Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Poker Face

Even though absolutely nothing has changed in the impasse between Jesse Puljujarvi and the Edmonton Oilers since he first made it known publicly that he wants a fresh start someplace else, the Finnish winger and agent Markus Lehto keep re-stating their position. We get it, Jesse. So does Oilers’ GM Ken Holland.

It’s almost like Puljujarvi and Lehto believe if they keep talking, Holland will be coaxed into getting something done just to shut them up. Well, anybody who has seen Holland operate knows that’s not going to happen. Instead, a poker-faced Holland isn’t flinching. If something gets done, it’ll be on his terms and under circumstances that make sense for the Oilers.

The latest from Puljujarvi comes via Finnish television station Laari in post on TSN today. I don’t know if something is being lost in translation, which is possible, but Puljujarvi says, “I want a team where I get a place in one of the first two lines and where I get to play for 15 minutes per game. Then I could show what I’m going for. That is my main goal.”

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Yes, Jesse. Again, we know. I’ll resist the urge to go on and on that getting a place on the first two lines, as Puljujarvi puts it, with any team generally involves doing something to earn it. We have been back and forth on that aspect of this impasse – regardless of what else is happening here, as in how or if Puljujarvi fits in with this group — this entire off-season. Trade me.

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All the while, Holland sits and listens. He’s holding all the cards and he’s not flinching, even with Lehto telling Helsingin Sanomat  Monday, “This is not a bluff attempt. Puljujarvi is and has been convinced that he needs a change. He is an NHL player . . . this is about getting an opportunity for a new start. The salary can be almost anything.”

Holland’s latest response to what he’s hearing from Lehto and Puljujarvi is very much the same, exactly the same actually, as what we’ve heard from him since the player and his agent started down this road. Matter of fact is Holland, resisting the urge to mention he’s got the superior hand in this back-and-forth.

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“I talked recently with his agent again,” Holland said. “Nothing’s really changed, so the next couple of weeks here I’ve got to heat up the phone lines and see if I can find a solution, otherwise Europe is probably the only solution. We’ll see what happens.”

As for “what happens,” if this was Pete Chiarelli at the table, we’d likely have seen something, as in Puljujarvi being moved down the road for next-to-nothing, by now. There’s no doubt in my mind that Puljujarvi will be moved and that the return won’t be very good – no surprise in that – but it will happen when Holland decides the timing is as good as it’s going to get on his end, not because Lehto and Puljujarvi keep talking.

Like I said before, I think Puljujarvi is making a mistake because he’s holding a losing hand with the money on the table, but it’s his career and his mistake to make. Things didn’t have to end up this way, but here we are. When you make a point of saying you aren’t bluffing, as Lehto just did, you usually are. It seldom ends well.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Towers-of-dub

    I’m not sure on which NHL team he thinks he’s a top 6 forward. If he can’t cut it in Edmonton where there’s a clear opening for a top 6, it’s hard to see where else he fits that role.

    • Oilman99

      There is no other team in the league than the Oilers to earn a top six position based on their current top six list. Time to stop sulking, grow up, and earn that spot before he craters his career completely.

        • McDude

          Agreed. But I don’t think there is another team that will just gift him with top six minutes, and if he goes to another team, he won’t be playing with the caliber of centermen as the Oilers have, and he’ll still be in tough. If there is a team who will just drop him in the top six no questions asked, that’s a team Holland could potentially take advantage of…

        • CMG30

          If they’re already weak in the top 6, why would they want to trade for JP? If he can’t stick in the top 6 playing on the wing of McDavid, RNH or LD, what team already weak up front is going to think JP is the fix? The only teams that would take him on are would be already loaded up front and see him as a reclamation project. No way would he be handed top 6 minutes without showing something.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      If Jesse wants to be slotted into one of the first two lines and be have at least 15 minutes an night minimum, the only way that Jesse gets any of this is if two men in white suits named Mr Rourke and Tattoo are involved because at Fantasy Island all your dreams come true. This is the problem with Jesse he wants to play 15 minutes a night minimum and be slotted in on one of the top two lines because he believes he is just that good. The problem is Jesse perception of reality is way way off. Jesse hasnt shown much with his time in the NHL, yes we all agree his development and the handling of on the Oilers end hasnt been good but Jesse is partly to blame as well, if this attitude of entitlement is what the problem has been thus far in his with the Oilers, then there is a major issue here.

