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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

About Jesse

Unless agent Markus Lehto or Jesse Puljujarvi pick up the phone and tell Edmonton Oilers’ POHO and GM Ken Holland in no uncertain terms he won’t play for the Oilers again and he wants out of Edmonton so bad he can taste it, it makes no sense to trade him this off-season.

Until that conversation is had — we don’t have any indication that is the case, and recent buzz that Puljujarvi isn’t exactly happy with how things have gone in Edmonton shouldn’t be a revelation — it would be a huge mistake to move him down the road now when his value couldn’t possibly be lower.

To be honest, I’m not certain there’s a player here, but until the Oilers take the time to find out with Holland and Dave Tippett taking a run at turning him around, there’s no upside to moving him along. Yet, as of writing this, there are already items out there about potential trade targets in a deal for Puljujarvi, who is only 21 years old and coming off hip surgery.

What we do know is that through 139 games with the Oilers since being drafted fourth overall in the 2016 Entry Draft, Puljujarvi has struggled mightily to find and keep traction under coaches Todd McLellan and Ken Hitchcock. In parts of three seasons, despite being a big, lanky kid with a good shot and pretty decent wheels, his 37 points (17-20-37) is unquestionably underwhelming.

A SECOND LOOK

As always, there are extreme takes on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to players like Puljujarvi. Some people believe he has been handled so badly by the Oilers — jerked up and down and out of the line-up — he’s had no chance to succeed. What about his linemates? How come no sugar time on the power play? There are legitimate concerns about his usage amid the hyperbole.

At the other end of the spectrum is the camp that insists he’s simply a bust, that Puljujarvi is a player who doesn’t think the game that well and likely never will. Remember how Columbus GM Jarmo Kekäläinen passed on Puljujarvi at the draft and took Pierre-Luc Dubois instead? Hmm. If Jarmo said, “No thanks,” he must have known something, right?

I can’t get all-in with either of those camps. The truth, as is often the case, is likely somewhere in the middle. That said, it doesn’t really matter how Puljujarvi and the Oilers got to this point. What matters is they are here now and what happens next. If Holland and Tippett are going to turn Puljujarvi around, it’ll be a project. Ray Ferraro, whose opinion I trust more than anybody else I can think of, framed what he sees with Jason Gregor.

“My concern is he doesn’t look anything like he looked in junior,” said Ferraro. “In junior he carried the puck, he shot the puck, he used his size to create separation. He doesn’t do anything like that. When he gets the puck it looks like, and I’m going a lot by the very few games this year when I watched him live, his first thought seems to be to get rid of it as fast as he can because he doesn’t want to screw up. And you’re not even looking at a player anymore. You’re looking at a guy in a uniform. He has zero faith, it appears, in his ability right now.

“And so the first step would be to build him up and if he makes a mistake, look past it. Coach him up. Find him a path of confidence. And then if it doesn’t come, then it doesn’t come . . . he looks like he’s terrified — like to go to the wrong place, to be in the wrong place, to do the wrong thing. His assets are his physical gifts and he doesn’t use them. And to my mind they started him on a path he wasn’t ready for and the car starts going faster and you’re falling behind every block. And you just never catch up.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

I see what Ferraro sees, and I bet plenty of you do too. I don’t see a player with the confidence to impose his will and his skills on the ice. I see a kid who knows things have gone the wrong way and, as Ferraro said, feels like he can never catch up. Will he ever catch up and be the player people thought he might become on draft day? I honestly don’t know.

What I do know is I’d like to see Holland and Tippett have a go at finding out, assuming Puljujarvi and Lehto aren’t set on getting a fresh start with another team. There’s absolutely nothing to lose in giving it a season. If it doesn’t work out with fresh sets of eyes and new circumstances, the Oilers can walk away. Send Puljujarvi away now, at his lowest point, and the Oilers do so at their own peril.

We’ve seen that movie before, and it can end badly.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Holland wont trade Jesse unless he is in a package in a deal, Jesse and his agent were trying to get a trade last year and then this noise once again of a trade. Jesse’s value is way way too low right now, no return is going to be great ATM for Jesse.

    If Jesse really wants out his agent and Holland will have to sit and discuss where to go, the Oilers arent going to give him away, they are going to want something back, but right now the return is going to be low. If I am Jesse, I rehab get healthy come to camp with renewed focus and play my butt off
    That would benefit both him and the Oilers where he stays or goes, its’ up to Jesse to bring his trade value up, whether is is overseas, here or in Bakersfield. it’s up to him to help decide his future and where he wants to have a career playing hockey

      • OilTastic

        i know people keep repeating like a parrot that we can’t trade him because “his value is so low” but i think the idea here is that the Oilers would be looking for a team that would be trading for his *POTENTIAL* and not necessarily for what he has accomplished. maybe if we can’t get an Alex Nylander or Julien Gauthier in return, then maybe a low 1st or a 2nd rounder would be what we’d get instead?

