The Same But Different

Matt Henderson
January 10 2017 08:00AM

Yesterday the Oilers sent Jesse Puljujarvi down to the AHL, finally owned up the fact that he wasn’t quite ready for the NHL even though they cleared a spot for him and sheltered him as much as possible. But we’ve seen this a lot from the Oilers. It’s basically the exact same thing that they did with Leon Draisaitl and he turned out fine, great even! So what’s the big deal?

Well, when it comes to what the Oilers did with Puljujarvi versus Draisaitl, the similarities are striking. However, there are some key differences. They are the same, but different.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before

The Edmonton Oilers get enamoured with an 18-year-old forward who was blessed with a man’s body and from the moment they draft him they dub him “NHL ready” regardless of any evidence to the contrary. A spot on the team for the position that he plays suddenly becomes open and there is almost no depth there to push the kid, who was taken in the top five of the draft. The player is clearly talented and shows some flashes of what makes him special early. However, he’s not up to the grind of the NHL yet and struggles offensively despite being sheltered. Roughly halfway through the year the team decides that the experiment has failed and demotes him to the next lowest available league.

This is the story of Leon Draisaitl, who was drafted third overall and was deemed NHL ready despite the fact that he himself said he needed another year in Junior. Then GM Craig MacTavish traded Sam Gagner, the team’s de facto 2C, for a winger, and there was nobody else at camp with the skill level to play regular second line minutes. Draisaitl played 37 games and finally the team makes the call to send him to the CHL, where he killed it for the remainder of the year.

Draisaitl scored at a pace that matched some of the best players in the CHL, was named the Western Hockey League playoff MVP and then the Memorial Cup MVP in a losing effort. He came back to the Oilers in the fall and after a brief demotion established himself as an NHL scorer. Now he’s the second best offensive player on the Oilers and everything is coming up Milhouse.

So why is everyone so upset about what Chiarelli and the Oilers did with Jesse Puljujarvi when things worked out so well with Draisaitl?

It’s all about the differences in how they were handled and the options that were available to the Oilers.

One last time for the similarities, though. Here are the two players in some key stats.

2014-2015 Draisaitl: 37GP, 2-7-9, 52.1% CF (first among Forwards), 44.0% OZFO (first among Forwards), Sent to WHL Jan 4th, 2015

2016-2017 Puljujarvi: 28GP, 1-7-8, 53.2% CF (fourth among Forwards), 36.4% OZFO (third among Forwards), Sent to AHL Jan 9th, 2016

Here are the big differences between how the Oilers handled both players:

1) Leon played more hockey

2) The Oilers burned a year of club control with Jesse

3) The Oilers had way more flexibility with Jesse

When Edmonton committed to playing the 18-year-old Leon Draisaitl, they at the very least committed to playing him. He played in 37 of the first 39 games of the year. With Jesse Puljujarvi the Oilers were content to play him sparingly. The Finn appeared in just 28 of the first 42 games of the season. So while Draisaitl saw 95% of the available games, Puljuajrvi saw just 67% of them. Within the games themselves, Draisaitl played nearly a full minute more per game at 12:41 per game versus 11:15 per game for Puljujarvi.

The difference in terms of total playing time between Draisaitl and Puljujarvi over what is essentially the same time span is that Leon played 469:44 NHL minutes between October and early January and Jesse played just 315:07. Maybe not everybody sees that as a lot, but 154 and a half minutes in the NHL based on his TOI average is the equivalent of 13 and a half games for Puljujarvi. I think it’s significantly fewer minutes for the big Finn who had even less experience playing in North American rinks than Draisaitl did at the same age.

We’re talking about playing time for the youngest player in the NHL this year. Hard to argue this was best for his development.

The biggest difference between how these two young forwards were handled, though, was with regards to the 40 game question. Both players burned the first year of their entry-level contracts after they played their 10th games, but with Leon Draisaitl the club sent him down to the WHL the morning before the team’s 40th game. Even though Draisiatl had only played in 37 games, being on the roster for 40 games would have meant that he had accrued one NHL season played and the clock would begin ticking on when he reaches free agency.

