Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers should remember Jonathan Drouin before trading Jesse Puljujarvi

A big topic of conversation for the past few months has been the future of Jesse Puljujarvi. The former fourth-overall pick’s entry-level deal will expire on July 1st and reports indicate that the struggling young Finn wants a fresh start with a different organization.

Puljujarvi had yet another disappointing season with the Oilers this year. After a great showing in the pre-season, he was slated as a breakout candidate, but a nagging hip injury made him largely ineffective and brought his season to an end a couple of months early. Puljujarvi would score just nine points in 46 games with the Oilers, giving him 37 points in 139 games over the first three seasons of his NHL career.

There’s still reason for optimism that a fully-healthy Puljujarvi can still become an effective NHL player. It isn’t uncommon for European players to take longer to adjust to the North American game and Puljujarvi is still only 21 years old. That said, the issue here is that Puljujarvi seems to believe he needs a fresh start to reach his potential.

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As disappointing as this situation is, the Oilers really shouldn’t be in a rush to complete a trade involving Puljujarvi. His value is at an all-time low and the Oilers still hold the cards in this scenario. Even if he asks for a trade, the Oilers still hold his rights and the only thing Puljujarvi can do is either continue playing for the Oilers or try to figure it out overseas.

For a comparable situation, we can look back at Jonathan Drouin and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Drouin was picked third-overall by the Lightning back in 2013 after an incredible season with Nathan MacKinnon on the Halifax Mooseheads.

The Lightning sent Drouin back to Halifax for his post-draft season. He put up an absurd 108 points in 46 games and then went ahead and scored 41 points in 16 playoff games. The year after that, Drouin played 70 games with the Lightning, scoring just four goals and 28 assists. The year after that, Drouin continued to struggle, and the Lightning sent him down to the AHL. A few months after getting sent down, Drouin requested a trade.

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A few weeks after the trade request, Drouin was suspended by the Lightning for refusing to play for their AHL squad. The trade deadline came and went, but general manager Steve Yzerman didn’t budge. Drouin remained a member of the Lightning, finally reported to the AHL club, and ended up getting called back up in mid-April.

He would play the entire 2016-17 season with the Lightning, the final in his entry-level deal, and break out for 21 goals and 53 points. In the off-season, Tampa Bay finally granted him his wish and he was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens for Mikhail Sergachev, a move that seems to have worked for both sides.

Puljujarvi and Drouin aren’t the same player and this isn’t the same situation, but the moral of the story here is that Yzerman was patient in the wake of Drouin’s trade request, allowing the player to rebuild value before making a deal that was favourable for his club.

Giving into Puljujarvi’s demands now and firing him off somewhere for a third-line winger would be terrible asset management. Ideally, Puljujarvi inks a one-year deal with the Oilers and has a solid season and the team can either reconcile the relationship or they can find a deal akin to the one between Tampa Bay and Montreal. If not, Puljujarvi can go ahead and play in Europe. Putting up points in that league won’t bring his value down any further than it is right now.

  • Hemmercules

    If only the Oilers didn’t ruin the situation and waste those development years. Now that he cant be sent down its just made for a bad situation for Holland and the team to deal with. At least Drouin had some value. JP is rock bottom right now.

    • Randaman

      Drouin had value simply because he is french and could help sell hockey in Montreal (like they need help). Bergeron bit hard and they will suffer for it.

      • billsbills

        Remember who Yzerman learned his craft from. There will no longer be “house keeping” moves made. Every asset has value. You just need to know where to find it and how to manage it.

        I am assuming that Holland will do his due diligence.

      • OilerForLife

        Hollands response:
        “I’m not trading anybody because they want to be traded. But if we can find something that works for everybody, I’ll look at it. If not, I’m not doing anything.”