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    He’s Yakupov 2.0.

    He has the tools, the pedigree, and seemingly a goofy and likeable demeanour. But for whatever reason (attitude? injuries? cultural barriers? Oilers?) he just can’t put it together and think at the NHL level.

    One silver lining is that Puljujarvi, unlike Yakupov, doesn’t need to be a scorer to be successful in the NHL. Maybe he develops into a solid defensive option. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing (which is what you’d get if you were to trade him now).

  • TKB2677

    At this point, the Oilers need to forget where JP was drafted and decide is he a player that can fill a role on the team or not? They could use good players on all 4 lines. So determine can he play in the NHL and contribute or not. Doesn’t matter he was a #4 overall. It doesn’t matter if he was drafted 4th overall or not, at this point it’s all about can he be a contributing top 12 NHLer or not.

    The next step is JP needs to forget he was drafted at #4th overall which right now, I think that plays a HUGE part in his problem. At 4th overall, you are supposed to be a top 6 guy playing lots, getting PP time, etc. Well unfortunately Jesse, you aren’t close to being a top 6 NHLer. He needs to accept that, and worry about being a contributing top 12 NHLer. Worry about that, accept that and play well. If you play well, you will move up. Force the coach to play you more. If you are on the 4th line, make an impact get noticed. If you do that, you will move up.

    If the Oilers don’t think he can help them, move him. If Jesse won’t accept just worrying about becoming a contributing full time, top 12 NHLer, then move him.

  • Odanada

    To my eyes, the Looch is another guy struggling with confidence. As a veteran, Milan could take Jesse under his wing and teach him to play a more physical game and together they could re-find their scoring touch. Kind of a 2 guys behind the 8 ball inspire one another type story.
    It’s a heck of a challenge, but if Tippet could pull this off, he would own the room.

  • billsbills

    It has been a while since I heard him interview but the last time I did, his English sucked.

    Hey I get it, it’s tough to learn a second language. I live in Mexico and I struggle every day. But I have been here two months and he has been in in North America 3 years.

    When you can’t communicate what it is you want to say, you can be left feeling frustrated as does the person who isn’t understanding you. That goes both ways.

    Not only that but I actually seek out English speakers in Mexico. It makes me feel comfortable when I am not surrounded by people that I can’t communicate the way I would like to with. If I was alone here with only my wife to talk to, I would probably get depressed and not want to do anything.

    I remember JP at the world’s, he was out of this world good. He had zero problem “thinking the game”. While that wasn’t NHL level, he was playing with and setting up players that are now in the NHL and successful.

    Trading him is a bad idea but he needs to take it upon himself to learn the language and become the player he is capable of.

    • SailorD81

      Malkin can hardly string together a sentence in english. Datsyuk played in N.A. for 15 + years and could hardly speak English as well. I don’t think a language barrier is as big a deal when it comes to hockey as some say.

      • billsbills

        There is a huge difference between having a heavy accent and being able to communicate. Jesse would give answers that had nothing to do with the questions. He clearly did not understand what was being asked of him.

    • OilerForLife

      I think he should just take the 1 year qualifying offer and there should be some stronger wingers, new coach, and hopefully a supporting culture. They can’t trade him without losing the trade in the worst possible way. Worse case scenario he goes to the KHL and matures there, and the Oilers would still have his rights. Not Ideal, but giving him away like Yakupov is simply not acceptable. Yakupov stats this year at St. Petersburg SKA are 47 23 10 33 +22, playoffs 18 4 4 8. If there’s a player inside of Yak, there must be one inside if Jesse. These type of players with that naive demeanor take a long time to mature,which is something the Oilers should have noted when they burnt the first year of his entry level deal.

  • Beer

    The GM in Columbus knew something was up when they passed on him. Considering the GM in Columbus and JP are fellow country men. What did they know that nobody else knew at the draft.

