For a player who still hasn’t accomplished much or established himself in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, Jesse Puljujarvi draws a lot of attention and gets a lot of ink. More of the same to come with Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto having filed for salary arbitration.
While it’s highly unlikely either case will end up before an arbitrator – all eight arbitration cases filed by Oilers players and their agents since 2008 have been settled prior to a hearing – this latest bit of business comes with GM Ken Holland having some tough decisions to make. Puljujarvi, who grabbed headlines by leaving the Oilers to play with Karpat in 2019-21 before returning, is front and centre in that.
According to PuckPedia, Holland has about $5.7 million in cap space at his disposal with which to sign Ryan McLeod, who does not have arb rights, Yamamoto and Puljujarvi. Even if Holland gets McLeod done for, say, $1.25 million, that doesn’t leave much room for negotiating with Puljujarvi and Yamamoto. And, if one or both of them went to a hearing and got something in the $2.5-$3 million range, the Oilers don’t have walk-away rights.
May 4, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto (56) tries to carry the puck around Los Angeles Kings defensemen Mikey Anderson (44) during the first period in game two of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
If Holland can’t cut more salary than he already has by moving a roster player – Tyson Barrie and Warren Foegele are most often mentioned as candidates – then what? Does he even want to send away another player to keep Puljujarvi and Yamamoto? Maybe for the latter, but given this team just reached the Western Conference final, I wouldn’t be eager to turn my roster upside down for a guy who has already shown he’ll ask out if he doesn’t get his way.
As irritating as those on opposing sides of the spectrum of opinion can be – those triggered by virtually any criticism of Puljujarvi and those who think he’s a total waste of time – you cannot give up on a player because of noise from the fringes. The reality is most often found in the middle. That’s where Puljujarvi, 24, is right now.
Captain Obvious would also add all the above is a moot point if both sides can agree, or have already agreed, that it’s time to move on. That makes a sign-and-trade the most likely outcome. Are we there yet?
WHILE I’M AT IT
Photo: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
As an aside, I came across some Oilers’ tidbits via the drop-down menu at CapFriendly while writing this piece.
- The last time the Oilers had multiple players file for arbitration before this year was 2010. Gilbert Brule, Jeff Deslauriers and Jean-Francois Jacques filed. All settled before their respective hearings. All of them were out the door as Oilers by January of 2012.
- Sam Gagner has been the only big winner since 2008. In 2012, Gagner went from a two-year contract worth $2.275 million to a one-year deal for $3.2 million. The next year, 2013, he went from the one-year deal for $3.2 million to a three-year pact with a $4.8 million AAV.