On July 7th at the NHL Entry Draft, the Edmonton Oilers traded away Zack Kassian along with a 2nd and 3rd-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for return the Coyotes had to take all of Kassian’s $3.2 million cap hit. The Oilers also switched their first-round pick from 29th to 32nd.
This cap space was used to sign Jesse Puljujarvi to his $3 million one-year deal. This deal right now isn’t looking good, as Puljujarvi hasn’t had the success that either he or the Edmonton Oilers were hoping for.
So far this season in 43 games played Puljujarvi has 3 goals and 6 assists and is sitting at a -13. For a player that is expected to play in the Oilers’ top 6, those numbers are not ideal. If you are playing with either McDavid or Draisaitl you are expected to put up good numbers.
If you aren’t putting up numbers you need to add a dimension that the rest of the line doesn’t. To me, there isn’t much in Puljujarvi’s game that differs from most other players on the team. That is where Kassian could affect the game.
Do The Edmonton Oilers Miss Kassian’s Toughness
With the injury to Evander Kane the Edmonton Oilers are missing a level of toughness in their line-up. The only players in the line-up playing with an edge are Kostin and Nurse. This is one of the reasons why I think it was a smart idea when Woodcroft had Kostin in the top 6.
There have been a couple of incidents where players had taken a couple of questionable runs at McDavid and there is no one in the line-up that step up. In the playoff last year you would see if a player even looked at McDavid funny Kane was in their face.
Now with Kane out of the line-up, the Oilers don’t have a player that puts fear in the other team. Zach Kassian was that player before Kane joined the Oilers and he was another level of support once he got here.
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Puljujarvi Won’t Be Here Next Season Anyways
Another point against Puljujarvi is the fact that he will very unlikely be an Edmonton Oiler next season. There is lots of news out there that Puljujarvi wants a change of scenery where he can hopefully get a fresh start.
If the Edmonton Oilers wanted to qualify Puljujarvi again next year he would need to be qualified at $3.6 million. I just don’t see the Edmonton Oilers or any other team paying that much. This means that Puljujarvi will become a UFA and can sign with any team he wants to.
His salary will be less than the qualifying amount, but he can pick and choose his location. With him being able to choose I don’t see him staying in Edmonton. He only stays if he catches fire and starts putting up points while playing on one of the top two lines.
I wonder if Ken Holland could go back in time if he would have kept Kassian and traded away Puljujarvi instead. I know Puljujarvi has a much high ceiling than Kassian, but so far this season he hasn’t come close to that ceiling. With Puljujarvi playing in the bottom 6 his stats aren’t likely to improve much.
If the points aren’t being collected by Puljujarvi, you may have been better off with Kassian, because at least Kassian adds an edge to the team. He isn’t afraid to throw his body around. Right now the Edmonton Oilers miss a player like that.
Once Kane comes back this may become a moot point, but right now I think the Oilers are missing some grit in their line-up.