Jesse Puljujarvi is a hot topic around Edmonton. His advanced analytics are excellent, he’s a solid young player, but his production has been inconsistent and he didn’t have the best playoff run. On top of that, the player and organization have a complicated relationship, and considering he’s a pending restricted free agent, that has led to plenty of chatter that Puljujarvi may have played his final game in an Oilers jersey. Well, that’s starting to sound more and more likely.
Tom Gazzola of TSN 1260 and The Oil Stream said earlier today that it sounds like the Edmonton Oilers and forward Jesse Puljujarvi are heading towards a split.
Gazzola is about as rock-solid as it gets when we’re talking about reports surrounding the Oilers so this is pretty significant.
If this does indeed happen over the next couple of weeks, it wouldn’t be stunning. Even though Puljujarvi came over with a new coaching staff and new management in charge, it never felt like he was locked in as a core member of the team. It just always felt as though the team didn’t see the same potential in him that lots of fans saw.
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Personally, I think he’s going to be an excellent middle-six winger for the next decade in this league. The Oilers could be once again moving on from a player when their value is lowest and it’s really hard to win trades when that happens. The smart play here would be to re-sign the player to a one or two-year deal as a relatively low cap hit and get a few more seasons of value from him before making a final decision. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards.
It should absolutely be noted though, that this very well may not be 100% on the organization.
Puljujarvi had to be convinced to come back to Edmonton. He did not want to be here a few seasons ago. At that point, all the blame was on the organization, as it should have been. They did a very poor job developing Puljujarvi and did not go to the lengths that they should have to make a top prospect feel at home.
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Ken Holland came in, brought him back on a two-year deal, and Puljuarvi got plenty of prime minutes in the Oiler’s top-six. There were even runs during the season where he was getting powerplay time with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Not a lot, but he got chances. The Oilers gave him plenty of chances.
I also think it’s worth noting that it was easy to see there were plenty of moments where the Oiler’s big guns were frustrated with some of the mistakes Puljujarvi made on the ice. He did seem to gel pretty well with newcomer Zach Hyman, but there wasn’t a lot of natural on-ice chemistry with Puljuarvi and the Oiler’s two superstar forwards.
Yes, Puljujarvi has sparkling advanced numbers. He also posted 36 points in 65 games. That’s very hard to do regardless of who your linemates are and at the end of the day, I really do think both sides held up their sides of the bargain when it comes to this two-year run. 
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Puljujarvi got great opportunities and was able to establish himself as a legit NHLer and the Oilers got two solid value years and a chance to rework their relationship with a top-five pick. 
But sometimes even time and on-ice success can’t heal all wounds.
He didn’t want to be here for the 2019-20 season and honestly, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Puljujarvi and his agent wanted a fresh start now. It’s wildly disappointing because Puljujarvi has so much potential. He could very well score an average of 25 goals a season with another team and honestly, he should probably be doing it here, but it sounds like neither side seems particularly keen on that happening.
It’s going to be really damn hard for Ken Holland to win this trade if it happens.
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You cannot, and I can’t emphasize this enough, just move him for picks or as part of a deal to clear up salary. That would be a near-firable offense in my opinion.
If you’re going to part with someone that has the kind of potential that Puljujarvi does, then it needs to be in a deal that makes the Edmonton Oilers better. You can’t afford to go Eberle for Strome for Spooner here. That absolutely can’t happen.
If there is a player on the market that can slot into the Oiler’s top six and score 25-30 goals in the Oiler’s top six and is on a reasonable contract, then that could be a deal that makes sense.
Lawson Crouse, Connor Brown, and Dylan Strome are three players that fit that description. Of course, I don’t think any of those deals would be one-for-one, but if Puljujarvi and one of those players were the centrepieces of a deal, then maybe it’s possible the Oilers don’t come away from this in significantly worse shape.
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The bottom line is this: Tom Gazzola says that these two sides are heading towards a split, and I take that as neither party wants to continue the relationship. This is not the Oilers kicking Puljujarvi to the curb. This is not Puljujarvi stomping his feet and saying that he’s had enough. This is two sides mutually recognizing that they aren’t the best fits for each other. At least that’s my read on the situation.