      What Jesse doesnt realize is that you have to work and play and earn your way up the lineup, most players do it, Jesse seems to think he is beneath that. That is a huge problem in his mindset and could be a major reason why he has fallen so far off the map behind his peers.

  • Neilio

    Jesse is a total millennial. What a sense of entitlement. Its not just a trade, now he wants another team to trade for him and give him top 6 minutes without having proved he’s even capable. Every time he or his agent opens their mouths, their situation gets worse.

    When you’re a first round pick, you essentially get handed a number of chances to make the NHL. The best chance(s) is with the team that drafted you. They’re invested in seeing you have success because they drafted you. And they want you to be the player they saw you as when you were drafted.

    A different team may give you another shot, but you’ll have to prove yourself and you’ve got much less patience afforded to you. Your top-end expectations are much lower now. If you turn out to be a serviceable player, great, if not, dumped. They’re not invested and probably didn’t pay that much to get you. You, your Agent and your Mom are the only ones that still believe in your star potential. Everyone else thinks you’re over rated or a bust.

    After that, maybe a team takes a flyer on you because of draft pedigree, but you’ll have to fight it out with a bunch of guys THAT team drafted, and probably like better. At this point, just being a full time NHLer is a victory. You will have to whittle your game down into something useful. Shot blocker. Agitator. PKer. You’re now looking at the KHL, wondering how bad the winters are in Novosibirsk. (Bad)

    Jesse and his agent have unwisely now placed him in phase 2, prematurely. No leverage. Red flags for attitude. Under-performer. Bad in the room. Stubborn (obviously).
    Ironically by doing all of these stunts to try to force Holland’s hand, they’re lowering the value of asset the new team will have to give up for him. Which will in turn, make him less valuable to the new team. If its a struggling prospect and a mid-pick, well that’s your value now Jesse. Have fun in the Russian Dash-Cam league.

  • mikeoes

    With every new comment from Jesses Agent and Jesse himself, they are making it harder for Holland to trade him. Especially when he says he expects to play top 6 minutes which basically tells any team interested that he’s not willing to earn it , insread that he thinks he’s that good of a player already. He should stop just for his own sake…..

  • morsecode89

    I actually don’t think Jesse or his agents strategy to get traded is all that bad. JP has made it clear he wants out. Holland has made it clear he wants the right package. JP has stated he’s willing to play in Europe this season or not play at all (?) in order not to be in Edmonton.

    Now we can argue what the long term affects of this negotiation will be on his career as a player, but one thing is for sure, IF Jesse holds out, it’s not like his stock is going up with other GMs. He’ll likely be a diminishing asset in 6 months, and yes, Holland can wait, but the price for JP after the season starts likely goes down.

    JP is a diminishing asset for the Oilers, which he doesn’t care about. Holland isn’t stupid and knows this. JP’s agent is just trying to keep his clients name at the top of the news cycle.

    The other thing is, I can’t help but feel the word ‘earn’ has huge double standards with the old guard of the Oilers media. Throughout the decade of darkness, so many young, promising players have either been a) gifted icetime, b) played over their head, or c) had to earn there place, and those standards have changed wildly depending on the player. JP, despite being the organizations most promising RW prospect, has had to earn every minute of his icetime. Despite Kassian, Lucic, and every other player on the roster getting time with McDavid and Draisaitl in the top 6. Now I don’t know dressing room or coaching dynamics, but JP had solid underlying numbers, and was almost exclusively played with bottom 6 talent, and barely got a sniff of PP time.

    He was suppose to earn a lot, while others on the roster seemed to be gifted opportunities.

    Either way, everyday Jesse doesn’t play his value goes down. This hurts the Oilers, who used the 4th overall selection for him. Once again, the Oilers look like they’ll trade a once valued asset for something below its initial value. I fault the people running this organization during Jesse’s time far more for this than Jesse himself.

