The Oilers have 2 key pieces that they need to lock up long-term before they hit the open market
With a big statement win over the Bruins, the Oilers have improved to 10-2 on the season. While a lot of the weight has been carried by McDavid and Draisaitl, there have been some big contributions from other players this year. In particular, Jesse Puljujarvi and Evan Bouchard have proven themselves as some of the team’s best players and guys that should be key pieces of the Oilers moving forward.
Jesse Puljujarvi seemed like a lost cause to many entering last year but broke out in a big way during the pandemic shortened season. After being selected 4th overall in the 2016 draft, Pulju had done little to impress in his first few seasons with the Oilers but after playing the 2019-20 season in Finland he came back a completely rejuvenated player. He showed signs of elite two-way play last year and has only improved his game this season with 6 goals and 13 points through 12 games. Consistently playing with McDavid has allowed his goal scoring ability to shine but his defensive game is what makes him stand out amongst other Oilers wingers. The Bison King is a legit two-way player and should be a serious Selke candidate for years to come. He’s currently on a cheap one year bridge deal and is set to be an RFA after this season. The Oilers should be looking to lock him up for somewhere in the range of 5-6 million per year over 7 seasons because if he hits the open market it’s likely that most of the league will be interested.
Evan Bouchard hadn’t been given many real opportunities to prove himself in the NHL prior to this season but now that he’s been thrust into a more consistent role, he’s more than proven himself. The 2018 10th overall pick has been arguably the Oilers’ best defenseman this season and his value just keeps getting higher. There are just so few holes in his game, he moves the puck, skates well, and has a phenomenal shot from the point. The Oilers already gave big money to Darnell Nurse this past offseason but they shouldn’t let that deter them from extending Bouchard long-term. At 6’3, 194, he’s the 1B to Nurse’s 1A that the Oilers have been in search of and if he hits the open market when he becomes an RFA after the 2022-23 season it wouldn’t be a surprise if another team were to offer sheet him. Ken Holland and Co. should look to give him a similar deal to the one I suggested for Puljujarvi but given the increased money that top-tier defensemen have been getting lately, don’t be surprised if he gets even more.
Jesse Puljujarvi and Evan Bouchard have proven themselves to be massive parts of the Oilers’ success this season and the front office should be looking to lock them up long-term, sooner rather than later. Both these guys could get themselves big deals on the open market and they’re far too valuable to just let go so extending them has to be a priority. McDavid and Draisaitl can’t win a Cup by themselves and Pulju and Bouch are the perfect pieces to help bring this team to the promised land.