Should the Red Wings Trade for Puljujärvi?

Yesterday, Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujärvi signed a one-year contract with Oulun Karpat of the Finnish League. The former fourth-overall pick in the 2016 Entry Draft has struggled to stay in the Oilers’ lineup, frequently finding himself demoted for his inconsistencies and attitude problems. Recently, he informed the Oilers that he would like to be traded in order to receive a fresh start in the NHL. With no sign of a trade coming along, Puljujärvi, a restricted free agent (RFA), has chosen to sign with the Finnish League as a backup plan.

The deadline to sign an NHL contract is Dec. 1, and as of right now, it doesn’t look like either side is willing to meet in the middle on a compromise. With tensions rising between the Oilers and Puljujärvi, should the Detroit Red Wings make a play for the high-powered winger? General manager Steve Yzerman and Ken Holland share a long history and a great relationship. With Holland’s knowledge of the Red Wings’ prospect pool and his bond with Yzerman, it seems likely that the two would make perfect trade partners. Today, we’ll look at the pros and cons of trading for Puljujärvi and what the Red Wings can expect to give up in return.

Why Trading for Puljujärvi Makes Sense

As stated earlier, Yzerman and Holland share a unique relationship. While Yzerman played for the Red Wings, Holland began his tenure as the team’s general manager in 1997. After Yzerman’s professional retirement, he served under Holland as an assistant general manager before accepting the position as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. It seems almost fitting that the student, after building a powerhouse of his own in Tampa Bay, returns home to become the master.

Steve Yzerman, Ken Holland
Ken Holland, former Detroit Red Wings senior vice president, shakes hands with Steve Yzerman, executive vice president and general manager. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

This bond, coupled with each team’s needs, leaves both teams at a unique set of crossroads. The Red Wings, now in the thick of a rebuild, will be looking to strengthen their future contending team by any means possible. The Oilers, on the other hand, will look to solidify their roster as they make their way to the playoffs, and, hopefully, the Stanley Cup. With rookie superstar Connor McDavid leading the way, it seems necessary for Holland to pull out all the stops he can to create a contender — and what better team to help him than his former home?

The Price for Puljujärvi

Despite the bad blood that’s brewed between him and the Oilers, the price a team will have to pay for Puljujärvi will not be cheap. Statistically, higher-drafted players tend to go for more on the trade market. With his status as the fourth-overall picked player in the 2016 Entry Draft, he’ll likely go for a much higher price than your average player. Additionally, he’s only 21 years old, which means he still has plenty of time to shape up his inconsistencies and become a force on the ice in the future.

With Edmonton’s current needs in mind, the Red Wings will likely need to sacrifice a high-end prospect in a trade. The Oilers are currently struggling to maintain depth on their roster, which means they’ll be looking for young, scrappy players that can impact their roster in 2019-20 or the following season. A player like fellow first-rounders Evgeny Svechnikov or Michael Rasmussen may need to go in order to solidify this trade. Both players have experienced the NHL to some degree, both are still young, and both can make an impact on the Oilers’ roster sooner rather than later.

Evgeny Svechnikov
Evgeny Svechnikov may see himself traded to Edmonton if Yzerman decides to make a move. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

What Puljujärvi Brings to the Lineup

If Yzerman decides to take a chance and trade for Puljujärvi, it seems likely that he’ll slot somewhere in the team’s top-six, potentially playing alongside players like Dylan Larkin or Andreas Athanasiou. Puljujärvi is a high-powered offensive player who towers over his opposition at 6-foot-4. According to EliteProspects, he’s more of an elite playmaker than he is a pure goalscorer. In the future, he may fit like a glove alongside Filip Zadina, who plays more with a shoot-first mentality. Watch the clip below to see his relentless work ethic during a key game against the Oilers’ division rivals, the Vegas Golden Knights:

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It’s important to note that Puljujärvi was never given much of a chance in Edmonton. Mismanagement by former general manager Peter Chiarelli forced him into a top-six role before he could properly develop as a player, stunting his growth and attacking his confidence. With little to show from this, he was sent down to the AHL to help him regain his confidence on the ice. After scoring 28 points in 39 games during the 2016-17 season, he bounced back and forth before finally landing on the Oilers’ roster in the 2018-19 season.

“Puljujärvi is a big winger who combines size, skating and skill. A strong skater who can blast past the opposition in full speed. Able to use his size, reach and stickhandling skills to retain the puck in speed. A smart player at both ends of the ice, both on and off the puck. Great work ethic and positive attitude.”

EliteProspects profile on Puljujärvi

Once he was finally permitted to return to the NHL, he was almost immediately relegated to a role on the team’s fourth line. His time on the ice was shaved down from an average of 13 minutes in 2017-18 to 11 minutes in 2018-19. While that may not seem like a big leap, his time on ice was spent more with players like Milan Lucic and Jujhar Kharia than it was with Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He was thrown into the fire too early, and when he was finally left to develop, he was unable to cement a consistent role due to poor asset management on Chiarelli’s part.

Is Trading for Puljujärvi Worth it?

Having said that, it’s fair to point out that Puljujärvi’s stubbornness in this situation may warrant a bit of caution. Demanding a trade from your current team is fair, but it puts pressure on your team’s general manager to make a move. This can negatively affect a player’s trade value, and when a manager like Holland is in charge, he won’t pull the trigger until he’s absolutely sure he’ll receive a fair value in return.

His inconsistencies on the ice speak for themselves. Last year, Puljujärvi was only able to put together 9 points in 46 games. He’s played a total of 137 games in the NHL and only has 37 points to show for it. Even with the Oilers’ unfair deployment during his first few years, his development both overseas and in the AHL should have given him more statistical consistency. Will a fresh start provide him with new opportunities to grow, or will it be more of the same on a new team?

At the end of the day, the decision to make this trade will rest on Yzerman’s shoulders. With the Red Wings’ fresh crop of forwards on their way and a slew of veterans nearing the end of their contract, it only seems fair that a few new faces are given a chance. If Yzerman decides to pull the trigger on a trade, he’ll need to ensure that Puljujärvi is given a fair shot with the Red Wings. Puljujärvi will need to show that he can outplay fellow prospects like Rasmussen, Zadina, Joe Veleno, and Svechnikov if he wants to earn a chance with the Red Wings this season. With that being said, Yzerman will have the final say on whether or not a trade is made.

Do you think Yzerman should trade for Puljujärvi? If so, what do you think the Red Wings will need to give up in return? If not, why shouldn’t they? Let us know in the comments below!