Draisaitl was sent to the WHL before the 40th game so he did not accrue the season. Instead of becoming a UFA at 25, Draisaitl cannot become a UFA until 26 years of age. Club control has now and will always mean money saved on contract negotiations. Every year “bought” of free agency makes potential deals cost more money. Let’s not forget the position the Oilers were in when Sam Gagner was going to become the league’s youngest UFA. The team was leveraged into signing a contract it almost immediately regretted. Had they another year of club control, that could have been avoided.

Every advantage matters.

With Puljujarvi, the Oilers played him in 28 games but didn’t send him down to the AHL until the 42nd game of the season. Jesse Puljujarvi’s countdown to UFA status has begun. This is a team that will need every advantage possible to retain players for as little on the cap is possible because we know it is a certainty that Connor McDavid will be able to command double digits if he wants it. Every single dollar saved will matter for the Oilers. In this case, the Oilers gave an asset the most powerful bargaining chip it could have to use against them. It’s a ticking time bomb and we can’t possibly know its ramifications for years.

Why is this so frustrating?

This is maddening because it was avoidable. One of the biggest differences between Draisaitl and Puljujarvi is which leagues they were drafted out of. By virtue of being drafted from the CHL, Draisaitl was subject to the transfer agreement between the CHL and NHL. Long story short with him, it was either all NHL or no NHL. Once a player is sent down they can't come back up.

By being drafted out of Europe, Puljujarvi is under no such limitations. Jesse Puljujarvi can be sent to the AHL at any time and returned to the NHL whenever his team wants. In addition to this, playing in the AHL would NOT burn a year from his ELC nor burn a year of club control. In other words, Puljujarvi could have played every single game in the AHL this year and his contract would have slid to next year and he couldn’t be a UFA until he was 26 at the earliest.

Jesse Puljujarvi isn't a bust in January 2017 any more than Leon Draisaitl was in January 2015. He could still be the best RW on the team next year and become a game breaking player for the Oilers. The problem for the team now is that if he does do this, then it will cost them more money, quicker. That’s why what has transpired here with Puljujarvi is not the same as what happened with Draisaitl. They played him less and mishandled their asset more, and they did it to themselves when they had other options.

You might not care about that now. You might think highlighting the differences is splitting hairs. But, in a few years when Chiarelli has to find ways to keep all his good young players, these decisions will make all the difference in the world.

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Arch has a BA in Anthropology and an MA in Classical Archaeology. He once shook Don Cherry's hand immediately after handling raw meat. He writes for HockeyBuzz and OilersNation covering the Oilers. Tweet him @Archaeologuy
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#101 OilHorse
January 10 2017, 02:20PM
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Not a First Tier Fan wrote:

Exactly what blinders did he have on? Analytically he was right on. But he didn't read into other subjective 'maybes' that all the folks in the comments section are bringing up.

As far as his point was concerned that was the right approach. Because nobody except those involved have any way of knowing what those maybes are... if there are any.

Articles that speculate are fine - especially if you're a Leafs fans. Matt stuck to the known in this one which is just as fine. It's nice to have a website that publishes a balanced mix of things.

The blinders that he has made his mind up on how he wants this to be. He does it quite often.

I dropped a link to another article, it is on the first page. It paints another picture of why.

I bet Matt didnt read it, nor will he I bet. It presents an alternative to the decision making he thinks is going on.

I think the team is not worried about sinking the cost into this kid, they just want to take it slow and give it the "white glove" treatment.

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#102 toprightcorner
January 10 2017, 02:23PM
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Saying that the Oilers were stupid to burn a year of team control is extremely short sighted. For one moment, do you really think that Chairelli did not sit down with his staff and put a plan together with different options on how to handle JP this season? Do you think they just simply forgot to send him down a week ago oblivious to the 40 games on the roster rule?

Saying that losing a year of team control will cost the Oilers financially in the end is plain stupidity. Do you think Chairelli has gone through the first half of the season without talking to JP's agent? The Oilers plans would have been discussed with his agent every step of the way and if they all agreed that this was best for JP, then there would be an understanding that burning a year of control was for JP and his development and not for JP to cash in and take advantage of the situation. If Chairelli could not get an agreement of sorts done with the agent, then he would have been sent to the AHL sooner.