  • Redbird62

    At the beginning of last season, McClellan talked about playing Jesse with Strome since he seemed to be comfortable there. And I believe they did play together at the start of the year and were doing reasonably well except actually scoring. They were outshooting and outchancing the other team together but neither had any puck luck in those first few weeks of the season. And its not like they were getting scored on, it was a whole lot of nothing. But the blender came out to try and find more goals for the team, then Strome got traded (and broke out of his slump) and Jesse got bounced all over the place the rest of the year. Hopefully the whole team starts off well enough (particularly goaltending) so the team can maintain some stability instead of all the panic line shuffling and trades that went on last year. I think there is still a quality player there that patience from Tippett and Holland could help resurrect. I fear long term the Oilers would regret trading him right now.

  • Hockey Bunker

    He’s just not very good and given the oilers cap situation they should trade him for a useful cheap player and maybe a 3rd rounder. I watched him before the draft and he was clearly behind Laine. Not surprised he was passed over. He was always going to be a project player. Let someone else take over the renovation.

    • Just facts

      No doubt he’s not lived up to expectations. But because of that he is not going to cost that much, he is a useful player as is and potentially has significant upside that might come if he can gain confidence. If he thinks he’s worth a contract based on his draft position expectations and not what he has actually produced then you move on. But if the contract is reasonable in dollars and duration then there is not a lot of downside.

    • OilTastic

      @OILERSORDEATH….nonsense! Rantanan did nothing his first 9 games and the Avs did what the Oilers should have done with Jesse….they put him in the AHL for a full year and the next season he scored 20 goals. Completely different developmental curve than Jesse.

  • Serious Gord

    Actually it does really matter they got to this point. The history with the oil makes it tougher for puljujarvi to recover what he has lost.

    I think there are a few other teams who think that too. And the puljujarvi and his people might also think the same.

    If a reasonable (and that’s the difficult part – what it reasonable?) offer comes along the oil should take it.

  • SLURVE

    I find it hard to believe Puljujarvi wants out of Edmonton given his easy going attitude which some say is too easy but this could be a media assumption. Nonetheless, if true, I would see how he does under Tippett whom most have said could churn sour milk into cream before any talk of a trade…

  • Randaman

    You know what, the sixth overall pick that year came into the league and tore it up, statistically, physically, etc. Tkachuk was the pick at 4. Not Jesse. Don’t give me the Oilers screwed his career over. Jesse made no effort to be prepared to come to North America. Language / Communication is HUGE! He doesn’t use his size at all. Flybys are his thing. You want a trade? Earn it

    • Chitikas

      Hindsight is 20/20 every team in the league said they would have jumped at taking him at #4. He was a consensus #3 pick and the man with the best inside beat on him (Jarmo) passed him over but Dubois is turning out to be a number 1 center and that is something Columbus had been looking for, so maybe that played into it too.

  • OilCan2

    Well Jesse is finally legal in Vegas. Ken and JPs agent will determine the future. At this point I would offer three years at $4M. Team controlled player with a very low bar to be a positive asset. Holding out? Have fun in Finland.

  • wiseguy

    “There’s absolutely nothing to lose in giving it a season.” Except there is. Right now there are teams in the league who think that JP still has untapped potential that the Oilers have mismanaged and are willing to take a gamble that they can get a good to great player. If JP has another bad year under yet another coach, the conclusion will be that he is a bust and the return in a trade will be negligible. The NYI realized what they had in Griffin Reinhard but traded him when there were still idiots that thought he was #4 overall that was a late bloomer just about to come into his own. They got a 1st round and high 2nd round pick for him. The Oilers hung onto Yak too long and by the time they traded him, the league knew he was a bust and all we got was a poor prospect and a 3rd round pick for a #1 overall. So yes, there is something to lose in giving it another season.

    • Big Nuggets

      This is what I think as well. If he has one more season and gets no traction his value will be completely gone. If we can swap him for Roslovic or some other young player this might be the time. I guess it depends how you gauge Puljujarvi’s ability. If he is a good player that lost his confidence then let Tippett coach him up. If he just doesn’t have a head for the game then trade.

  • Arfguy

    If Puljujarvi ends up being traded (which I am opposed to), I hope he ends up in Carolina. I have a feeling he will be a much better player on that team. Edmonton has done a crap job of fostering Jesse and if a trade happens, I hope it blows up in their face.

  • SailorD81

    I don’t think anyone paying attention could fault JP for wanting a fresh start somewhere else. The team has completely botched his development up to this point. But having said that JP didn’t exactly take the bull by the horns the few times he was given a fair shot. Another year with some fresh eyes on him (Holland, Tippet) and see what happens. Trading him now is going to get the Oilers no where.

