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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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IN GOOD TIME

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


  • 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.

  • Gary Chalmers

    Grow up Jesse! You aren’t good enough at this point for top 6, and with these demands you wont be able to live up to who you think you are or will be.

  • 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

  • SlovakOiler

    Hey Pulju. On which NHL club do you think you are a top 6 forward? I thought you are being childish, but you are also dumb. No wonder guys don’t wanna play with you. Go on, play “chicken” and get effd.

  • ed from edmonton

    The saga of JP this summer, and maybe beyond, will go down of one of the strangest in Oiler history. Its kinds of like a Monte Python skit. A guy who has shown nothing at the NHL level making like he is in a position to make demands. If JP was possibly tradeable before he is not now. What would team would want a guy who scored 4 goals last year who wants a guarantee of top 6 minutes? The agent has taken a lot of heat, but Lehto has been an agent for a number of years and represents a lot of players. I have to think he has tried to explain to JP the facts of life as an NHL player. But at the end of the day the agent works for the player and the player makes the final call.

    Its becoming more obvious why team-mates were not keen on playing with him.

  • Arfguy

    If he goes to a team and gets top 2 line role, Jesse will no doubt kill it. He is a great player and the Oilers will regret putting him a position to want out.

  • madjam

    Can’t get nothing worthwhile from other NHL teams , and he refuses to try and play here . Only alternative is to tell him play in Europe until he can raise his value for a decent trade . Goodbye and good riddance .

  • 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.

  • boil-in-the-oil

    Let him eat cake. So which of the two is “the entitled one”…Jesse or the agent? Either way, using this strategy is not going to end well for either party. Wake up Jesse, sign the Oilers’ offer and get your entitled ass to camp.

    • Canoe Ride 27

      Correction, Jesse can keep his entitled ass to Europe. He should be able to carve out a nice little living in the Swiss league. I don’t think we’ll see him play another game in NA.

      KH is doing the right thing. He can’t get anything for him so a least he makes the statement for future issues that he won’t be messed with.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • TKB2677

    What team is bad enough that a borderline NHLer can just show up and get top 6 mins like he is demanding. Maybe Ottawa? But at the same time, he mentioned he’d prefer not to be in a Canadian market. Too much pressure. He wants to go to a market where no one cares that he does nothing.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      You know that’s funny, my thinking was the Sens as well, but after all the problems that the Sens had in their lockeroom the last couple season would they really want to throw Jesse in the mix when they are working on a rebuild? Maybe if they could send him down to the AHL but otherwise I dont see it, Jesse is going to end up toxic if he doesnt change his attitude and play consistent hockey wherever that may be, otherwise I see a career overseas….period

    • Neilio

      There could have been a way for Jesse to get himself traded that wouldn’t damage his career so much. That would be to keep your mouth shut, and work your bag off. If you’re playing well and you let your GM know you want a trade and you don’t tell anyone else, that gives everyone options. Not being able to handle pressure or expectations, is not exactly a hallmark of a star player. If you’ve got to play in Florida, in front of 3000 people to feel comfortable, nobody will assume you’ll help a playoff run.

  • Svart kaffe

    Oh my how disappointing this Puljujärvi story has been. I was so psyched when we drafted him and now it feels like most fans have come to accept that it was a wasted 1st round pick we’re never getting back. He could even turn out to be untradeable and it would be fine at this point. He’s just not part of any plans any more.

  • 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.

  • joilers

    Jesse…. You used to be likeable. All you had to do was play half a season or possibly a full season in the AHL to further your development into a top 6 role. If you had a good year in the AHL it would have been impossible for NHL teams to forget your potential.

    Whining and refusing to put in the time into development have made you forgettable.

  • BobbyCanuck

    Say Jesse has a change of heart, and shows up to camp with bells on, and does the best he can do, but it just is not good enough to crack the line-up. What are the implications? Keep him on the roster, at the expense of a player that deserves the spot, or risk him on waivers, or send him overseas for a year? What would the best option be at that point?

  • CMG30

    I guess we will see how this plays out. As a strategy, I don’t understand it on JP’s part. The Oilers are not losing much of anything by him refusing to play. Maybe if he was a contributing points in games, having him threaten to play in Europe would cause some consternation… but he really isn’t bringing anything to the table at the moment that can’t be had for cheaper elsewhere. All he’s trading on is unrealized potential and that’s not worth much.

    For one, I hope he does play a few seasons in Europe. I have no issue acknowledging that Edmonton botched his development so now that he needs to clear waivers to go to the AHL, Europe is the next best option. Edmonton retains his rights so no matter what he’ll have to deal with the Oilers at some point if he wants to play in the NHL. All he’s actually doing is eating into his free agent time where players normally cash in (if they’re any good). In fact, if he really wanted to go somewhere else, he could just come in and play poorly enough that Holland had no choice but to send him down on waivers. Most likely someone would take a flyer on him based on draft position alone. Poof! Now he’s elsewhere!

    As for his idea that he needs minimum 15 minutes of top 2 line playing time per game… Well, he’s sure got some big brass ones for making such a demand. You win hockey games by playing as a team and as a team you need to fill the role that gives the team the best chance to win. If the coach feels that the team is better off with someone else filling top 6 minutes then suck-it-up-buttercup. Communicate with the coaching staff why they think this after the game and work on what you need to so that the coaches CAN play you top 6. Whatever you do, don’t let your ego show!

  • Abagofpucks

    i can’t believe he’s being led down the garden path like this by his agent, i feel sorry for jesse. one day he’s gonna wake up and his career is going to be in pieces.

  • Pritchard

    This kid is clueless. He thinks he can just walk into any new team’s lineup and be a top six guy. Could happen some day, maybe even soon, but he comes off like he doesn’t think he has to earn it ? Oh Jesse….tsk tsk….you have much to learn young man