Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t a solution

Earlier this week, it was officially announced that Jesse Puljujarvi had signed a one-year deal with Finnish club Oulun Kärpät. For a lot of people, this is being viewed as some sort of solution. I don’t see it that way at all. In my opinion, this is just pushing a problem a little bit further down the road.

There’s an out-clause in the deal that will allow Jesse to walk back to the NHL at any point before the RFA signing deadline on December 1st. So Jesse Puljujarvi and his camp aren’t completely closing the door on a return to the NHL this season, they’re seemingly just closing the door on a return to Edmonton. That’s not entirely shocking, but the NHL out clause is an important thing to remember with all of this. It is still entirely possible that Ken Holland finds a place to trade Puljujarvi and based off of the most recent tweets from TSN’s Ryan Rishaug, there’s a chance it happens.

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There was a part of me that was hoping we could get some sort of closure to this saga over the next few weeks. It appears as though this will continue to drag on. One question being asked is what type of return would cause the Oilers to pull the trigger on a deal right now?

Rishaug made it seem like they want a player who can slide into their top nine and also a draft pick. Some say that isn’t enough and the Oilers should let him dominate in Europe for a season and let his value rise. I just don’t see a scenario where a year from now, the Oilers can get anything more than a draft pick for Puljujarvi. Regardless of how well he plays with Oulun Karpat.

Right now, team’s are likely hesitant to acquire Puljujarvi because the asking price is high, he doesn’t have a contract, and he hasn’t proven at any point that he can play at the NHL level. A year from now he will still be without a contract and no matter how well he does, other teams will still be looking at a player who hasn’t proven anything at the NHL level.

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How many times has a prospect gone overseas and within a year, significantly built up his value? Not often.

One recent example is Valeri Nichuskin. After struggling a bit after a few years in the league (he still scored 64 points in 166 games) he decided to go to the KHL for a few years. The hope was that he would find his game while playing in a more comfortable/familiar setting with CSKA Moskow. He went to the KHL, posted a points per game of 0.59 over two seasons, returned to the NHL and continued to struggle. 

Now, at 24-years-old, Nichuskin was forced to sign a one-year deal worth just over league minimum. He went overseas and his value never returned. His game never reached a new level.

Among Oilers fans and media, there’s an idea that Puljujarvi will simply go to Europe, snap his fingers, and magically be worth more next summer in a trade. While he could go to Liiga and dominate, I’m just not sure if other teams will see that and suddenly think he’s worth a first-round pick or a top-six winger in a trade.

Maybe he needs some time to mature and after a year back at home, he’ll realize that he needs to get through whatever issues currently exist between him and the Oilers room if he wants to be an NHLer and the Oilers can try to salvage a player out of this. That could happen.

He could also go to Finland and be just average. That’s also a very real possibility. 

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I didn’t write this to dump on Puljujarvi for how he and his camp have handled this. I didn’t write this to rip the Oilers for their inability to properly develop another high-end European prospect. I wrote this to say that Puljujarvi going to Europe is not going to instantly improve his value. Even if he’s a point per game player in Liiga, I don’t think there will be a rush of teams lining up to acquire him.

Jesse Puljujarvi going to Europe is not a solution to anything, it’s simply prolonging the problem.