The start of the 2019-20 NHL season is looming, with the preseason set to kick off in September. While many rosters are close to being settled, some key players remain either unsigned, unhappy or potentially on the trade block.
One player who could be moved is Edmonton Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi. According to TSN's Ryan Rishaug, the Oilers were open to moving him late last season if "a proper return" could be found. However, no deal came to fruition.
While Puljujarvi wants to continue his NHL career, the latest speculation surrounding him involves Finnish Liiga team Karpat Oulu. Finnish outlet MTV Sports recently reported that Karpat, Puljujarvi's hometown team, is "following his situation" (h/t David Staples of the Edmonton Journal).
"MTV also quoted Puljujarvi's agent, Markus Lehto, saying that the NHL is still Puljujarvi's top priority, that money isn't the issue and if it had been, Puljujarvi would have signed with the KHL two months ago," Staples wrote.
While Karpat hasn't officially made Puljujarvi an offer, the possibility of him signing with a European team could force the Oilers to act on a trade while they still can. Was the MTV report an effort from Puljujarvi's camp to legitimize the threat? Kurt Leavins of the Edmonton Journal recently brought up a different potential motive:
"I can confirm that at least as of yesterday...no such offer has been forthcoming, nor has there ever been a negotiation. And to be fair to Karpat manager Harri Aho, he didn't say there had been. But it is surely a coincidence that Aho should make any comment at all. After all, Aho's son Sebastian Aho is property of the Carolina Hurricanes. And the 'Canes are one of several clubs thought to be interested in Puljujarvi. How about that, hey?"
If the Hurricanes are interested in prying Puljujarvi from Edmonton, the threat of signing with a different league could help get him to Carolina—and possibly at a lower price.
Are Bruins, McAvoy Headed Toward a 1-Year Deal?
Restricted free-agent defenseman Charlie McAvoy is one of the leading players who remains unsigned. While the 21-year-old has flashed potential during his time with the Boston Bruins, he has also been held back by injuries and has yet to reach his potential.
There appear to be reasons why Boston has not locked up McAvoy to a long-term contract.
"You look at a player that's had some health issues two years in a row at a young age," Bruins president Cam Neely told Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports Boston. "You look at that and say 'OK, is that going to stay the same or is it just bad luck?'"
While the Bruins have every right to be concerned with McAvoy's injury history, going public with those concerns could serve another purpose. According to Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now, Boston could be trying to prevent the fan backlash that could come from a short-term bridge deal:
"The feel is that given the team's cap situation and the desire of both parties to find a resolution before training camp begins a month from now, a bridge contract is becoming more likely. ... One NHL agent who wished to remain anonymous, believes that's Neely and the team starting to go into a spin mode in an effort to ease the public relations hit the team will surely take should the Bruins insist on and sign McAvoy to a bridge deal."
Given McAvoy's injury history—he's played in just 117 games in his two seasons—a short-term deal is probably the prudent move for Boston. However, it could still be disappointing for a fanbase that wants to see the 14th overall pick in 2016 become a star in Boston over the long haul.