Isn’t it funny how things can go so wrong over the course of three short years? The date was June 24, 2016, and the setting was the NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo. It was on that day the Edmonton Oilers were handed the good fortune of having Jesse Puljujarvi fall into their lap at the No. 4 position in the draft. Well, so much for predictions and those sort of things.
Unfortunately, what appeared to be a perfect landing spot has turned into a nightmare scenario for both the player and the organization. To suggest the talented winger has had a tough time adjusting to the North American game would be an understatement. However, with a mere 139 games at the NHL level under his belt and still only 21-years of age, Puljujarvi has plenty of time to right the so-called ship.
Puljujarvi Can Right the Ship
With that said, his days as a member of the Oilers are coming to an end and it really is a shame. Chances are, if you are reading this, you are well aware of the friction between the two sides and know exactly where this is headed. In my mind, Puljujarvi is getting bad advice from his agent Markus Lehto and seems more than ok with remaining in Finland until Edmonton finds a suitable trading partner.
Now don’t get me wrong, the kid has every reason to want to go elsewhere and try to figure this out. After all, the organization has done him no favours in their handling of his development from the moment Peter Chiarelli butchered Puljujarvi’s name in announcing he was the Oilers first-round selection. It has been one disaster after another and the towering Finn has never recovered.
Not surprisingly, he wants a fresh start and who could blame him. Problem is he has zero leverage, which makes his threat of potentially staying away until he is moved to another team a moot point. The Oilers are in no position to give up the asset for pennies on the dollar so until another general manager comes to Ken Holland with a reasonable offer, Puljujarvi won’t be going anywhere.
Holland Inherited This Mess
This makes returning to Edmonton on a one-year deal to show he can be the player scouts thought he’d be and also gives him the best shot at having his wish granted. Be it a Jonathan Drouin – Tampa Bay Lightning sort of scenario that led to Steve Yzerman shipping the gifted winger to the Montreal Canadiens or something similar. Ultimately, the Oilers have no choice but to recoup as close to full value as they can in any trade.
Contrary to what his predecessor delivered, it is actually the job of an NHL general manager to win trades and improve his roster. Like it or not, that is the job Holland has been tasked with when it comes to this situation and there is no easy solution. Though the organization’s situation is different, just like Puljujarvi, the Oilers have no leverage on the trade front and in order for that to change, the kid needs to play.
For everyone’s sake, let’s hope the two sides can find some common ground that will see the youngster back in Oilers silks this fall. Again, it’s the best short-term solution for both sides, not to mention the fans. To be perfectly frank, the fact chunks of the Oilers fan base are starting to turn on Puljujarvi is not only a bad look but it reeks of desperation and an unwillingness to recognize the club’s shortcomings.
Make no mistake, Jesse Puljujarvi is not without blame. Just like the organization, he could have done more to move this thing along but it hasn’t happened and that part is on him. But at the end of the day, we are talking about a 21-year-old kid and for fans, media types or anyone else to try and put this mess on him for being “soft” or any other ridiculous narrative, it is absurd and needs to stop. Just like this entire ordeal.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.