JP has made hundred's of thousands of dollars more by staying in the NHL this long compared to his AHL salary.

Burning that year before sending him down also take any pressure of the team if they decide to bring him back up in 30 games if he is ready.

Looking at the surface generalities of the situation is the easiest way to be delusional about the actual reasons and long term benefits.

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#103 Not a First Tier Fan
January 10 2017, 02:30PM
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@OilHorse

10-4. I hear you and would agree sometimes. I saw Matt use this approach on his articles about Russell...

That being said in this one Matt looked at the situation analytically and avoided the 'unknowns'. I read the article you linked to and it seemed a lot more speculative to me. If some of the maybes factor into the decision here then okay - but how do you know for sure?

I don't think Matt has blinders on for this one - he just stuck to the known facts on the table and went from there. Unless you want to live in an echo chamber we need some posts like that.

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#104 toprightcorner
January 10 2017, 02:33PM
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JP is the Oilers star RWer of the future. He is in the same group as Draisaitl when it comes to the core of the team playing with McDavid for the next 10 years. Burning a year of team control means absolutely nothing as JP will get his 8 year contract after his ELC is up. History shows that salaries go up every year and the sooner you sign players to that 8 year contract the better, waiting an extra year likely adds $1 million a year in salary.

The UFA age will have nothing to do with his next contract and signing the 8 year contract when JP is 21 means he is only 29 when it is done and is not a depreciating asset when they sign him for another 3-4 years at that time, leaving time for one last end of career contract.

Draisaitl will get his long term contract next season, McDavid the year after and JP the following year. Klefbom and Larson have long term contracts and that is your very young core that allows the Oilers to compete for many years.

I guarantee you that this decision is actually much better for the team all around then anyone scratching the surface would think.

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#105 toprightcorner
January 10 2017, 02:49PM
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Not a First Tier Fan wrote:

10-4. I hear you and would agree sometimes. I saw Matt use this approach on his articles about Russell...

That being said in this one Matt looked at the situation analytically and avoided the 'unknowns'. I read the article you linked to and it seemed a lot more speculative to me. If some of the maybes factor into the decision here then okay - but how do you know for sure?

I don't think Matt has blinders on for this one - he just stuck to the known facts on the table and went from there. Unless you want to live in an echo chamber we need some posts like that.

JP is the Oilers star RWer of the future. He is in the same group as Draisaitl when it comes to the core of the team playing with McDavid for the next 10 years. Burning a year of team control means absolutely nothing as JP will get his 8 year contract after his ELC is up. History shows that salaries go up every year and the sooner you sign players to that 8 year contract the better, waiting an extra year likely adds $1 million a year in salary.

The UFA age will have nothing to do with his next contract and signing the 8 year contract when JP is 21 means he is only 29 when it is done and is not a depreciating asset when they sign him for another 3-4 years at that time, leaving time for one last end of career contract.

Draisaitl will get his long term contract next season, McDavid the year after and JP the following year. Klefbom and Larson have long term contracts and that is your very young core that allows the Oilers to compete for many years.

I guarantee you that this decision is actually much better for the team all around then anyone scratching the surface would think.

The problem with sticking to know facts in articles such as these is that the known facts are actually assumed facts and therefore could easily be very inaccurate. Here the assumed facts are that the Oilers took nothing else into consideration when making this decision other than the 40 game threshold. Doing so gives you the basis and direction for your article before you even write it.

If Matt had also written some possible scenarios as to how this move could be advantageous to the Oilers, then the article would have been a much more informative one and not just an unresearched opinion piece.

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#106 916oiler
January 10 2017, 02:57PM
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I think MH is one of the best writers on this site. Don't listen to the people who say otherwise...they were the same people who thought Hall was the problem, or that global warming isn't a problem.

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#107 camdog
January 10 2017, 03:08PM
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Not a First Tier Fan wrote:

So you pointed out that no one except those involved can know what promises were made to JP when he signed.

