Even though the Stanley Cup has yet to be awarded, the focus in Oil Country has already shifted into the future. The looming offseason promises change, but only time can tell who stays and who goes when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers roster. Some players are in need of new contracts, while others are popular in mock trades for one reason or another.
That being said, there have already been a few players traded from the Oilers roster this season. Let’s take a look at how the departures have fared in their new locales.
Puljujarvi with the Hurricanes
A years-long uneasiness characterised the relationship between the Oilers and Jesse Puljujarvi, and this ambivalence was reflected across the fan base. Perhaps this duality has been reflected in Puljujarvi’s on-ice performance as well.
In certain lights, Puljujarvi looks incredible. A huge frame, great speed, hard worker, responsible disposition, not to mention a willingness to engage physically that continues to bloom, Puljujarvi has a great deal of tools. Puljujarvi translated these skills into consistently strong defensive impacts during his time as an Oiler.
In other lights, Puljujarvi looked less impressive. There was a noticeable lack of physical coordination, with many speculating that limited agility or balance was greatly affected by a double hip surgery in his young career. There was a frustrating lack of scoring touch, or even form, as Puljujarvi often failed to control the puck or remain poised. Of course, his pedigree as a top draft pick for the Oilers cast a harsh light on the evaluations of Puljujarvi as a player.
Even the pro-Puljujarvi observers acknowledged a lack of confidence. It’s likely that whatever one thought of Puljujarvi, a change of scenery was prudent. Was the situation untenable in Edmonton? Was a better version of Puljujarvi waiting to emerge on a new team? At least in the short term, the answer is no. During the stretch of the regular season the Carolina Hurricanes were safely in the playoffs, but fighting for seeding.
Was a change of scenery needed?
Puljujarvi was moved up and down the Hurricanes lineup during his 17 regular season games. His best stretch of play came alongside Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen, finishing sixth in goals percentage (66.7%) and second in expected goals (75.5%) for all Hurricanes even strength lines who played at least 45 minutes together across the season. Puljujarvi looked at home in the Hurricanes forechecking, man-to-man style of play.
As much as those positives resonated from Puljujarvi’s play, these were the areas that Puljujarvi often graded well. By the same token, Puljujarvi’s production continued to be underwhelming. His icetime decreased heading into the playoffs.
In the playoff these trends continue. While Puljujarvi posted the best expected goals percentage (64.7%) of Hurricanes even strength forward lines (at least 50 minutes, with Paul Stastny and Derek Stepan), the group did not perform well by means of actual goal percentage, with two for and five against. By the second round, the Hurricanes made Puljujarvi a healthy scratch.
Given a respectable performance, as well as the fact that the Hurricanes, despite their injuries, traded for Puljujarvi out of want rather than need. It is somewhat expected that Coach Rod Brind’Amour would turn to players he knows better when the lineup needed a shuffle, especially on what would be considered the team’s fourth line.
Heading into the next season
If indeed Puljujarvi’s play will flourish with his new team it won’t be until next season, at least. The Hurricanes were swept in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Florida Panthers, the second year in a row Puljujarvi has been swept in the third round. Perhaps an offseason to reset, a chance to find a new identity among his new teammates, and a large contingent of Finnish players on the Hurricanes might help unlock the promise once thought achievable for Puljujarvi.
A restricted free agent this summer, there is a chance that the Hurricanes divide to look elsewhere, leaving Puljujarvi an unrestricted free agent.
Barrie with the Predators
Tyson Barrie is an offence first right shot on the blueline. While his defensive abilities are certainly questionable, not many defencemen have the ability to put up 50 points, as Barrie did across his time with the Oilers and Nashville Predators combines this season. Barrie is still a serviceable option, although circumstantially so, on a second or third pairing.
Especially given that Evan Bouchard was ready to take over top power play duties for the Oilers, Barrie’s stylistic fit with the Oilers was not ideal. Combined with a cap hit that made the Oilers margins quite thin, many across Oil Country bemoaned his contract as one of the worst on the team as soon as it was signed. Despite all this, Barrie held up his end of the bargain for the Oilers. In all, Oilers fans should feel good about the transition away from Barrie.
The fit with the Predators is a more favourable one for Barrie, as the team could use his bonafide offensive talents behind Roman Josi, providing a known quality for the retooling Predators to depend on. His 12 points in 24 games represents a drop off from his production for the Oilers, but Barrie helped the Predators push for a playoff spot into the last days of the regular season. For the past three seasons, at least, the Predators seem to improve in the back half of the schedule.
Samorukov with the Blues
Thanks to the strong performance of Klim Kostin, there are few across Oil Country who wouldn’t support the trade that sent Dmitri Samarukov to the St. Louis Blues. Samorukov spent most of the season in the AHL, modestly improving his career best offensive totals. As a physical, defensive minded defenceman there is still some hope that Samorukov might find his way into a regular NHL spot.
The jump to the NHL did not happen this season for Samorukov, although he was able to find his way into a pit of games for the Blues. Near the end of a season where the Blues had little to play for, Samorukov was paired with the smooth skating, puck moving, depth defenceman Calle Rosen.
In time, Samorukov might be able to fill a role on the Blues third pair. This is a role the Blues appreciate, and one that might be available to Samorukov out of next season’s training camp, as Nikko Mikkola, a player of similar style, was dealt to the New York Rangers.
The Oilers made out just fine with their trades
With the inevitability of player movement, the nature of being an NHL fan is one that sees a growing diversification of rooting interests. Many fans will grow attached to players and follow their careers closely even after they suit up for another team. No doubt all of the players the Oilers moved on from this season had, and will continue to have their share of supporters across Oil Country.
As much as these players might contribute to their new teams in meaningful ways going forward, it is hard not to be happy with their returns. In all, the Oilers did some good work in the trade market this season.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire