Alex Chiasson, Edmonton Oilers, Ethan Bear, Jesse Puljujarvi, Jujhar Khaira

Former Oilers Still Looking for New Homes in 2023-24

The Edmonton Oilers have filtered through some average to below-average talent over the years to get their team in the right spot to compete for a Stanley Cup. The most recent of this group came last season. There are still quite a few former Oilers without contracts for the 2023-24 season who might surprise you. Here’s a look at the group as we are about a month away from the start of the season and even less until training camps open.

Jesse Puljujarvi

Jesse Puljujarvi was one of the most mishandled young players in Oilers’ history. He was drafted behind three elite-level talents in the 2016 Draft and had a lot of ups and downs with the team. The saga lasted for seven long years as he was first rushed to the NHL, wouldn’t sign, and played overseas for a year, came back and looked like a changed player, then fell off. This ended with the Oilers dumping him to the Carolina Hurricanes at last season’s trade deadline.

Jesse Puljujarvi Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers
Jesse Puljujarvi, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Despite the challenges offensively while playing with two of the best players in the world, he has continued to be strong defensively, able to turn over and hunt pucks all over the ice, while being fast, physical, and big. He impressed even less on the Hurricanes after the trade, but I still believe that he can be a decent third-line option in the NHL. The ship has sailed on him turning into an elite all-around player, but his other qualities definitely lift him up. At the very least, he should be able to sign a PTO (professional tryout) this season and steal a depth spot on a team where he isn’t expected to score.

Ethan Bear

Ethan Bear will always be remembered in Edmonton for what he did for a whole community very early on in his career. He had one impressive season as a rookie but couldn’t repeat it and eventually got moved to the Hurricanes in exchange for Warren Foegele. He played parts of three seasons with the Oilers, one for the Hurricanes, and one for the Vancouver Canucks last season.

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Bear played in eight games at the World Championship this year for Team Canada. While he had a chance to boost his value, he didn’t really do so by recording zero points in the tournament. He is still only 26 years old and the talent level is still there. As a depth defenseman in an organization, he could be useful to a number of teams. It is likely he can still sign a two-way contract with a team during the season once he returns from injury around December. That’s lots of time for teams to figure out their defensive situation and some might be dealing with injuries.

Alex Chiasson

Alex Chiasson is the first, but not the only one of this group who has signed a PTO this season. He recently got invited to the Boston Bruins’ camp, which makes a lot of sense seeing as how his season turned out in 2022-23. He signed a contract at the beginning of March with the Detroit Red Wings but was actually great for them in the role he played.

Edmonton Oilers Alex Chiasson Vancouver Canucks Jacob Markstrom
Edmonton Oilers right wing Alex Chiasson sends the game-winning shootout goal past Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Obviously, nothing was expected of a player who signed that late in the season at league minimum, but he scored six goals and nine points in 20 NHL games and nine goals and 20 points in 29 games with the Red Wings’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. The soon-to-be 33-year-old spent three seasons with the Oilers and had his best season there. He scored 22 goals and 38 points in 2018-19 and has some sneaky scoring ability. I can see the Bruins likely signing him since their depth is very weak.

Jujhar Khaira

Juhjar Khaira was drafted by the Oilers back in 2012 and was with them until the end of the 2020-21 season. At the time, the organization had hope that he could become a reliable third-line checking forward for years to come. His best season came in his first full season in the NHL where he put up 11 goals and 21 points. It has been downhill from there, and he has had a tough time getting into every game in any season.

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Khaira did somewhat bounce back last season with the Chicago Blackhawks scoring six goals and 14 points in 51 games and also logging the highest average time on ice in his career (from “OILERS NOTES: Caleb Jones, Jujhar Khaira savouring fresh starts in Chicago”, Edmonton Sun, Nov. 30, 2022). But will it be enough for a team to take a chance on him? He is large, very physical, and can play multiple forward positions. There is a chance that he earns a PTO as well. There are a lot of teams without players on PTOs yet, and he’s just 29 years old.

Jujhar Khaira Edmonton Oilers
Jujhar Khaira, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There are three more former Oilers without contracts in Derick Brassard, Slater Koekkoek, and Dylan Wells. Surprisingly enough, Wells is the one who has earned himself a PTO to this point despite just one NHL game in his career. The 25-year-old was drafted by the Oilers in 2016 but has played the past two seasons in Chicago. He’s on a PTO with the Nashville Predators. Brassard spent a very short time with the Oilers and wasn’t really a factor in their 2021-22 playoff run. The 35-year-old proved he can still be effective with the Ottawa Senators last season. Lastly is Koekkoek, whose contract just ended with the Oilers, but hasn’t played since 2021-22. He is a depth defenseman at the very best and he’s the one player I can’t see earning any sort of contract.

A lot of the talent the Oilers have gone through might not fit on their team anymore but have the ability to play in the NHL this season. With the season quickly approaching, we will see who earns a contract for 2023-24.

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