At first, there were rumors Jesse Puljujarvi was unhappy with the Edmonton Oilers after a couple of seasons of struggle. A forward that was supposed to be a big contributor on offense and potentially ride shotgun with a superstar like Connor McDavid, the 2016 fourth overall draft pick couldn’t seem to find his footing in the NHL.
Some mismanagement combined with the player not picking up the game nearly as quickly as he likely should have, the message by Puljujarvi’s agent Markus Lehto was his client wanted a fresh start somewhere else. A restricted free agent, word on the street was that Puljujarvi had requested a trade. Moreso, even with new management at the helm of the Oilers, Puljujarvi didn’t see a scenario where he and the Oilers could get back on the same page. At least that was the unofficial buzz.
New GM Ken Holland consistently responded that despite whatever the plan would be for Puljujarvi, (did or didn’t the player want out) as a manager, he wasn’t ever going to trade Puljuarvi for a lesser value than he believed he was worth.
All the while, Puljuarvi didn’t say much, if anything.
Were the Puljujarvi Rumors Overblown?
Up until a day ago, the friction between the Edmonton Oilers and Puljujarvi was mostly hearsay through the messaging of his agent. After being firm and playing up the idea that Puljuarvi would rather play in Europe than with the Oilers, when no realistic trade offers presented themselves and the player wasn’t moved, Lehto seemingly backtracked.
Saying he didn’t recall ever saying Puljujarvi would never come back or that he’d flat out refused to play for Edmonton, the waters calmed and the buzz was that Puljuarvi might return. He could then try to make himself attractive on the trade market and shopping him could be revisited if the player still didn’t feel more comfortable.
The belief was the Oilers had called the agent’s bluff, the agent knew it and the fanbase started to chill out a little.
Puljujarvi Puts the Heat Squarely Back on Himself
Just when things started to look like a future between the player and the team was possible, reports surfaced about comments Puljujarvi himself told a Finnish news outlet.
Puljujarvi took part in a charity game in his hometown of Oulu, Finland and spoke with the media there. Finnish sports reporter Jouni Nieminen translated his comments and the words that came as a result left no doubt that Lehto’s first comments regarding his client were not an exaggeration. Now the messaging was coming straight from the horse’s mouth.
I want a new start with some other team. Playing in North America is still my goal. I will stay in Oulu until I have a contract. I will find a place to play somewhere.
Puljujarvi added that his body feels like it should after he had a hip operation and that he’s ready to go. That said, without a contract, he won’t be returning to the NHL and he’s confident he’ll be traded before training camp and things will work out elsewhere.
Now What for Puljujarvi?
Puljuarvi may be right but and he might be traded. That said, at this point, it doesn’t matter. The moment he said the words he did, when he doubled down and those comments became public, Puljujarvi essentially ended his career with the Oilers organization. At the very least, the sympathy he might have built up with management and the fans all but vanished.
Where his sense of entitlement comes from is unclear. He may have been mishandled by the Oilers — a team that undoubtedly rushed him — but he’s also not earned his spot. It’s not as though Puljujarvi is a proven commodity. At this point, three years into his NHL career, he’s still just a prospect with potential. Even the consensus on that feeling has faded.
To make matters worse, Puljujarvi isn’t giving this new management team a chance to right a wrong (assuming they feel there’s one to right). Instead, as Allan Mitchell of The Athletic writes:
You could not FIND an Oilers fan who would say two bad words about Jesse Puljujarvi 6 months ago. The pressure was on management. Now? Vice versa. Ken Holland looks strong, JP looks entitled. I’m certain that is not the case, but that is the appearance at this time. Damn shame.
This may still be the influence of people Puljujarvi is associating himself with and it may be Puljujarvi himself who feels shafted by a team he was supposed to be further along with at this point. Whatever is going on, these were poorly timed comments meant to be heard by a manager that will not be rushed into a decision. In short, Holland has proven through similar situations with other teams, he could care less about leaving a player in Europe and waiting someone out.
It doesn’t seem logical the player and the agent are still bluffing. Should they be or should they not be, Puljujarvi better be prepared to take a lot less money and actually stay in Oulu. It looks like that may be where he remains for the foreseeable future.