The Jesse Puljujarvi saga has taken its latest turn. The Finnish forward and his agent have been adamant since the get-go that Puljujarvi would not return to Edmonton for a fourth season with the club. Recently, Puljujarvi admitted to the media that he wasn’t likely to leave Europe until a trade was consummated.
A trade has, to this point, failed to materialize. Oilers GM Ken Holland has stood his ground and been steadfast in his claim that he will not make a trade unless the deal makes sense for the club. From the start, the most likely option seemed to be Puljujarvi playing a season in Europe.
Puljujarvi now has a contract in Europe, as the forward agreed to a one-year deal with Oulun Karpat shortly after midnight on Tuesday morning.
Puljujarvi returns to Europe to play for the first time since his draft-eligible season of 2015-16. He played that season for Karpat, appearing in 50 games and registering 28 (13-15-28) points on a team that featured future NHL star Sebastian Aho.
The big Finn was supposed to come to Edmonton and, at the very least, help mitigate the loss of Taylor Hall. It never materialized that way. Puljujarvi clearly wasn’t ready from the start in 2016, but was thrust into the Edmonton lineup for 28 games between opening night and early January.
The Oilers did Puljujarvi no favors in the development process, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the player has reached his breaking point. The club yo-yo’d him constantly between the NHL and AHL, and never truly let him get established in either league. Edmonton’s handling of Puljujarvi is a textbook example of what not to do with a prospect.
This isn’t all on the organization, however. Puljujarvi himself has been wildly inconsistent on the ice, and there have been question marks about his fit in the room. He’s always come off as a very nice kid who means well, but it appears he’s made some mistakes along the way. Then again, who hasn’t made mistakes at his age?
Even with a new coach and a new general manager, Puljujarvi had no desire to return to Edmonton. Read that how you may, but it appears Puljujarvi’s issues with the club are deeper than many thought. The fit, at this point in time, simply isn’t there in the forward’s mind. In fact, it likely never will be.
There has been, and will be, frustration with this situation. Many fans won’t be thrilled with the thought of Puljujarvi playing out a season in Europe and the Oilers appearing to come out of this situation with nothing.
Personally, I think this is a fine outcome that has the potential to work for both Puljujarvi and the Oilers. With Karpat, there is little doubt that Puljujarvi will get a featured offensive role and will be put in a position to post offensive numbers.
With a good season in Finland’s top league, Puljujarvi could rebuild some of his trade value, which could in turn lead to a better haul for Holland and the Oilers. If Puljujarvi has a good season, everyone wins. He gets the trade he wants, and the Oilers get a deal that they are more likely to pry something of value from.
Ken Holland is playing the long game here, and I think it is the right move. For far too long, the Oilers have bled talent and lost trades. Holland was dealing from a position of weakness, but held strong and now has a chance to see his asset rebuild some value in a good spot in Europe.
Joe Sakic waited on Matt Duchene, while Steve Yzerman did the same with Jonathan Drouin. The results? Very solid returns for both organizations. In fact, one could argue both teams ended up winning the deals they made.
It’s unfortunate that Puljujarvi’s career has come to this point. A once promising prospect’s time with the Edmonton Oilers is seemingly over. Puljujarvi will play out the season in Europe, and the hope now has to be that he performs well enough to rebuild some value.
It’s far from ideal, but it also isn’t the worst scenario. Everyone should be hoping for a solid season from the Finn with Karpat. It could end this saga and get everyone what they want.