Janmark Signs, Puljujarvi, Yamamoto File for Arbitration

Janmark Signs, Puljujarvi, Yamamoto File for Arbitration

 

As with most NHL teams, the Oilers managed to get a large chunk of their offseason roster reshaping done in the opening hours of Free Agency. That said, as we shift into the quietest weeks of the NHL season, there are still moves to be made and items to check off of the to do list. Let’s take a look at some of the news from this past weekend and what it might mean going forward.

 

MATTIAS JANMARK: 1 year at $1.25 million

 

Turning 30 in December 2022, Janmark is a veteran NHL player, best suited in a bottom 6 role. He had 9 goals and 25 points in 67 games with the Vegas Golden Knights last season. A hard nosed, workmanlike forward with slight positional versatility (rarely plays centre), Janmark should be able to effectively contribute on the 3rd or 4th line as well as the Penalty Kill. He will most likely play on the wing, and does bear some stylistic resemblance to Warren Foegele.

 

Given the relatively small cap hit and the 1 year term there is essentially no risk for the Oilers. GM Holland is familiar with Janmark, as he was a Detroit Red Wings draft selection in 2013. Between the stable results on ice, the reputation he has built over his career, and the obvious intensity he plays with, it is not difficult to imagine how and where Janmark will make his mark on this Oilers roster.

 

PULJUJARVI AND YAMAMOTO ARBITRATION

 

Around the league, 24 RFAs filed for arbitration, including the pair of Oilers RWs. A large majority of these cases will result in a contract before the respective arbitration hearings, nevertheless it does put a timeline on negotiations between the players and the club. The Oilers will be tight to the cap one way or another, and they will likely be looking to keep the cost of these deals to a minimum.

 

At the moment, the Oilers appear to have about $5.7 million in cap space to sign the trio of Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, and McLeod. The best version of this team has all 3 signed and in the lineup, a fact which makes it difficult to believe that all 3 can be signed for under $6 million. Without arbitration rights and with a small resume McLeod will be significantly easier to keep at a low cost. The players that filed for arbitration will be a bit trickier, if not borderline contentious.

 

Perhaps the players will look to leverage this by signing shorter deals that might walk them straight into Unrestricted Free Agency. Lots of possibilities are still in play, including trades, but it is becoming increasingly likely that both Puljujarvi and Yamamoto will sign short deals somewhere between $3-$5 million per season, coincidentally about the same amount as an arbitration case might award, respectively.

 

Tight to the cap and firmly in contention, I’d argue the best play for the Oilers would be to offer control for a more manageable cap hit. It is an aggressive strategy, allowing players to become UFAs as quickly as possible, all the while giving the Oilers the high level play that Jesse and Kailer provide. Perhaps, at that point either could walk away on the open market, but the Oilers would still have ample time to either trade them or extend them as their progression unfolds.

 

Given the circumstances it seems likely that the Oilers are closer, or perhaps more aligned, with Yamamoto than they are with Puljujarvi. Deciphering the reasons why is multi faceted, perhaps from his cheery disposition, lofty standards as a top 5 draft pick, his tumultuous early seasons in Edmonton, crests and troughs in his performance, even rumours that the Oilers top players don’t appreciate his difficulties converting on chances. The impasse has been quite public for years at this point, and combined with Puljujarvi’s intriguing on ice results as a defensive forward, have fans of teams across the league openly hoping that their favourite team can manage to pry the Finn away from Edmonton.

 

What is clear is that the next 5 seasons or so will be Puljujarvi’s best, meaning any move the Oilers make to move the player will be at the cost of that very useful play, if not the upside potential for even more. Puljujarvi’s play brings a much appreciated diversification of skills to the Oilers lineup, even if he never realizes his offensive upside as a potential 30 goal, 60 point player. Puljujarvi has been fairly open about his confidence being volatile, some of which can be attributed to natural development or injuries, which are natural, while some of it has been from the Oilers lack of support for him, which is entirely avoidable.

 

In all, the Oilers have strong forward depth, but the margins between good and middling is quite narrow in the cap era, as we saw before and after Kane joined. Even prior to last season, many of the Oilers offseason questions surrounded whether or not the Oilers had enough depth to separate McDavid and Draisaitl at all. The addition of Hyman and Kane, as well as the emergence of McLeod, was enough to finally turn the tides. Subtracting a talent like Puljujarvi, or even Yamamoto, might undo this crucial development, as it is quite aggressive, if not optimistic, to think that Janmark and a rookie Dylan Holloway can replace their production outright.

 

Time will tell what the Oilers are able to manage regarding the signings of their RFAs, and ultimately we could still see a trade made to free up space. The most popular ideas are moving off of either Foegele or Barrie, if not moving on from Puljujarvi or Yamamoto outright.