RALEIGH — As contenders across the Eastern Conference made big acquisitions, the Hurricanes declined to pay the sky-high prices that come with making deals ahead of Friday’s NHL trade deadline.
Carolina instead decided to buy low on a former fourth overall pick, trading for Oilers right wing Jesse Puljujarvi in exchange for former third-round pick Patrik Puistola. Puljujarvi will be reunited with Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho, who along with Patrik Laine made up a dominant line at the 2016 World Junior Championships that led Finland to gold.
Puljujarvi and Laine came out of the tournament as the two prized Finnish prospects and were selected second and fourth overall by Winnipeg and Edmonton, respectively. Aho, meanwhile, had been drafted in the second round a year earlier and has compiled the best career of the trio.
The Hurricanes are hoping a reunion with his former linemate can turn around what’s been a disappointing career for Puljujarvi.
The 6-foot-4, 201-pound winger has totaled 51 goals and 112 points in 317 career games, posting a career-high 36 points in 65 games last season before regressing to five goals and nine assists in 58 games in a limited role this season.
“Jesse possesses a great blend of size and skill, and he will add to the depth of our forward group,” Hurricanes president and GM Don Waddell said in a press release. “He has familiarity with some of our other Finnish players, and we see him as a great fit for our team and locker room.”
The 24-year-old has long been criticized in Edmonton for not fulfilling the expectations of a high pick, and his connection to Aho has led to years-long rumors that the two could be reunited with the Hurricanes.
With Edmonton looking to create cap space — Puljujarvi makes $3 million and will be a restricted free agent following the season — to make an addition on defense, Carolina was able to acquire Puljujarvi for a minimum cost.
Puistola was selected 73rd overall and leads Ligga’s Jukurit Mikkeli in scoring this season, and he would have needed to be signed by June 1 for the Hurricanes to retain his rights.
While the connection to Aho is an obvious fit, Puljujarvi will likely start on Carolina’s fourth line and could see power play time, though his role on the man advantage was limited in Edmonton — he had seven power play points in a career-high 95:26 minutes last season.