    • mikeoes

      We both agree his value goes down, but we don’t agree if this is good for Jesse or not. I think it’s pretty obvious that Holland will not trade him if he doesn’t get a return that he feels is fair. There is a certain threshold where it’s just not worth trading Jesse in Holland’s mind based on the return. (3rd, 4th rounder etc.). Jesse will be playing hockey somewhere this upcoming season the question is just where, and in which League? If he plays well in Europe and shows that his hips are good ), maybe his value goes up. I would say that it probably does, and then Holland pulls the trigger when his value is higher and the return is what he deems fair. Or maybe things change in Edmonton, and the team has a decent season and he sees that there’s some upside in coming back and trying to prove he’s the top six player he says he is. A year in a 21 year olds life can change so much.

      • morsecode89

        In the current game, I don’t see a situation where the Oilers come out on top by not trading JP sooner than later… IF JP holds his word that he is never going to play in Edmonton again.

        Yeah, by not trading JP it proves Holland won’t be messed with. Or that he’s tough. And old school. But really, if neither party blinks (Holland doesn’t trade him in the near term and JP doesn’t play for the Oilers again), the Oilers are losing more.

        JP will eventually be jettisoned or packaged. We’ll all say ‘it was just never going to work out.’ The narrative will shift from his potential to his attitude. And life will move on. But make no mistake, he’s submarining his value for a reason right now. He wants out. And it’s not a bad strategy.

        • McDude

          I’ll agree and disagree with you here. Yes, he’s submarining his own value, and if the reason is that he truly does not want to play with the Oilers again, however he came by that decision, then it’s a good strategy from his point of view.

          Where I disagree, and where the strategy is risky for him, is whether now is the best time to trade him. If Holland sticks to his guns and won’t trade him for pennies, then it’s almost a given that he plays in Europe this year. If he tears it up, his value goes up, and Holland might get a decent return for him. But if he stinks over in Europe too, the Oilers keep his rights, they can’t trade him for anything, and his career goes up in smoke. Then again, if that happens, his career is over anyway…

          Personally, I don’t do anything if I’m Holland, no matter what he says, unless I can pull off grand larceny from some other organization. Let him prove himself in Europe. There is literally nothing to lose from the Oilers’ perspective. The asset is already damaged.

          • Kneedroptalbot

            Screwed, Glued and Tattooed? In the past few years the Oilers have gifted ice time to players who certainly didn’t deserve it. To name a few (Reider, Brodziak, Kassian, Lucic, Strome), no matter how poorly they have played. When have those players ever been show a day off? (yes the press box). Almost never. (Ken Hitchcock loved his big players). The Identity line?? (come on man).
            No wonder young players like Cagguila, Kharija, and JP are frustrated.
            I can see his point of view, (even though I don’t agree with his stance).
            Screwed, glued and tattooed? Will they rinse repeat again this season??

  • CactusJr

    So Jesse and his camp are convinced he’s already a top 6 player but unwilling to prove it by earning the job over the likes of Kassian, benson, chiasson, Neal. They’re are literally 3 top 6 wing positions up for grabs. #ConfidentButNotConfident

      • fasteddy

        Whether he earned it or not, (not), I do agree he didn’t get many chances playing with higher pedigree players. He spent a ton of time with Looch. It seems like there may be some personality conflicts, but who knows. The biggest thing for me though is watching him play rarely did I ever think “geez this guy has serious potential “…he seemed un-involved the majority of the time. If he doesn’t have the drive or the head for the game at this level he’s going to have a really difficult time making a good career for himself on any team.

  • Bond 0097

    I had really high hopes for this kid and I don’t blame him totally for how his career has turned out so far the Oilers had a part in it. That being said Jesse is making a huge mistake and his attitude is worse than sucks. He is acting like a spoiled kid, he thinks if he whines loud and long enough someone will just give him what he wants. Sorry kid, the is the big league and there are guys with 10 times the heart that you have and they will eat you’re lunch. There are thousands of young guys that would kill just for a shot at the NHL and you are blowing yours. I don’t give a rats ass what happens with this jerk anymore

