Will Puljujarvi Start the Season as an Oiler?
Jesse Puljujarvi is currently an RFA and will need to be signed by the Edmonton Oilers this summer. Unfortunately there have been a number of conflicting reports that seem to suggest that Puljujarvi may not wish to return and play in Edmonton. Puljujarvi’s agernt Markus Lehto has refuted these reports, saying the plan is for his client to remain in the NHL.
Puljujarvi continues to rehab in Edmonton due to a hip injury that had bothered him for most of the season. The injury appeared to be more of a growth defect than an actual injury he sustained in a game. Should that be fully healed going into September, we could see a very different young Jesse.
The development of Jesse Puljujarvi has been a major gaff of the organization. Early on, when it was clear that #98 was not ready for the NHL, the team should have sent him to the AHL, and continue to let him develop there. Instead, in his first season was mired with nights as a health scratch up until the point where the team had wasted a year of free agency.
The next two seasons continued much the same, with Puljujarvi receiving some top 6 ice time, but ultimately ending up in a bottom 6 role, averaging less than 10 minutes a night. Last season was handled the worst, as Puljujarvi was bounced between the AHL and NHL, never getting an opportunity to excel in either.
Now that his entry level contract is over, Puljujarvi cannot be sent to the AHL without clearing waivers, making that not an option for the team. The only choices that remain are for him to play overseas, or stay with the club.
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Ken Holland should not and will not trade a young player at his lowest possible value. It is up to the new GM as well as new coach Dave Tippett, to speak with Puljujarvi and his agent, detail their plan for him going into the season. For both the potentially disgruntled player, and a team that needs more scoring forwards, this is the best option for both.
Puljujarvi may not become the 25+ power forward goal scorer that the team and fan-base expected when he was drafted 4th overall, but the 21 year old is still very young and it isn’t unfathomable to suggest that we have not come close to seeing everything he has to offer.
Do not trade Puljujarvi now, outline his responsibilities and spot in the lineup and let him stay there. My guess is Puljujarvi signs a one year deal and gives both the player and team a chance to reevaluate him next season.