  • Moneyball

    What you lose with another year is any kind of asset you can get right now by trading him. Next year after another lack lustre season you will be lucky to unload pj in a yakupov salary dump. There is no player here just a huge gamble and risk. Also his 37 points cited in the article are over 3 seasons. Pretty brutal all around player with limited upside due to no hockey iq, no grit and a poor attitude.

  • CMG30

    I fall in the camp of placing a lot of blame on the organization but the reality is that what’s done is done. Now the question is how do we pick up the pieces? I don’t believe that playing limited minutes in the bottom 6 is going to help JP get himself back on track, and make no mistake, I do think there is a player here. If it were up to me, I think that a season or two in Europe out of the spotlight is what’s best at this point.

    • ed from edmonton

      So you re saying he has no future with the Oil and he would need t clea r waivers, which will never happen, for the Oil to send him to the AHL. I will out you down as a “trade him now” vote.

  • Derzie

    No matter what, we all need more Ray Ferraro. If there is a better hockey analyst out there, I have yet to hear them. When is the Sportsnet contract up again?

  • RJ

    In his close-out interview, Nuge raised a concern about consistency and having more regular line mates. How do you think Jesse feels?

    When he got to play with McDavid, he actually did well, as well as any RW on the team. But make one mistake and he’s on the fourth line.

    Let’s be real for a minute; players who play on the fourth line don’t get the best zone starts. They don’t get the most ice time. That’s reserved for players on the 1/2 lines. 3C and 4C are usually not known for their elite offensive abilities, and neither are 3W or 4W. You want to critique a player

    • TKB2677

      It actually annoys me when I see the argument that he “did well with McDavid” when it comes to JP. Lots of players do way better with McDavid. I don’t have the numbers in front of me but I bet even Lucic’s numbers are better with McDavid than with anyone else. McDavid is the best freaking player in the world. If the only way you as a player can look remotely decent what so ever is you have to have McDavid drag you around, that is a big problem.

      Here is a novel idea for JP that seems to elude some Oilers fans when they talk about JP. How about when he is assigned to a line he actually goes out there, gives a consistent effort and plays well! Mind blowing idea, I know. If you get put on the 4th line, go out there and play your ass off. Be noticeable!! Make something happen each shift, not the maybe once a game we see JP do. Make the coach say “Wow, look at him, I need to give more ice time”. Coaches want to win and because of that when they see a guy going, they give him more ice. JP was a 4th overall pick who’s big and supposed to be fast and skilled. So he should be able to outshine ANY 4th liner. So if JP were to be on the 4th line and in the 10 mins he gets, he’s the best player on the ice which he should be able to do most games, he will get noticed by the coach. If does this again and again, he will get noticed. Pretty soon, he will get bumped up to the 3rd line. Then if he is really good on the 3rd line, he will get bumped up even higher.

      When you watch JP, he doesn’t have a freaking clue what to do or where to go. He goes out on the 4th line against guys you aren’t as big, fast or skilled and he doesn’t stand out, he disappears. He does NOTHING most nights against guys who in theory aren’t CLOSE to as talented. So why on earth would any NHL coach remotely sane put a guy on the 1st line to play against the best of the best that every team has to offer when he can’t even look good against a teams worst players most nights?

  • TKB2677

    When people talk about Jesse, they should listen to what Jason Strudwick says about him. He has over 600 NHL games so he probably knows more about the NHL game than the average fan.

    Strudwick was taking to Gregor on his show about JP on Friday. Strudwick says when he watches JP play, he doesn’t contribute anything right not. He doesn’t score, doesn’t forecheck, doesn’t make plays and a lot of times, he isn’t even in the right spots on break outs. He just floats around because he doesn’t know what he is doing out there.

    So if you are a coach and that is the case, why oh why would you want to play him more? If when playing on the 4th line, he doesn’t even stand out against other 4th liners and can’t do anything against 4th liners, why does to make sense to put him with McDavid and have him on a line up against every single teams best players? You are hamstringing your best player. How does that make ANY sense?

    I am not here to piss on JP nor do I get enjoyment out of it. The Oilers drafted him 4th overall and they NEEDED him desperately to be a good player for them and he’s not even a full time NHLer after 3 years of pro hockey. Not a big chunk of that is on the Oilers for not recognizing that he is not the norm top 5 pick and needs A LOT of AHL time. They screwed up there. But so did JP. He is not where he needs to be and part of that is on him.

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    The most confidence J seemed to have this past season was under Hitch when he was in a forecheck mode. He’s got the speed, stick, and range to steal pucks and force turnovers. He needs to build from that to where the turnovers become points.