It’s no secret that the Washington Capitals need forward depth with Tom Wilson out long-term and Nicklas Backstrom and Carl Hagelin’s statuses still unknown. And with that being the case, a potential solution could be lurking in Edmonton: Jesse Puljujarvi.
On TSN 1260, Ryan Rishaug said that it’s possible Puljujarvi played his last game in an Oilers uniform. The team has multiple free agents like Kailer Yamamoto and Evander Kane to address in addition to Puljujarvi, and the 24-year-old may not be the number one priority — which could mean that he’s the odd man out.
“I feel like it might be difficult to figure out a fit for Puljujarvi money-wise. It’s never been easy when it comes to this stuff with Puljujarvi and his camp… I’d be really interested in what the Oilers’ perception of his value is after these playoffs. And I think other guys would be prioritized ahead of him.”
Puljujarvi went fourth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft but hasn’t been able to develop into an All-Star or unlock his full potential with Edmonton, who expected him to be a top-6 contributor and bring more firepower alongside a rising Connor McDavid.
Taking all of that into account, he could be a name for Washington to keep an eye on.
During his early days in Edmonton, Puljujarvi wasn’t able to live up to the high expectations set for him. Inconsistency and struggles led to frustration and ultimately, a trade request in 2019. After a stint with Liiga’s Karpat, a more confident Puljujarvi returned to Alberta in 2020-21, where he dished a career-high 15 goals.
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He followed up with 14 goals and 22 assists for a career-high 36 points in 65 games in 2021-22. However, his season saw ups and downs. Following a hot start, Puljujarvi’s production saw a decline, as he had just 13 points in his last 36 regular-season games. Also, he managed just five goals in his final 52 games of the regular season.
Still, he played a strong defensive game and also averaged a career-high 16:11 minutes per night. Puljujarvi was a plus-22 and a major asset at both ends of the ice thanks to strong positioning, smart decision-making ability and willingness to engage in puck battles.
Not only that, at 5-on-5, Puljujarvi led the Oilers with an expected goals-for percentage of 59.78 in the regular season and also ranked first in scoring chances-for percentage (56.04) and Corsi-for percentage (58.58) among players with at least 65 GP. He had 18 giveaways and 27 takeaways, along with 15 blocks and 81 hits.
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Looking at his play and ability, as well as the fact that he’s only 24, there’s still a lot of upside for Puljujarvi. The 6-4, 201-pound right-winger brings a lot of size and skill to the table, and he still has plenty left to prove. And, with more confidence and the right assignments, he still has time to develop into a top contributor.
The Oilers would have to qualify Puljujarvi for at least $1.4 million, and this could be tough with all the other names to address and only so much space to work with. So, if the team chooses to move on from him, whether it be through a release or the trade market, the Capitals could find him to be an interesting option.
#LetsGoOilers miss Jesse Puljujärvi.
He adds a lot of subtle elements to the game. Watch number 13.
Hope he´s back soon! 🔥🇫🇮 pic.twitter.com/1zlr8a5gYk
— Samuel Grega (@samuel_grega) March 3, 2022
With Wilson out of the mix, Washington could rely on a player like Puljujarvi. Like Wilson, he has size and speed and is responsible at both ends of the ice. There’s just the matter of getting a consistent performance out of the young Finn. Also, Puljujarvi, given he still has ways to go and plenty to prove, wouldn’t be too expensive of an option, either. And, with the Capitals also needing a goaltender, going for a cheap option with upside is a solid option.
Overall, his name stands out as an interesting one for the District. Puljujarvi has skill, ability and potential. He takes good care of the puck and also has the ability to create offense. And going into 2022-23, that’s what Washington needs with the team looking to keep its Stanley Cup window open.