Trade the Bison King?

Apr 3, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) and Edmonton Oilers right wing Jesse Puljujarvi (13) battle for the puck in the first period of the game at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) and Edmonton Oilers right wing Jesse Puljujarvi (13) battle for the puck in the first period of the game at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

It seems these days everyone and their dog is talking about Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi. Many people are saying we need to trade him, as he only has 13-21-34 in 62 games this year. Some are seeing him as good as gone, while others are sporting ridiculous notions of giving him $4 million for eight years (let’s not go nuts, he’s not Oscar Klefbom), and that clown is practically a mensa member next to the people who suggested Ken Holland should be fired or that we should trade Evan Bouchard for a forward. Both of these fans are drinking large quantities of stupid juice.

Every time fan opinion is solicited it always makes me laugh because it is a constant reminder of why fans don’t run the team – they’d run it into the ground with the worst possible moves based on terrible ideas.

The truth, as always, is based somewhere in the middle and is based upon the old adage in poker – leave emotion at the door.

I’m having deja vu of the Miroslav Satan situation the Oilers had at the end of the 90s. Remember Satan? GM of the day Glen Sather gave up on him too soon, traded him to Buffalo, and he would go on to become one of the core players of the Sabres for eight seasons before leaving for two seasons back in his native Slovakia, then signing with the Islanders as a free agent and having another three productive seasons with the New York Islanders before wrapping up his NHL career with brief stops in Pittsburgh and Boston.

Meanwhile, neither Barrie Moore nor Craig Millar – who the Oilers got back in trade from Buffalo for Satan – amounted to much. Moore lasted a mere 39 games in the NHL, four of those with the Oilers, scoring no points in those four games. Millar made his bones as a physical d-man. He lasted for 736 games, 36 of those with the Oilers, putting up 4-2-6 in those games with over 1500 PIMs to boot in his career, but would go on to only score 72-76-148 in his entire career.

Meanwhile, Satan would go on to play 1050 games, scoring 363 goals and 735 points in his career, making him one of the best players of his era in his prime.

Yeah, the Oilers really screwed the pooch on that one…..not exactly fair value back in trade.

Imagine what the late 90s would’ve looked like for the Oilers had they had Satan to go along with Ryan Smyth and Bill Guerin……

Is history repeating itself? If we give up on Puljujarvi it might be – and remember Puljujarvi has a much higher draft pedigree than Satan did, who was drafted in the fifth round and one of the few picks that low down for the Oilers that actually hit as a player.

After all, Satan was 23 when he was traded and how old is Puljujarvi right now? 23. Does it make sense to give up so soon on a player who is so young, was drafted so high up in his draft year, and has already set a career high in points? It sure doesn’t to me.

A lot of people want to give up on Puljujarvi just because he’s going through a scoring slump. He hasn’t scored a goal since April 3, and before that he hadn’t scored a goal since February 17. Interspersed are games at the end of March where he got some assists.

But is this any reason to be concerned? Not really. Scoring slumps are common in the NHL, especially amongst younger players. Even the best players in the league have been snakebitten from time to time. This is why you need depth in your lineup, so that way if one guy is snakebit then someone else takes over for him. Let’s go through some key reasons why we should keep him:

1) He’s not in his prime yet

Let’s not forget, he’s only 23. If you’re going to trade a fourth overall pick before seeing how he reacts to adversity and before the age of 25 when he’ll hit his prime, you better know what you’re doing or get a huge over payment in trade for him, because we don’t want Ken Holland to get PTSD from trading him like Glen Sather got from trading Satan.

2) The Oilers dynamic duo both have good things to say about him

Both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have publicly defended him and appreciate his ability to create space for them using his size for physical play, and being a net front presence in the opposition’s end. Connor Mcdavid and Leon Draisaitl are two of the best players in the league (arguably the two best), and not just anybody can play with them. Just ask Teddy Purcell. If you have a guy that is a known commodity that can play with your two best players, and that they have publicly admitted that, you think long and hard before getting rid of them in exchange for someone from the outside who is an unknown commodity that would carry a lot more risk with them.

