Ken Holland tried to keep Jesse Puljujarvi in the fold.
The Edmonton Oilers general manager admitted that he told Puljujarvi’s camp that he wouldn’t be qualified at season’s end but did try to retain the services of the 24-year-old winger on a short-term contract at a reduced salary.
Puljujarvi, who was moved to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Finnish prospect Patrik Puistola earlier Tuesday, is a pending restricted free agent when his one-year, $3 million contract expires at the conclusion of the season.
“I called Jesse about two weeks ago and told him, and (agent) Markus Lehto,” Holland detailed to the media. “I talked to Jesse, I talked to Markus over a couple of days, that I would be interested in Jesse being part of our team going forward next year, that we could not qualify him based on a whole lot of things.
“I told him I was prepared to negotiate a one or two-year contract extension with him at a reduced salary, probably in the ones, and would they be interested in doing that.
“They talked and they came back and Markus Lehto told me that they weren’t opposed to the money but they probably thought it was best to get a fresh start. From that point in time I knew that his days would be numbered here in Edmonton.”
Puljujarvi, who has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 58 games this season, had long been rumoured to be moved by the Oilers.
It was reported in the summer that both sides were heading towards a “fresh start” prior to Puljujarvi signing his one-year deal with Edmonton. It was also reported, most recently two weeks ago, that the Oilers could also waive the 24-year-old in order to free up cap room.
It was also speculated earlier in the week that the winger would stay with the club for the duration of the season.
Ultimately, Holland and the Oilers opted to move Puljujarvi, the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, east to Carolina in advance of the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline on Friday.
“What I’m trying to do is clear some cap space to try to do something between now and Friday,” Holland said. “Certainly trying to move $3 million for a guy that’s got five goals and I think he played six minutes last night, was tough. Carolina’s got a lot of cap space.
“I’ve had chats with Don Waddell, even when Jesse was over in Finland my first year here as a manager, so there’s been some interest from Carolina going way back. It worked out probably good for Don Waddell and Carolina, and good for us, and good for Jesse.
“I met with Jesse this morning. My take was he was a little mixed emotions… he’s starting to be part of the group and liked the group, but he also understands this is a new opportunity for him in the National Hockey League.”