  • mikeoes

    Agree 100% with this article. If he follows through on his “threat” and plays in Europe, he can go right ahead, no skin off Oilers back, and we can prepare to build our team properly knowing what we have going into the season. All the while letting Jesse increase his trade value overseas. If he plays poorly overseas then we know he really is a bust and missing out on a 3rd or 4rd round pick now is 100% worth figuring out if he’s actually a player or not.

  • -The Oilers are in a very good position at the 8th spot so im feeling very confident. As long as they don’t go completely off the boards then they’ll get a very prospect. Broberg,Podkolzin,Krebs, Caufield, Boldy, Turcotte, etc all would strengthen the prospect pool tremendously

  • FlamesFan27

    Having him go to Europe is the only real option, unless some team makes a trade offer the Oiler’s can’t refuse (very unlikely). While he still could be a bust, it’s starts with confidence. If he can get that back, he could be an NHL player.

    • Odanada

      All trade talk is dead.
      Looch is reportedly on the cusp of going back to his first love, five pin bowling, where he was a standout for Canada at the 2006 Worlds.

  • Elgin R.

    It must be acknowledged that the Oilers did a terrible job in the development of this player. Why does Scott Howson (VP Player Development since July 2, 2017) still have a job with the Oilers?
    OK, on to Jesse. He needs a new agent! Stating ‘trade him or he will play in Europe’. Seriously, SM Liiga’s highest paid player last year made $438,000 with the majority below $200,000. The KHL salary cap for next year is approximately $15,000,000 (depending on currency conversion rate) – and good luck getting paid! So, a guaranteed NHL job with a salary of at least $1,000,000 or $200,000 in Finland or Russia!
    Do not trade this asset for a 3rd line player. Qualify him and let him play in Europe for peanuts and hopefully he develops into a quality power forward. Jesse is only 21 and a number of quality NHL European players significantly improved when 22 and older. If a NHL team offers good value then OK trade his rights – just not for a ‘bag-of-pucks’.
    Go Oilers!

  • YFC Prez

    I agree.

    Oilers have the big stick here. Use it.

    I really have my doubts on this player though. Yakupov broke my heart. It’s not going to happen again with pool party. He needs to show something. To take responsibility. Oilers are not without blame but his production is primarily on his shoulders. And it needs to be light years better, he’s way behind the curve.

    If Puljujarvi thinks going to another organization will make him a better player he’s in for a world of dissapointment. I do hope he figures it out though.

  • CMG30

    Agreed. Trading JP is a risk and a waste at this point. Of course the GM should entertain calls but unless one of those calls results in a drastic overpay to pry JP loose, the right play is to keep him. The best scenario would see JP going to Europe for a season or two to catch up on his lost development time in Edmonton. Though that would be a path he would have to choose for himself, I doubt Edmonton could force him over there.

  • Moneyball

    Jesse, agent must have rocks in his head. Threatening to play overseas is the. EST thing for the Oilers. They won most puljujarvi,s 7 assists and non contribution he makes to hockey games at all and playing in a Europe can only raise his trade value. Good luck and Have fun in Europe and you might want to ditch your agent.

    • Oil Vice

      I also question his intelligence. I feel like that’s what’s holding him back. The elite players (97 & 29) realized that he lacks hockey IQ and that’s why they don’t want him on their line. Jesse wants a fresh start because he’s not jiving with the players on the team. Theres new management and coaching coming in and he still wants a fresh start. To me that says he’s not comfortable with the players.

  • The future never comes

    Why is a potential bust that may never turn out traded for a third liner for a team devoid of forwards, terrible asset management. Pulju is trending like Yak, getting a contributing foward is a win in my books.

  • During his three seasons in edmonton who was his billet or who was his roommate? I just read some stuff that is telling me he was the youngest player in the league and the oilers had him living in a hotel? When sydney crosby got drafted he lived with Mario lemieux for a few years. So why didnt jesse have a sponser or a real place to live. If this is true its just another example of the oilers dropping the ball on a young player

  • Serious Gord

    The moral of the story is they aren’t the same player.

    I think drouins issue was attitude and coachability. He matured and those issues were addressed.

