Oilers and Puljujarvi Need Each Other

If you haven’t heard all summer, the Edmonton Oilers and forward Jesse Puljujarvi have been going through some serious relationship issues and are in desperate need of some couple’s counseling.

As reported on Tuesday morning by David Staples of the Edmonton Journal, the ongoing feud between the Oilers and the former fourth-overall pick took another turn with the news that Puljujarvi, a restricted free agent, had inked a one year contract with Oulan Karpat of the Finnish Liiga.

After a long four months of expressing his disappointment with how he was deployed and dealt with by the club, Puljujarvi and his agent Markus Lehto finally decided to stick it to the Oilers and sign with the Finnish club, showing management how determined they are to get a change of scenery for the 21-year-old winger.

But, as this ugly breakup continues to unfold and Puljujarvi begins the season playing in a less competitive and rigorous league, I would not be surprised if the current RFA realizes how much he needs the Oilers at this stage in his career and comes knocking on their door with his tail tucked between his legs at the beginning of the NHL season

Jesse Puljujarvi
Jesse Puljujarvi (courtesy Finnish Ice Hockey Federation)

A Bird in His Ear?

Being a 21-year-old, I think it is fair to say that people mine and Puljujarvi’s age often overthink situations and easily let people convince us of things that they think is best for us, leading us to either make rash decisions or have second thoughts easily. As young men in our early twenties, our minds are still so vulnerable to different opinions and the way we perceive things can be easily swayed by charismatic and influential people in our lives.

Jesse Puljujarvi (Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)

Within Puljujarvi’s context, it appears to me that his agent Markus Lehto has been convincing the 6-foot-3 winger that the Oilers undervalue what he brings to the table. Lehto has spoken out on numerous occasions in cryptic language about what his client wants, and was only confirmed about two weeks ago by Puljujarvi himself in a statement made to a Finnish media outlet.

Usually, when agents speak on behalf of players, the athlete immediately backs up what his agent says in a statement or interview. In Puljujarvi’s case, he did not make any statements about not wanting to play for the Oilers until this month of August, which shows how Lehto has used an extensive summer in his favor to convince No. 98 that he and Edmonton are not a fit. Puljujarvi is probably frustrated that he has not elevated in the Oilers lineup yet, but I think Lehto is the little bird whispering in his ear convincing him that he deserves better already at this early stage in his career.

Edmonton Oilers Jesse Puljujarvi Buffalo Sabres Vladimir Sobotka
Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi and Buffalo Sabres forward Vladimir Sobotka (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

“I Need You Now”- Puljujarvi to the Oilers

“It’s a quarter into the season, Jesse’s all alone on Karpat and he needs the Oil now.”

Excuse my little rendition of the Lady Antebellum chorus, but I honestly think Puljujarvi will come crawling back to the Oilers in November. It may take some time, but he will ultimately realize how playing against lesser competition in the Finnish Elite League is not getting him where he wants to be in his career. I think the chances of him returning to the Oilers before the Dec. 1 deadline are even higher if Edmonton is playing well in November and contending for a playoff spot.

Puljujarvi is just like any other player and wants to win, and if the Oilers are sitting in a playoff spot, why wouldn’t he inquire and see if they would welcome him back into the lineup to add depth and scoring on the wing? I think one reason he has not enjoyed his time in Edmonton is because of the lack of team success he has endured. If the Oilers made the playoffs last year and he was healthy enough to be at least on the third line, he would have already signed his qualifying offer by now and would have been more optimistic about the team’s future.

Ivan Provorov, Jesse Puljujarvi
Edmonton Oilers’ Jesse Puljujarvi, and Philadelphia Flyers’ Ivan Provorov (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Matt Slocum)

Though he signed a contract with Karpat, I continue to believe that the option to return to the NHL by Dec. 1 will bode well for the Oilers, who would gladly inject his big frame and shot into their lineup.

I understand that at this point in the saga it is difficult to see Puljujarvi return to Edmonton, but if general manager Ken Holland cannot (or purposely does not) find a trade for the 21-year-old by the deadline, Puljujarvi will likely make the best long term decision for himself and return to North America to not only improve his game with the Oilers or affiliate Bakersfield Condors, but increase his trade value playing against stiffer competition to draw more attention to him. If he truly thinks other teams should look at him, I believe he should show he that can compete at the NHL level in order for other teams to line up for his services.

Faith in Holland

With veteran Holland at the helm of hockey operations currently, Oilers fans can feel a lot more comfortable with him handling this fiasco as opposed to having Peter Chiarelli cave easily and give Puljujarvi away for nothing (cue Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle trade complaints). Throughout the summer, Holland has preached patience with finding a solution for Puljujarvi in multiple interviews, stressing that if the deal makes sense for the club, then Puljujarvi can expect to be traded.

Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland
Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

I’m not going to do something unless I feel really good it’s in the best interest of the Edmonton Oilers

from ‘Jesse Puljujarvi wants Oilers to trade him; GM Ken Holland may not oblige,’ Global News- June 19, 2019

This message and exemplified patience comes as a delight to many Oilers fans, who have fallen victim to many lopsided deals which have seen their team’s young talent shipped out the door for a return nowhere near as good. With Holland in charge, Oilers fans should not be worried about management giving into Puljujarvi’s demands given how highly the GM values merit in the NHL. Holland is fully aware of how Puljujarvi has put up an underwhelming 37 points in 139 career NHL games after being a top-five pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and completely understands that the young Finn ultimately does not deserve the right to demand a trade with so little achievements to show for so far in his career.

By staying firm on trade negotiations while also being open to the idea of Puljujarvi returning to the Oilers before Dec. 1, Oilers fans should remain confident that Holland will come up with a solution that makes sense for both the team and the disgruntled 21-year-old winger.

Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi
Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Breakup to Makeup?

As much as the Oilers need a speedy, scoring winger like Puljujarvi to contribute offensively and flourish alongside Connor McDavid, people seem to be forgetting how badly Puljujarvi actually needs an opportunity to blossom with the Oilers right now in his career. If he is looking to be more of an offensive force in the NHL, what better way for him to prove his value and skill by showing head coach Dave Tippett that he belongs on the wings of either McDavid or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in training camp?

With tepid interest in the Finnish winger around the league, Puljujarvi needs to take advantage of the opportunity he has with the Oilers to prove his worth and attract more teams in need of his services. Sticking it out with the Oilers won’t hurt either party (unless he feels disrespected by management), but to me, it seems like both sides need each other equally to get where they both want to be.