred Neal.

As Friedman said, this is a deal both teams badly want to make work. In theory, both teams got something that they needed. The Oilers needed scoring and the Flames needed toughness.

Both James Neal and Milan Lucic have made statements early this season. Neal has regained his scoring touch with his league-leading six goals in three games and Lucic is providing physicality and edge that the Flames feel they desperately lacked.

The Oilers are certainly giving Neal every chance he can to succeed. Through three games, he’s averaging 18:13 minutes of ice-time per game and he’s playing on the team’s top power play. Last night, of course, he netted four goals doing something that we all screamed at Lucic to do when he was struggling here: go to the net. If Neal does that, he’ll have no problem returning to his usual 20-goal mark, which would be a massive win for the Oilers.

Lucic’s impact is a bit more difficult to measure. In his first game against the Avs, he punished Nikita Zadorov for a big hit on Austin Czarnik. In last night’s loss to Los Angeles, he got into a scrap with Kurtis MacDermid. He’s averaging 11:50 minutes per game on the team’s third line and hasn’t scored yet.

The deterrent logic is something we heard a lot here when trying to justify Lucic’s contract the past could of years. The reality is, though, at $6 million, Lucic is being paid to provide a physical element on top of contributing offensively. If he isn’t doing that, the Flames are getting hosed on this trade. Even without Lucic, the Oilers are paying a combined ~$3 million to Zack Kassian and Jujhar Khaira to act as their deterrents. In the cap world, you can’t be paying $6 million to an enforcer.

The final note on this topic is a confirmation of something we knew already, which is that Vancouver was also an option for Lucic. The Canucks had long been rumoured as interested in bringing the Vancouver native home to add grit to the lineup, but, unsurprisingly, a swap involving Lucic and Loui Eriksson didn’t work out. It’s only been three games, but it seems the Neal acquisition will be ideal for the Oilers.

Elsewhere…

  • Patrick Marleau finally signed a one-year deal to return to the Sharks. This seemed inevitable after the Leafs traded him to Carolina to be bought out and I’m surprised it took this long. Apparently, the Oilers had interest in Marleau, but the veteran wasn’t interested in playing here. The Sharks badly need a pick-me-up, as they’re winless in four games and are being outscored 17-5. San Jose having a down season would be huge for the Oilers’ playoff hopes.
  • Apparently, the Jets have talked Dustin Byfuglien out of retirement. Friedman said that he was leaning towards retirement and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told him to wait it out. The Jets are going to give him as much time as he needs to make the decision, but it’s hard to imagine the team surviving in the tough Central Division without him for long.
  • Winnipeg would likely be interested in defenceman Mark Pysyk to help plug a hole on their depleted blueline. The Canucks reportedly are interested, too. I wonder if the former Oil King would be a fit here.
  • Amazing stuff from the Flames’ social media crew here.