Jesse Puljujarvi was selected 4th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers after recording 28 points in 50 games in the Finnish professional league as a teenager. At 6’4”, 201 lbs, the Finnish right-handed winger looked like he was going to slot in right next to Connor McDavid and just go to town. In his first taste of North American action, Puljujarvi put up one goal and seven assists for eight points in 27 NHL games while he spent 39 games with Bakersfield in the AHL putting up 12-16-28.
This began a yo-yoing of the Finnish forward by Edmonton, as he was moved all throughout the NHL lineup, then down to the AHL, and then back to the NHL, and again and again. Puljujarvi never really seemed to answer whatever questions and challenges the Oilers threw at him and as his ELC expired Puljujarvi decided to not re-sign with the Oilers, and instead went back to Finland to wait and see if a trade could develop.
Now, after a strong start with Karpat (11-9-20 in 18 games played), the trade rumors that were cooked up in the offseason have been put into the microwave and reheated. The New York Rangers, apparently, have “persistent interest” in the 21-year-old winger. The interest makes sense, as the Rangers are still rebuilding and could use all the offensive help they could get these days but should the Rangers make the trade, and what might it take to get a deal done?
When it comes to the roster, the Rangers have some room to spare for more offensive punch. Brendan Lemieux, Brett Howden, Jesper Fast, Micheal Haley, Lias Andersson, Greg McKegg, and Brendan Smith have all taken spins in the bottom six, and collectively there’s a lot left to be desired offensively. Adding a player of Puljujarvi’s talent could go a long way to bolstering an offensive punch led by Artemiy Panarin and Mika Zibanejad. He’s also another right-handed shot that the Rangers can desperately use on the 2nd power play unit while his size and strength should catch the eyes of the coaching staff right away. Now, the downside to trading for Puljujarvi is the fact that you’re spending assets on what is still very much an unknown player.
Because of the stop and start nature of his NHL career; it’s hard to really get a sense of what the hard shooting winger can do with solid NHL minutes. Does it really make sense from a roster construction aspect to try and fit yet another unknown young player to what is already the youngest roster in the NHL?
Well, yeah, I think so. The Rangers aren’t winning any time soon and spending mid-level assets on players with high talent and a couple of question marks is a move that a team like the Rangers should be making. Not only does Puljujarvi have the offensive talent to bolster attack but it could also help Kaapo Kakko to have another young Finnish friend around.
Now if the Rangers decide to truly pursue Puljujarvi, there a couple of hurdles they need to clear that can determine the cost and return. First off, there’s that pesky salary cap to navigate around. According to Cap Friendly, the Rangers have just around $3 million in cap space to play with and Puljujarvi needs to be signed to a contract before he can suit up for the Blueshirts. Now, it shouldn’t take too big of a deal to sign the forward, and any deal for this season would be prorated, but it would still make things even tighter than they are now.
Next, the Rangers have a bit of a time crunch when it comes to making a deal and signing Jesse. As a RFA; Puljujarvi has to sign by December 1st in order to play this season. This could put Edmonton into a small advantage in terms of negotiating since they don’t have to move the forward right now, this all comes from Puljujarvi wanting a fresh start in a new organization. This could also swing the negotiation momentum to the Rangers side of the phone call, as reported from the always great 31 Thoughts from Elliotte Friedman:
If a return to Edmonton really isn’t in the cards, Ken Holland can’t really ask for the world in terms of a trade return for Puljujarvi. In terms of what the Rangers could offer for the left winger I think there are three possibilities; the first of which could be a straight up Lias Andersson for Jesse Puljujarvi swap. In this deal you have two players that, for one reason or another, their organizations haven’t given major opportunities to and maybe a change of scenery could help out both players.
In this scenario, Puljujarvi can slot in to the 3rd line next to Kakko and Brett Howden, while Lemiuex gets bumped down to the 4th line as Boo Nieves gets called up to replace Andersson. I don’t think the Rangers would want to make this kind of deal, since it means selling off a promising part of the rebuild that they are admitting didn’t work out.
Another deal the Rangers might look at could be making Puljujarvi part of a larger package for Chris Kreider. Kreider is arguably the biggest forward name that will be out there at the trade deadline and if the Oilers are somehow pushing into the wildcard picture in the West they could look at adding Kreider and putting his speed next to McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
The downside here is that the longer the Rangers wait to make a move like this, the less time they have to get Puljujarvi into their lineup. There’s also something to be said about moving the Rangers’ best trade asset early, as there’s the potential a bidding war for Kreider’s services breaks out closer to the deadline.
Finally, I think the Rangers could offer a package of picks and a mid-level prospect. Something along the lines of Libor Hajek/Ryan Lindgren/or another defense prospect and a 2nd or 3rd round pick for Puljujarvi makes a fair bit of sense and could probably get done a lot sooner than later. It would give Edmonton a body back with some level of upside, and a lottery ticket to cash in on a player who potentially ends up being similar or better than the player they traded.
Jesse Puljujarvi is a risk, but he’s a highly talented one that the Rangers should be all over right now.