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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Random Thoughts: Jesse Puljujarvi, Retirement watch, and the Pacific Division

Draft week is upon us, free agency is right around the corner, and the Edmonton Oilers have a sizeable to-do to handle before the 2022-23 season rolls around, which means I’ve got plenty of questions rolling around in my head that I could use your help answer. Let’s talk about it.

I DON’T WANT TO BELIEVE IT

Based on the traffic that flooded into the website on Wednesday night to find out what Tom Gazzola knows, there are a lot of us wondering what the hell is going to happen with Jesse Puljujarvi and the Edmonton Oilers. I can’t stand that we’re even talking about this. I hate it. I love Jesse Puljujarvi and while I fully understand there are times when we’d like to have more offence from him, I’m also a pretty big fan of what he can do on the defensive side of the puck and see real value in that. Yet, despite what I see or think, there’s a whole other side of this fanbase that thinks the team should move on because he’s just not good enough. Obviously, the guy must be a finished product at the ripe old age of 24 years old, ya know? Either way, it really looks like our journey together could be winding down if the rumblings are true and that makes me sad. I wanted so desperately for this second take to work out for both sides, and now that it’s looking like that may not be the case, I’ll be a very disappointed Oilers fan to see him go.

MIKE SMITH & DUNCAN KEITH

Isn’t it weird waiting around to see what Mike Smith and Duncan Keith are going to do for next season? It’s either we’ve got our old boy(s) back or we don’t. One or both or neither, nobody knows. All we can do is wait. Until Smith or Keith say what they’re doing for sure — my personal bet is that the latter comes back while Schmiddy hits the LTIR — the Oilers can only make plans in crayon for how they’d spend the extra $7.7 million they’d gain from a pair of retirements. Having that extra cash to spend would be a gamechanger for the Oilers this summer, but until we know what’s happening with our fossil friends — I’m basically the same age as them btw — we have this unsolved mystery kinda hanging over our heads. Will they? Won’t they? Maybe we’ll have the answers by the time the draft rolls around on Thursday. Cue the X-Files music.

THE PACIFIC DIVISION IS GETTING BETTER

With the Kings trading for Kevin Fiala on Wednesday, it got me thinking about how much work the Oilers actually have to get done this summer to make sure that they’re back in the mix for another playoff run next spring. As much as we’re lucky to have the bulk of our core returning in 2022-23, I don’t think the Oilers are anywhere near good enough to stand pat and skate through the offseason without finding some upgrades for the roster. Getting to the Western Conference Final was a great time and I want to do it again, ya know? So another run like the one we just had is going to be on the radar, Ken Holland needs to get creative with roster improvements even though there’s not a lot of cap space to go around. The concern I have with that plan, however, is that we haven’t seen Holland pull off many (or any) moves that would give us the confidence to believe he can pull a rabbit out of his hat. Am I hopeful? Absolutely, but I’m also incredibly concerned that the teams around us are going to get better while the Oilers are going to look very much the same or worse depending on what happens with Kane and Puljujarvi.

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THE BUYOUT WINDOW

Now that the buyout window is open, I wasn’t surprised that nothing happened on Day 1 here in Edmonton but that doesn’t mean the Oilers may not circle back on this opportunity as the days wear on. I know a Kassian buyout is the thing that everyone is talking about around these parts — it probably makes sense in the short term to free up cap space — but wouldn’t it be great to see our GM pull off one of those weird ‘math trades’ that sends an expensive guy from our roster to a budget club with some kind of sweetener that makes it happen rather than having more dead money on our books? Dare to dream?

BETTER LAIT THAN NEVER

I had a lot of fun on this week’s podcast looking through some of the news I missed while I was on vacation, and I can’t thank all of you enough for playing along with this weird show of mine. Subscribe to Better Lait Than Never for FREE on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, and wherever else you get your podcasts from!