Jesse Puljujarvi inked a two-year, $1.6 million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday with an average annual value of $850,000.
A 25-year-old forward, signed as an NHL professional tryout on December 10, has recorded nine points (four goals and five assists) across 13 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League this season.
Coach Mike Sullivan announced on Monday night that Puljujarvi may make his Pittsburgh Penguins debut against the Winnipeg Jets (7 pm ET, SN-PIT and TSN3) on Tuesday (7 pm ET/SN-PIT/TSN3) after having bilateral hip surgery this offseason. It would mark his first NHL game post-surgery.
“I feel fantastic!” Puljujarvi exclaimed. “My hard work has paid off; being part of this team at this time is really rewarding.”
Puljujarvi skated at right wing on the third line with centre Lars Eller and left wing Rickard Rakell during practice on Sunday.
Puljujarvi expressed their joy over being free from pain during playing sessions, and his goal has always been to enjoy playing basketball – something he was grateful to do now that his journey had concluded.
Sullivan stated Puljujarvi’s AHL stint allowed the Penguins to gauge his physical recovery following hip replacement. Their comfort with his performance ultimately convinced them to offer him a contract.
“Part of his rehabilitation involved playing some games for Wilkes-Barre, allowing him to reacclimate,” according to Sullivan, which was getting him into some games to establish himself and his game. After significant surgery came an extensive rehab period, he underwent, part of that journey. So, this played a factor. Also Read: Justin Bieber impact on Team Matthews at All-Star Game
“With each game he played, he became more accomplished. So here we are today!”
Puljujarvi scored 16 points (five goals and 11 assists) across 75 regular season games for the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes last season, including two assists after being acquired through trade with Edmonton on February 28. Additionally, he recorded one assist in seven Stanley Cup Playoff contests.
Puljujarvi was selected with the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft by Edmonton and since has amassed 114 points (51 goals and 63 assists) across 334 regular season games for Carolina and Edmonton before contributing six postseason points (three goals and three assists).
“I believe my team needs me most when skating well, making good plays, and being true to who I am,” Puljujarvi stated. “Every day is another opportunity to bring energy and smiles; I am truly honoured and humbled to be part of such an outstanding group.”
Puljujarvi will join forward Reilly Smith and defenseman John Ludvig as Penguins players on Tuesday for their 23-17-7 record. Smith returned to left-wing practice Sunday following an upper-body injury sustained on January 11. Ludvig, however, hasn’t played since December 31 due to another upper-body issue.
“My strategy for approaching each season remains unchanged: one game at a time,” Smith explained. “Otherwise, my outlook doesn’t shift as the year unfolds.”