So what? Are you suggesting that nobody can ever analyze the effects (good or bad) of a move a GM makes because we're not present for the conversation at deal time? That's ridiculous and I don't think that's what you're trying to say... (especially since this very thread you rightly criticize the Gustavsson signing.)

But your criticism of Hendersons article wasn't using a critical eye here... you just entirely ignored what he was talking about in order to make your own point. there's a difference.

There's analyzing a situation and then their's building your own story line. Without knowing some key information here, there is a lot of story building going on...

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#108 Not a First Tier Fan
January 10 2017, 03:24PM
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@toprightcorner

Sorry - you lost me when you rewrote your entire previous post almost in entirety and then started some nonsense about known facts being assumed facts.

Everything Hendo referenced was either stat or actual fact. He then provided his opinion about those facts and why they matter. Disagree with his opinion if you like, but if your issue is that he didn't speculate to reasons why Chiarelli made the decisions he did then you're missing the point of the article.

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#109 Redbird62
January 10 2017, 03:56PM
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Not a First Tier Fan wrote:

Sorry - you lost me when you rewrote your entire previous post almost in entirety and then started some nonsense about known facts being assumed facts.

Everything Hendo referenced was either stat or actual fact. He then provided his opinion about those facts and why they matter. Disagree with his opinion if you like, but if your issue is that he didn't speculate to reasons why Chiarelli made the decisions he did then you're missing the point of the article.

Matt overreaches at least once in his paper when it comes to drawing conclusions from the facts he submits. When he states "This is maddening because it was avoidable", without knowing the arrangements that others have brought up, he does not know that it was avoidable. On this same point, he also said "they had other options", but again he does not know that. Others have written that perhaps the Oilers need to explain their rationale for keeping JP around as long as they did and then people can debate on whether the Oilers rationale for the move was reasonable. Reading Matt's paper, he seems to suggest there was no rationale and that the Oilers seem to have just screwed up for no apparent reason. I would also be highly critical of the Oilers if they accidentally kept JP around without know the potential ramifications to future negotiations especially given how much it has been talked about since game 9.

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#110 Not a First Tier Fan
January 10 2017, 04:10PM
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@Redbird62

Not sure it's an over-reach since at this point it's only speculation that anything else was involved in when to send JP down other than what's currently on the table. But fair enough - although I'm defending Hendos article I'd actually rather give Chiarelli the benefit of the doubt myself.

I just appreciate good writing when I see it and I want to keep encouraging ON to keep bringing in multiple viewpoints - even if they're unpopular.

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#111 smith
January 10 2017, 04:10PM
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It is awesome the Oilers are doing better. They should be after 10 years of being absolute......

Yes they are finally doing better but I for one think that it is not actually about the brilliance of their management and is more about a collection of extremely high picks (one of which may be as good as anyone to come into the NHL in the last 50 years).

The management should get criticized for bad decisions (poolparty, Larson, Reinhart, Back up goalie etc....) just like they should get props for the good decisions (Maroon, Talbot ....um .... help...)

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#112 Harry2
January 10 2017, 08:20PM
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smith wrote:

It is awesome the Oilers are doing better. They should be after 10 years of being absolute......

Yes they are finally doing better but I for one think that it is not actually about the brilliance of their management and is more about a collection of extremely high picks (one of which may be as good as anyone to come into the NHL in the last 50 years).

The management should get criticized for bad decisions (poolparty, Larson, Reinhart, Back up goalie etc....) just like they should get props for the good decisions (Maroon, Talbot ....um .... help...)

If you cant see that Larsson was so very badly needed on defence even at the expense of Hall then your not looking hard enough.

Our higest goal scoring forward, starting goalie and our top shutdown defenceman were all aquired by Chiarelli and were all massive upgrades over what was already on the team

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#113 smith
January 11 2017, 09:10AM
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Harry2 wrote:

If you cant see that Larsson was so very badly needed on defence even at the expense of Hall then your not looking hard enough.

Our higest goal scoring forward, starting goalie and our top shutdown defenceman were all aquired by Chiarelli and were all massive upgrades over what was already on the team

If you cannot see that Hall is a gigantic over payment for Larson then I do not know what to tell you.

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