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Report: Lightning discussed trade with Edmonton Oilers involving Jesse Puljujärvi and Alex Volkov

Elliotte Friedman provided details in his 31 Thoughts column.

San Jose Sharks v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

In his most recent 31 Thoughts column, Elliotte Friedman reported some additional details on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s interest in Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi. Friedman had previously discussed on NHL network that the Lightning had expressed interest in Puljujärvi. But in his column, he provided more detail specifying that forward Alex Volkov was one of the players discussed as part of a potential return.

Puljujärvi was the 4th overall pick in 2016 while Volkov was a surprise second round selection in 2017. Despite Volkov being picked a year after Puljujärvi, the current Oilers forward is the younger of the two players because Volkov was a double overager at the time of his selection.

The two players have performed similarly in the AHL. Puljujärvi has spent most of his time in Edmonton with just 53 games in the AHL and most of them coming in the 16-17 season. But in total, he has 37 points in those games, which is about 0.7 points per game. Volkov has played 149 AHL games scoring 93 points for 0.6 points per game. Neither player has been dominant at that level but both have shown encouraging signs. Considering that Puljujärvi was much younger when he posted the majority of those numbers, his production is a bit more impressive.

Most of the mystique around Puljujärvi is due to his draft position and the scouting reports from before he arrived in the NHL. He was the consensus third best player in that draft with the Columbus Blue Jackets surprising everyone by selecting Pierre Luc-Dubois third overall instead. So far, that appears to have been a prudent move.

Puljujärvi spent most of his draft season in the Finnish top league posting an impressive 28 points including 13 goals. He projected as a goal scoring winger at the NHL level but so far that hasn’t materialized. He has scored just 37 points, 17 of them goals, in 139 games so far for the Oilers. Looking deeper at his shot metrics doesn’t improve the view much. According to both Evolving Hockey and HockeyViz, he’s been slightly above average offensively and slightly below average defensively.

Edmonton bears some of the responsibility for Puljujärvi lack of development but exactly how much is uncertain. He probably should have spent more time in the AHL over the last three seasons but the Oilers desperation to win now kept him in the NHL. He’s also not the first high draft pick to not find success in Edmonton. All of that appears to be coming to a crescendo as he prepares to spend this season in Finland instead of signing a new contract with the Oilers as a restricted free agent.

Thus, the team is reportedly open to trading him. Hearing that the Lightning have inquired about him shouldn’t be too surprising. The Bolts front office seems to do their due diligence on just about every available player and has done quite a bit of smart bargain shopping this summer signing Kevin Shattenkirk and Pat Maroon to below market value deals. Puljujärvi appears to be another opportunity to acquire a player while their value is suppressed so it makes sense that the Lightning would check in with Ken Holland on the cost. Especially considering that Holland might not be as protective of a prospect he wasn’t involved in drafting.

As far as the reported ask of Alex Volkov, the perception of value in that swap will depend on how much potential people still see in Puljujärvi. If you still think of him as the player who deserved to go in the top 3 of his draft class, you might think a deal like Volkov and mid round pick would be a big win for the Lightning. But if you think of him as the player who has struggled so far in the NHL, a one for one swap for Volkov might seem like a wash given the two players similar AHL numbers.

If the Lightning balked at Volkov, another player who might be interesting to consider would be Carter Verhaeghe. At 24 years old, Verhaeghe is ready for an NHL chance now after leading the AHL in scoring last year. The Oilers need scoring wingers immediately to bolster their top six and he would have an opportunity to earn one of those jobs. But if the Lightning think his breakout last season was real, even that might be too steep of a price.

Overall, the likelihood a deal gets done is probably low. This is most likely just a case of the Lightning front office exploring all of their options. But if Puljujärvi stays in Finland into the beginning of the season and the Oilers feel more pressured to move him, the price might drop, which could be another opportunity for the Lightning to make a low risk move to add organizational depth.