Ken Holland is a very collaborative guy, so you can bet that he talks to the leadership group of the Oilers and/or their best players, which includes both of Mcdavid and Draisaitl. If they want him back, you can bet that Holland is going to make it happen. If you want to keep your top guys, you have to keep them happy. Trading away their linemates that they want to keep playing with is counterproductive to that. Likewise, if they didn’t want to play with a guy, don’t you think they’d tell Ken Holland that when he gives them an audience to do so? After all, the players and GM all have the same end goal in mind – to win the Stanley Cup. Holland is a proven winner and has the formula down.

3) He’s cheap scoring help at a time when the Oilers desperately need it

Take a look at the Oilers cap situation for next season. They’re already  being buoyed by LTIR cap space much like a lot of the top teams in the league (and some not so good ones too).

During the offseason there are going to be four key guys the Oilers need to re-sign – Puljujarvi, Mcleod, Yamamoto, and Kane. The first three of those names are RFAs, which means the team retains more leverage and they can be signed for less money. Contenders will take advantage of that RFA window with their youngest players. Even if Puljujarvi isn’t putting up huge numbers this season, that’s not necessarily the end of the world, or that he is a draft bust.

The Oilers could actually benefit from this, and sign him for, say, $1.5 million a season for three years. They have the leverage to do this.

Frankly, saying the Oilers need to sign him for $4 million a year for eight years at this point is premature and idiotic. Oscar Klefbom learned to be a top pairing blueliner in short order, but Puljujarvi isn’t an elite talent that learns that quickly. He might be one day, but he’s not there yet.

A cheap bridge contract is the best way to go for him now. The problem with premature long term contracts is they’re full of risk – if the player doesn’t meet expectations then you’ve got a bad contract on the books for a long period of time. That’s the last thing this team needs right now.

Who wants another Mikko Koskinen type contract on their hands? Three seasons has felt like forever when it comes to his contract. Imagine how eight years of that contract will feel.

Players who are known commodities you can sign to those kinds of contracts. The Bison King is good but isn’t there yet.

4) Who can you replace him with for the same money?

Whenever contemplating letting go of a guy like Puljujarvi, you always have to ask who can you replace him with that’s going to produce more for the same paycheque? At what we’ll be able to sign Puljujarvi at, there won’t be a long list of names.  Seriously, look it up. The only guy in that price range who really comes close is Ondrej Kase, and his boxcars are still inferior to JP’s. Vladislav Namestnikov of the Stars could be another comparison, but his boxcars face the same problem – inferior to JP’s and he’s making more money than JP is right now.

Lots of fans and bloggers at this time of year put out ridiculous pie in the sky trade scenarios where apparently someone like JP will be the centerpiece of a trade for, say, Mitch Marner or Mikko Rantanen. Those scenarios aren’t realistic, and of course they never say how they’ll account for the increased cap space the Oilers would take on in that scenario – not to mention failing to take into account that their current teams will never part with them unless you offer a severe overpayment.

The REAL GMs can’t be those poser fans who pretend the salary cap doesn’t exist. The salary cap is very real, and there are real consequences for violating it, not the least of which is shaving off your team’s cap space by the equivalent amount you were over or forfeiting draft picks, either of which is counterproductive to the team’s long term success.

5) Ken Holland already went through a lot to bring Puljujarvi back, and didn’t trade him before he was brought back despite the fact he had lots of offers. Why would he give up on him after one season in his second tour of duty here?

Good question. I don’t know. All we know right now is Ken Holland doesn’t give up on players as easily as some of the fans do. This is a good thing. If Holland had been ready to give up on the guy he could’ve traded him back when JP was playing in Finland, but he didn’t like the offers he was getting so he didn’t. There’s a reason for that. KH is smart enough to know what he’s got and try to squeeze all the production he can out of the player before cutting bait and walking away from him.

Next. Potential Playoff Opponent: Vancouver Canucks. dark