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      Jesse has talent but the problem is his play at the NHL level barely lets him slot in on the fourth line of the Oilers, and Jesse seems to think he is just too good for the AHL and we just haven’t seen anything consistent out of the guy. Jesse had an opportunity to play all up and down the lineup and its wasn’t a great at all! sorry but Jesse needs to come crashing back down to reality stay in Europe and play hockey, I see no way for him to be anywhere near the Oilers at all this season with his mindset and demands as they are.
      Sorry Jesse your not going to get top line time and minutes just because YOU think that’s what you deserve, if your not willing to put in the work on and off the ice and show the team and compel them with your play to move you up the line, enjoy your time in Europe, you may want to look at finding a home and settling you in because with your demands I dont see you back in the NHL anytime soon any trade value you had its about to plummet even further

  • Jay (not J)

    So now any team that was thinking of trading for him knows that if he were to go there he would expect minutes and role that he has demonstrated himself to be unfit for. Nice move.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Good column, Robin. The other thing that must also be said is … if Jesse ends up going back to Europe to play in the KHL (or wherever), he better have a good year. A lot of fringe NHLers and stalled prospects have a way of “market-correcting” themselves out of NHL and Jesse’s got to make sure he’s not one of them. Heck, the market correction may already be occurring, given what appears to be a lack of interest from other teams so far (although, obviously, unless you’re Holland or Oilers brass, you’d have no idea how much interest there’s been).

    Another interesting tidbit of information that came out of a Journal columnist this week: The Oilers did actually have Jesse signed up for English classes and he blew them off.

    Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice once said.

  • Oil Vice

    He bought into the hype from his draft year and thinks it still has merit. He has never performed up to the level that was expected of him. And now he thinks he can cal the shots. Not happening Jesse. I’m over you

    • fasteddy

      It’s been said many times, but there is absolutely a reason Jarmo passed over him at #3….Finnish GM well connected to the home country pipeline passes on kid rated 3 by virtually everyone had to speak volumes that something was amiss.

      • Wilee1

        It’s been said many times, but it’s a load of nonsense. Just because Jarmo passed on Jesse, it doesn’t mean he didn’t like him, it just means he liked Dubois more. Everybody had Jesse in the top 3, everybody thought he was a stud prospect. Revisionist history with 20/20 hindsight is easy. Try some critical thinking in the future rather than parroting simpletons.

  • SylarHRG

    Feels like he has the least amount of leverage, even when looking at com parables in the past. He truly hasn’t done much. Why is the AHL so insulting? I would personally re-sign with the Oilers and start in the AHL and prove how awesome I am before making demands about 1/2 lines and 15 a night. I really want to know the mentality here.


      Jesse has to clear waivers before he can be assigned to the AHL. The Oilers would likely lose him if he hits waivers; and no respectable GM is going to risk losing a player that was picked 4th overall for nothing. The Oilers own his NHL rights until he’s 27 years old. If he won’t be an adult and work hard for those top 6 minutes he can rot away in Europe playing against weaker opponents.

  • Goaltender Interference

    Wow. The comment filter here is out of control. I just posted a completely innocuous statement and it didn’t get posted.

    I’m sure JP will have a wonderful career overseas. Good luck to him and his huge sense of self-entitlement.

  • Waiting For a Cup

    Are we seeing a glimpse of why Jesse played in the NHL his first year and why he spent so little time in the AHL after that? Was it simply a weak GM giving into an entitled player/agent?

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      The fact that there was this handshake winkwink agreement that Jesse wouldnt have to stay in the AHL longer than a couple cups of coffee was a bad idea, this should have never been a part of any deal with any player, if your not good enough to play on the fourth line in the NHL then you need to play in AHL and work on your game and play hockey

      This isnt the first time Chia has done this to the Oilers with this side agreement that are shaken wink wink, Koskinen also has one of these agreements that he doesn’t have to play in the AHL longer than a cup of coffee, and who is agent Mark Lehto….same agent as Jesse

  • Ken McTippett

    If this is true, Jesse is an idiot. An entitled idiot. The guy won’t have a better chance for a top 6 role than in Edmonton where we are starved for scoring wingers. The sad thing is he has done NOTHING to show that he deserves a top 6 role. This guy’s NHL career is all but over. Have fun in Finland, Jesse.