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Report: New York Rangers Continue to Show Persistent Interest in Jesse Puljujärvi

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Minnesota Wild v Edmonton Oilers

The New York Rangers have shown, and continue to show persistent interest in Edmonton Oilers restricted free agent Jesse Puljujärvi according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.

Puljujärvi is currently without an NHL contract and skating for Kärpät of the Finnish Liiga, and has tallied 11 goals and nine assists in 18 games played. The 21-year-old was drafted No. 4 overall in the 2016 draft, and has had an interesting start to his pro hockey career.

Puljujärvi’s first season saw him split time between the NHL and AHL, and included 28 points in 39 games with the Oilers AHL affiliate in Bakersfield, and just eight points in 28 NHL games. The following season saw him spend the majority of his time in the NHL, and he finished the year with 20 points in 65 games.

Last season Puljujärvi tallied nine points in 46 NHL games, and four points in four AHL games. The 6’4” right winger underwent season-ending hip surgery in February, and made it clear to the Oilers that he was looking for a fresh start.

The reason his name is coming up now is because if Puljujärvi does not sign a contract by December 1st he will have to sit out the entirety of the 2019-20 season. The Oilers are in no rush to do anything because they still hold his contract rights, but the interesting thing is that the Rangers continue to show interest in him.

One reason could be is that organizationally right wing is a position of weakness for the Rangers, and maybe they see Puljujärvi as somehow who would benefit from a fresh start. The current depth chart on the right includes Pavel Buchnevich, Kaapo Kakko, Jesper Fast, and Brendan Smith.

They may also see an opportunity, as Puljujärvi’s most frequent linemate the last two seasons at 674 minutes was Milan Lucic, and that’s something that may have lessened his overall impact. He also spent 413 minutes with Connor McDavid, and 288 minutes with Leon Draisaitl, so I can understand why people may feel cautious. The overall point is that his time in the NHL thus far has been primarily as an 18, 19 and 20-year-old, and it is too early to rule out a turnaround.

Someone with Puljujärvi’s skills and potential would inject some punch into the lineup if he were able to get it together, and it is quite possible that the Rangers feel they can offer him the environment to get him back on track. Part of that environment could include a fellow Finn in Kakko, but the team also employs Tuomo Ruutu as a development coach. As a side note, Puljujärvi was born in Sweden, but has represented Finland internationally throughout his career to date.

This may not matter at all, but it is worth pointing out the effect of having a fellow Russian in Artemiy Panarin has had thus far on Buchnevich, so there might be something to the concept of surrounding a talented young player with familiarity. The biggest difference in this case is that Panarin is a veteran whereas Kakko is just a rookie, but having two young players bonding together could have some positive effects over time.

Overall, this is just one report and the beginning of this story. It is clear that Puljujärvi is a talented player, and historically the Rangers as an organization have taken chances on players like him before. In terms of cost to acquire, it is hard to guess because it all depends on what the Oilers want to do.

They are off to a great start this season, and if they had an opportunity to move Puljujärvi and strengthen their roster to become even more of a contender, I think Ken Holland would try and find a deal. Or he will wait till the summer, and try and leverage Puljujärvi’s strong season in Finland for a better overall deal. This is a story to follow for the next month, and it will be interesting if there’s any additional reports that come out in the coming weeks.

If the price is right Puljujärvi is worth considering, but until we know what that looks like we will just have to sit and wait.