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It appears that Jesse Puljujarvi, the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, has played his last game with the Edmonton Oilers. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on Wednesday that Puljujarvi has made it very clear to the Oilers that he wants out.
Puljujarvi has struggled to gain a foothold in the NHL as a top-six forward, and hasn’t been able to adapt to a depth role. He only appeared in 46 games for the Oilers in 2018-19, and found himself spending time in the AHL for the third season in a row.
In his NHL games, Puljujarvi simply didn’t produce any offense. He managed just four goals in those 46 games, finishing the year with boxcars of 4-5-9. It was a disappointing year for the Finn, who scored 12 goals in 2017-18 and looked dominant during the preseason last September.
After three frustrating seasons, Puljujarvi’s agent Markus Lehto doesn’t think it makes sense for him to return to Northern Alberta.
The Oilers, on paper, are backed into a corner here. They desperately need secondary scoring and Puljujarvi is a guy that has all the tools to succeed. Yes, it has been a frustrating three seasons, but there is a reason the Finn was the fourth overall pick in 2016.
His value is, without doubt, at its lowest point currently. Trading Puljujarvi at this point very well could comeback to bite the Oilers. It’s a story as old as time, really. Edmonton mishandles an asset, ships it out at its lowest value, then watches said asset flourish with its new organization.
GM Ken Holland, in his first off-season running Hockey Operations for the club, has been thrown a curveball. He doesn’t plan on letting the player dictate the terms here, however.
Holland spoke with 630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer on Thursday night.
Puljujarvi, if not traded, will go and play in Finland in 2019-20. Unless something changes in the coming months, he won’t play another game for the Edmonton Oilers. Even with the threat of Europe, I think the Oilers would be wise to qualify Puljujarvi and simply wait it out.
If a deal doesn’t present itself that makes sense in the next few weeks, you wait. Let Puljujarvi go to Europe, it can only raise his value. If he plays in the KHL and posts solid numbers, perhaps someone will take a chance on him and pay a higher price than he would command right now.
Holland has nothing to lose by holding onto the player’s rights and letting him rebuild his value in Europe. If anything, it could help long-term.
I don’t believe Holland will be intimidated into making a deal. He’s notorious for being a firm negotiator and he isn’t afraid to wait until the deal benefits him. Remember, he was willing to let Andreas Athanasiou sit out regular season games if he didn’t get a deal he liked.
Holland won’t let Puljujarvi and Lehto dictate the terms. Nor should he.
Whose Fault Is It Anyway?:
This is the million dollar question. For the most part, it really doesn’t matter. The damage is done, and just about every character from this tragedy will be gone within the next year.
Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli never gave Puljujarvi the chance to succeed. They rushed him to Edmonton in 2016 to offset the trade of Taylor Hall. It was clear then that Puljujarvi wasn’t ready for the NHL. He should have been playing in Europe or in the AHL in 2016-17, and should have started the 2017-18 season in the AHL as well.
In fact, one could make the argument that Puljujarvi shouldn’t have seen an opening night roster until this past October. He was rushed, and that falls on management.
McLellan, and to a lesser degree Ken Hitchcock, failed him as well. They never gave him a consistent role in the lineup, and almost never put Puljujarvi in a top-six role. He was often relegated to playing with Milan Lucic. Not exactly an offensive hotbed.
The Oilers didn’t set Puljujarvi up for success. No, they set this player up to fail. That failure falls on the shoulders of the organization.
Some blame needs to go to Puljujarvi as well. Bottom line is, he didn’t do enough to earn more time in a top-six role. He was far too inconsistent and I thought was committing the same mistakes regularly.
Blame falls mostly on the organization for putting an 18-year old in a position to fail, but the player also didn’t do enough and that must be noted here.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. My money is on Puljujarvi getting a qualifying offer from the Oilers in the coming days, and eventually heading home to play in Finland for the 2019-20 season.
The only way Holland deals the forward in the coming days and weeks is if the deal benefits the Oilers. That’s a refreshing change from management teams of the past.
It’s unfortunate that the Puljujarvi era has to end this way. Fittingly, though, the final blow from the Chiarelli error comes from the grave.