    Puljujarvi’s issues are IQ and ability to think the game fast enough. Maturity won’t fix that.

    JP – like one of scout’s quoted yesterday said – has a max upside of being a good third liner. That’s a big downgrade. Drouin never lost the high end potential.

  • BR

    Sure if Puljujarvi has a 50 point season with us. I don’t know if sending him to Europe gets us that kind of value. And it’s a risk another season in the Nhl yields less than desirable results and all of a sudden he’s more yakupov than drouin. They’re different players on vastly different teams. Tampa has depth and could afford to park him. Oilers have no nhl wingers and need puljujarvis skillset.
    At this stage. Get him working with tippet and a skill coach double than anyone else and then cement him on the top two lines and power play for the first 20 games minimum and see how we go. A decent enough chance that we will be the player we need.

  • Oilman99

    Time for Puljujarvi to grow up, and get his head out of the sand. He has to realize that he is as much to blame as the Oilers, regarding his development. He never grabbed the bull by the horns when given the chance to play with elite talent, and there to have been stubbornness on his part to listen what the coaches were trying to teach him. There also seems to be too much agent interference, it would be a good idea for him to find a new one, whining and threatening to take his ball and go home is not good.

  • billsbills

    Remember who Yzerman learned his craft from. There will no longer be “house keeping” moves made. Every asset has value. You just need to know where to find it and how to manage it.

    I am assuming that Holland will do his due diligence.

    • Serious Gord

      He learned it playing for 17 years under Jim Dellevano. Holland didn’t arrive as GM until 1997.

      And i found this interesting nugget in Wiki:

      “Yzerman had expressed his desire to run a team while with the Red Wings front office since the latter part of his playing career, and had gained experience in running a team through his work with Hockey Canada, having assembled several rosters between 2007 and 2010 for Hockey Canada.[32] However, after Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, the team’s GM since 1997, was given a contract extension to continue in his role, and with his path to GM also blocked by assistant general manager Jim Nill, who himself had been given another long-term contract, it became clear that it would not be with the Red Wings. It was later revealed by The Detroit News in 2016 that Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch attempted to promote Holland to make room for Yzerman to become the team’s general manager, but Holland declined the promotion.[33]”

      Looks like this wasn’t the first attempt to punt Holland upstairs…

  • McDude

    Exactly. Call his bluff and allow him to go to Europe if he likes. Maybe a year regaining his confidence will kickstart his career. But don’t give him up for nothing.

  • The Whispererer

    Jesse’s agent hasn’t done us any favours. He reps Koskinen too. also, if we’re thinking of trading for Kapanen (an RFA ) and getting him on a cheap contract Jesse’s agent reps him too.

  • OilerForLife

    Oiler management should stay away from this Markus Lehto. At this point, he advised his client to walk away from the Oilers leaving them with virtually nothing for a 4th overall pick. This may be why Kekäläinen stayed away from in the draft. Also, he screwed the Oilers on Koskinen for both term and money, unless he can redeem himself.

  • blobbo

    The Oilers played him as a rookie. Then they realized he was suffering culture shock and couldn’t speak English. They sent him down. Then they signed Jokinen presumably as a mentor but that didn’t work because, by that time, Jokinen was a lousy hockey player. Then they sent him up and down and sideways trying to figure out what to do with him.

    Draisaitl, on the other hand, was playing in North America by the time he was drafted. He knew the language and the culture.

    Puljujarvi just strikes me as a big kid who spends a lot of time being home sick. Sure, you can blame the Oilers but I blame his agent as well. An agent should be doing everything he can to develop his client’s professional career. It’s in his own selfish interests. A successful client means a nice piece of the pie for the agent. This agent likes to make demands even though he’s in no position to make demands.

    Holland will sit on this until it reaches a logical conclusion. Sometimes the best action is inaction.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Should have traded him before he made it clear to the entire league that he’s not a professional, and never will be. You WORK to make the NHL, you don’t whine and make excuses.