This isn’t a rumour, it’s a fact: Anaheim Ducks General Manager Pat Verbeek has been in attendance at the last two Oilers games.
Now, why was he there? Well, that’s where the speculation begins. Minnesota Wild reporter Michael Russo threw some fuel onto the fire Monday night by tweeting this:
It would make sense that the Ducks are interested in Puljujarvi. They’re a rebuilding team that’s lacking quality forwards and regardless of how you feel about Puljujarvi and his potential, it’s easy to see why he would be a good lottery ticket for a team like Anaheim. His acquisition cost should be fairly low and as a former top-five draft pick, he seems like a great buy-low candidate.
The Ducks aren’t making the playoffs so they can afford to take a player like Puljujarvi and be patient with him in a skill role.
What could the Oilers want back from their division rival? Well, that’s where this gets interesting.
Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic reported earlier this week that there are some people in the organization who would view it as a win if they could just get rid of Puljuarvi’s $3 million cap hit. Frank Seravalli was on 630 CHED with Bob Stauffer and said the Oilers might need to include a sweetener for that to happen. That sounds crazy and really speaks to how low Puljujarvi’s value is.
I have a hard time believing that the Oilers would just dump Puljujarvi right now. Closer to the deadline? Potentially. But the smart play is to keep him and see if his play on the ice turns around. His value can’t get any lower, so it’s best to hold onto him… unless you can get a player back for him.
Once we heard that Verbeek was scouting the Oilers, there were a few people that immediately jumped on the idea of trading Puljujarvi for defenseman John Klingberg. The Oilers would have to really sweeten the pot to make that happen and honestly, it doesn’t sound realistic at all.
Of course, we know the Oilers were very interested in Klingberg during the summer before he signed his one-year $7 million deal with the Ducks, so it’s not far-fetched to think that they could still have some interest. He does however have a no-trade clause that’s staying in effect until January 1, 2023. So he could still nix a deal to the Oilers this month.
Also, he’s a right-shot defenseman so unless the Oilers were moving out a rightie, then this isn’t a great fit. They would also need to move out more than just Puljujarvi’s $3m cap hit to bring in Klingberg. Maybe adding Barrie to the deal would make sense, but why would the Ducks want Barrie?
One player that does seem like a decent fit is Max Comtois. The former second-round pick and Canadian World Junior standout has played 165 games with the Ducks over the course of five seasons and on paper, he seems like the kind of player that Holland would target.
We know the Oilers want to get harder to play against and adding a winger with some size and intensity would do that. Yes, Puljujarvi is big and he’s shown a willingness to hit this season, but Comtois has a bit of a nasty side and I could see that intriguing Holland.
So far this season he has five goals in 19 games, so he’s basically scoring at a 20-goal pace, and he did score 16 goals in 55 games a couple of seasons ago. Not bad.
He also only carries a cap hit of $2 million, so the Oilers would save some money and that’s important.
If everyone’s healthy, the Oilers can’t afford to keep both Mattias Janmark and Derek Ryan in the lineup. By swapping Comtois for Puljujarvi, you can keep both of those players up with the big club once Evander Kane returns (assuming no other injuries).
Another piece I don’t mind on the Ducks: former Oilers Dmitry Kulikov. He’s a defence-first, physical defenseman who would help solidify the left side of the team’s blueline and he makes just $2.25 million. The only problem: he can submit an eight-team no-trade list. Not sure if he’s a realistic target either.
Regardless, the Oilers are clearly trying to move Puljujarvi and the Ducks are watching the team closely. There seems to be some legitimate smoke here.
BOARD OF GOVERNORS RECAP
Were you excited for the salary cap to potentially go up $4.5 million? Well, it sounds like that’s far from a guarantee.
The league basically needs to get $70m in extra revenue for the cap to go up $4.5m, which we heard a few months ago was a possibility.
For the Oilers, that extra bit of cash would be huge. Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, and Stuart Skinner all need new deals and there really isn’t that much money coming off the books. Sure, Mike Smith and Oscar Klefbom come off the payroll and that will help the Oilers potentially not have to mess around with LTIR, but that doesn’t really help them sign players. The door seems to be somewhat open to the league and NHLPA negotiating a deal that would allow the cap to go up a little bit more than $1m but it’s unclear how that would work.
There have been plenty of reports this week saying that Horvat rejected the latest contract from the club, which apparently may have been around $56 million on a full eight-year term. That of course has led to people speculating that the Canucks will indeed look to trade him before the 2023 trade deadline.
Horvat is on an expiring deal and has a cap hit of $5.5 million. He’s having one of the most incredible contract seasons in recent memory with 20 goals already under his belt. If he was available the Canucks could very well get a better haul than the Flyers got last season for Claude Giroux. We’re talking about two or three very, very good assets.
One team that I could definitely see making a hard push to get him: the Colorado Avalanche. They seem like they could be getting ready to go all in. They have their first round pick for each of the next three drafts available to move and wouldn’t Horvat be the perfect replacement for Nazem Kadri? Seems like a great fit.
Would the Oilers be interested? Frank has mentioned this is a possibility a few times on Oilersnation Everyday throughout the year so it’s not the craziest idea. I still think Holland will look to make some smaller moves and add two or three pieces to this roster instead of going out and moving a bunch of future assets for one big piece.