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Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jesse Puljujarvi’s agent questions client’s future in Edmonton

Nothing has gone right for the Oilers as of late. They’ve dropped eight of their last nine games, they’re closer to dead last in the league than they are a wild card spot, and it seems inevitable that they’re going to end up on the outside looking in at the conclusion of yet another disappointing season.

To compound matters, one of their supposed key building blocks moving forward is questioning his future with the organization. Per Mark Spector, Jesse Puljujarvi’s agent stated concern with his client’s future with the Oilers and suggested “going different paths” might be beneficial.

To say Puljujarvi’s season has been disappointing would be an understatement. The former fourth-overall pick came into 2018-19 labelled as a potential breakout player. The Oilers badly needed somebody to step up on the wings and Puljujarvi looked incredibly good and confident in training camp and the pre-season.

But it hasn’t translated to the regular season. Puljujarvi has just four goals and nine points in 45 games, which puts him on pace to produce even less than he did in an underwhelming 2017-18 season that he spent between Bakersfield and Edmonton. Worst of all, Puljujarvi’s confidence appears to be completely gone. He looks nervous on the ice, completely lost and terrified to make a mistake.

Still, it’s important to remember Puljujarvi is only 20 years old. He’s technically young enough to still be playing Major Junior. Why the Oilers refuse to give him extended AHL time — on a club that’s playing incredibly well nonetheless — is bewildering. As of right now, Puljujarvi’s confidence is eroding with each passing game he plays at the NHL level.

According to Ryan Rishaug, the Oilers have considered trading the young Finn if the right deal comes along. They’ve also considered sending him down to the AHL.

I would certainly hope the Oilers don’t rush to deal Puljujarvi at his lowest point of value. They’ve completely botched his development thus far and jettisoning him after just three years would be horrendous asset management. At the very least, if the organization doubts his future, they should send him down to the AHL where he can gain confidence, inflate his stats, and gain back some value.

Puljujarvi’s case reminds me somewhat of one we saw with Nino Niederreiter about a decade ago. A year after being drafted fifth-overall, the Islanders kept Niederreiter on the team despite him clearly being out of his depth. He played 55 games scoring just one goal. The Islanders would end up trading him in a wildly lopsided deal for Cal Clutterbuck just three years after drafting him. Niederreiter has gone on to become an excellent player.

The Oilers, I think, need to stick this thing out. They messed up rushing Puljujarvi to the NHL when he should have spent his post-draft year in Europe and his first year in North America in Bakersfield. They can’t travel back in time, but they can make things right by letting Puljujarvi develop in the AHL, like they’re doing with similar-aged prospects in Tyler Benson and Kailer Yamamoto.

The team is desperately in need of talent, but they can’t let their short-term needs get in the way of the long-term development of their key players.

  • Bills Bills

    This article makes me want to throw my phone into the ocean. Seriously WTF is wrong with the Oilers? Not one writer, blogger or fan has said that sending JP to the AHL for an extended period of development would be a bad thing. Not flipping one!!!

    Yet the brain trust at Oilers HQ can’t get it through their thick frigging skulls????

    This is maddening, I am 44 years old and watched this team through thick and thin and this last decade or so makes the Kay Stevens era of Eskimos look like a fond time of remembrance.

    It’s gross. Makes me want to puke.

    I feel incredibly exhausted as a fan. Do they know how tired we are?

      • Bills Bills

        I am in Mexico until May and I even packed my McDavid jersey just in case. The last thing I want to stress about is the Oilers but as a fan I am a glutten for punishment I guess.

        • MontanaMan

          I am not an Oiler fan and never will be but fans like Bills Bills show how much passion and commitment Oiler fans have to an organization that in recent memory doesn’t deserve such loyalty. I have very little respect for the Oiler organization but a ton of respect for their fanbase. Hopefully better days ahead.

    • VvV

      Puljujarvi clearly has a clause in place that he can’t go to Bakersfield for an extended period of time or he will demand a trade or head to Europe. That has been my speculation, and that was all but confirmed with the latest news, there’s no other explanation.

      • Jason Gregor

        I can tell you there is no clause that says he can’t go for an extended time. He played 39 games in AHL as a rookie. That was an extended period of time.

        • VvV

          I didn’t mean a literal clause in his contract, obviously he doesn’t have that. I’m talking a informal deal, a handshake agreement or his agent is holding them hostage where he we go to Europe or demand a trade if he is in Bakersfield for an extended period of time. He was in the AHL for 39 games in his rookie year, that was a couple years ago, things can change. You have a better idea as to why this is happening? Lord knows you won’t actually ask the Edmonton management when given the chance.

        • If we’re bringing up JP’s rookie season it needs to be pointed out that he didn’t earn anything past 9 games in the NHL and its for that reason that his contract needs renewal this offseason and we still don’t know what kind of player we have.

  • Deported to Ottawa

    No surprise. The Oilers are a terrible organization with a track record of missed draft picks, poor player development, and terrible results. JP has been mishandled from the start.

  • Schmenge

    For all that holy; please send him down with the kids in Bakersfield; the confidence and fun, they are having there should also be experienced by Jesse.

    • Die Hard Oiler Fan

      Agreed. In addition it gets Jesse away from the “tire fire” in Edmonton. All this talk about “playoffs or bust” from Nicholson is a pipe dream, if not outright stupidity. It ws not that long ago that the Oilers actually held the second wildcard spot. Now they are 7 back of Min, and have been passed by numerous teams (St. Louis, Chicago, Arizona….). Per Tankathon website, the Oilers are currently 6th last in the entire league. This team is not making the playoffs ! Soon management will realize this (even if it takes being mathematically eliminated to get it through their skulls). Hopefully they are smart enough (and able) to trade some of the bottom 6 forwards and bottom pairing defensemen for some addional picks in the 2019 draft, and we go from there. It is going to take 2-3 years to recover from Chia’s incompetence. So what I’m trying to say is that it is probably just going to get uglier in Edmonton over the remainder of the season – no place for a prospect struggling with confidence. So for Godness sakes sit down with the kid and explain this to him, send him to Bakersfield, and let him contribute to a winning team, and enjoy the game again. It will be the responsibility of the new GM (and new coach ?) to make sure things change next year. Do not trade Jesse !!!