Potential fits for a Jesse Puljujarvi trade
Photo credit:Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
By baggedmilk9 months ago
As we draw nearer to the NHL trade deadline, I have a feeling in my gut that we’re watching the last days of Jesse Puljujarvi as an Edmonton Oiler. As much as that bums me out, professional sports is a cold world and if you’re not producing to the level your salary commands then it’s only a matter of time before the knives come out and someone gets cut loose. This time around, unfortunately, it looks like Jesse Puljujarvi is on deck to be trimmed, and I really don’t know how to feel about it.
From the moment he was drafted 4th overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Oilers fans have had extremely high hopes for Jesse Puljujarvi. Fair or not, having him slide to us in that position meant that the expectations were sky-high for him to produce on the right side, and when that didn’t happen in the first couple of seasons, you could almost feel the fanbase splitting in terms of what we should do. But don’t get it twisted, the organization did Puljujarvi no favours in his first couple of seasons here. His ice time was inconsistent, his usage was odd, he bopped up and down between Edmonton and Bakersfield, and the result was a player that struggled to gain any traction before eventually making his way back to Finland where he regained his form.
Upon his return from Karpat, Puljujarvi looked like the player we all hoped he would be. He was scoring at a reasonable clip, using his body to create space, and proving the Oilers with a legitimate option on the wing that was desperately needed. In his first year back, Puljujarvi scored 15 goals and 25 points in 55 games and it looked like his second tour in the City of Champions was going to be the one that stuck. But as is the case with so many young players, development never happens in a straight line and Puljujarvi struggled to maintain his momentum the following year after injuries and COVID derailed his season and put him back a step. Puljujarvi was frustrated, some fans were too, and it felt like the clock started ticking on his time in Edmonton even before this current season began. And now that we’re in the back half of the 2022-23 season, Jesse’s $3 million price tag is simply too high for a player that has 10 points through 49 games even if his defensive game is solid, making him a likely option to be shipped out whether we like it or not.
WHERE DOES HE GO?
Nov 27, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Jesse Puljujarvi (13) celebrates with Edmonton Oilers left wing Warren Foegele (37) after scoring a second period goal against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Over at Daily Faceoff, Frank Seravalli wrote about the Puljujarvi situation and offered his opinion on where he’s most likely to end up. Or, at least, Frank offered an idea for which teams are most likely to take a chance on a struggling winger that would most likely benefit from a change of scenery.
Yamamoto is eligible to return on Feb. 12. Provided that there are no other injuries, the Oilers will need to either trade Puljujarvi or waive other players in order to become cap compliant.1) Any Edmonton Trade Partner: Since cap space is tight, Edmonton can send Puljujarvi in the other direction to make the money work as a type of retained salary transaction.2) Florida Panthers: Back in his days as an NHL agent, Panthers GM Bill Zito’s partner was Puljujarvi’s current agent, Markus Lehto. Zito spent a chunk of time working in Finland and thus, it stands to reason that Zito might be able to glean some inside knowledge on the player and take a flier.3) St. Louis Blues: The Blues were one of the teams that responded to Edmonton’s inquiry about Puljujarvi. The belief is they were willing to roll the dice with Puljujarvi for the rest of the season to see if they could rehab his game a bit, sending back another project player or pending UFA the other way.4) Tampa Bay Lightning: This choice might surprise some, but the Lightning are the best in the business in development. They like to take swings and buy distressed assets, such as Philippe Myers from Nashville. If anyone can carve out a role for a fast, hard-working player, it’s the Lightning. The cost would be essentially free and Puljujarvi can be re-signed for relative pennies compared to what he is earning now.5) Salary Dump City: The Blackhawks, Sabres, Ducks, Coyotes, Canadiens and Blue Jackets are all among the teams that would readily take on Puljujarvi’s contract for the right asset in return from Edmonton.
After getting to know Frank over the past couple of years, I 1000% buy that there are teams willing to take a flyer on this player based on his skillset, draft pedigree, and general knowledge that it sometimes takes a trade to get a player into the right fit, but what I don’t know is what the return will be. We all know that Puljujarvi is struggling on the offensive side of the puck right now, and the last thing I want to see is the Oilers give him away for free even if he isn’t going to be a part of their plans moving forward.
ANY RECENT EXAMPLES?
As for what a Puljujarvi trade might look like from an asset exchange perspective, Frank also put together a couple of recent examples that could act as a guideline.
Oct. 8, 2022
To Chicago: Jason Dickinson, 2024 2nd Round Pick
To Vancouver: Riley StillmanOct. 10, 2021
To Florida: Olli Juolevi
To Vancouver: Noah Juulsen, Juho LammikkoThere are two recent examples of the type of deal that may work for Edmonton. Dickinson was a pure salary dump, with the Canucks paying a second-round pick to move off him. But he had almost two full seasons at $2.65 million remaining at the time of the trade. Juolevi was the pick immediately following Puljujarvi in the 2016 Draft and was traded for another first-round pick in Juulsen in a classic change-of-scenery type deal. We don’t get any sense that Edmonton is interested in taking on another project, instead looking for a player who can contribute now.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Nov 30, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (13) talks with referee Beau Halkidis (48) during the second period of a game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
While there’s no real point in stressing about what the Puljujarvi return will be until it actually happens, what I know for sure is that this whole situation bums me out. Not only do I like and appreciate what Jesse brings to the table, but the fact that he and the Oilers weren’t able to make it work is another blemish on an organization that has struggled with development over the years. From my side of the TV screen, I see a player that was rushed into the show too quickly, had his first few years bungled, and was never really able to recover. That’s not to say that Puljujarvi shares no blame here — he had plenty of ice time with both McDavid and Draisaitl this season but couldn’t find a way to cash those tickets — but the larger point is that this will be another instance of selling low on a guy that we all expected to be a big part of the solution moving forward. But after producing only 46 points through his last 114 games played, it’s hard to argue that those dollars wouldn’t be better spent elsewhere. That said, I’d also bet that Puljujarvi will find a way to rebound in his new home the way others have (Schultz, Dubnyk), and that’s going to be painful to watch from afar. On the bright side, maybe a second look is exactly what he needs to get his career back on track, and if that is the case, I will certainly be cheering for him even if it hurts.
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