Jesse Puljujarvi signs one-year deal with Finnish club, has NHL opt-out clause

Sporting News

Jesse Puljujarvi has taken his talents to Finland.

The Edmonton Oilers restricted free agent signed a one-year deal with Oulun Karpat of the Finnish Liiga on Tuesday, although his contract contains an NHL opt-out clause through December 1. It's the latest chapter in his desire to move away from the Oilers, with Puljujarvi widely known to want to play elsewhere.

Puljujarvi was the fourth-overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft and arrived in Edmonton to great fanfare. However, the Swedish-born Finn failed to live up to the hype of his lofty draft position, registering just 37 points (17 goals, 20 assists) in 139 games over three years with the Oilers. A season-ending hip injury shortened his 2018-19 campaign, with Puljujarvi having amassed only nine points in 46 games last season.

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His on-ice struggles led to reports speculating the Oilers were shopping the 21-year-old around during last February's trade deadline, but Puljujarvi ultimately remained an Edmonton player throughout the rest of his entry level contract. Now an RFA, Puljujarvi has made it clear he wants a top-6 role at an NHL team, something the Oilers may not be willing to provide.

With the team and player at an impasse, Puljujarvi has returned home to the club he came up with as a teenager.

"The great thing is, Jesse has decided to make a season-long deal with us," Harri Aho, Karpat's sports director said (as translated by TSN). "Jesse is a thoroughbred whose physics, skills and talent will surely be enough for the NHL. We want to be there to help and support Jesse towards that goal."

Puljujarvi posted 13 goals and 15 assists over 50 games in 2015-16, his final season with Karpat prior to joining the Oilers. Now four years older with top-level experience at right wing, Puljujarvi will be expected to have much more of an offensive impact in Finland's top league. He'd surely have motivation to dominate from the outset in his home nation, as a hot start could see Puljujarvi return to the NHL by December.

If he has it his way, Puljujarvi will be wearing a different jersey if and when he does make his way back to North America.

"Although the Oilers have a new, well-respected GM and a new coach, the team is still pretty much the same," Puljujarvi's agent Mark Lehto told reporters in July (via the Edmonton Journal). "Sometimes a player and a team are not a fit. This seems to be the case here. Nothing radical about it."

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