Puljujarvi to be traded? “Both sides are OK with moving on,” Oilers insider reports

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This in from Oilers insider Tom Gazzola on The Oil Stream podcast with Dustin Nielson, his report that he’s been told Jesse Puljujarvi is on his way out of Edmonton.

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“I would be very surprised if he ends up in an Oilers uniform next year,” Gazzola said.

“The topic of fresh start is coming up again (with Puljujarvi). And it’s not the Oilers just saying, ‘We’re done with Jesse Puljujarvi.’ I think there’s kind of a mutual understanding there that both sides are OK with moving on…It’s not, ‘Hey, they need him to play with skilled players.’ It just feels like it’s time to move on and everybody kind of agrees.

The Edmonton Oilers will take heat when the move happens, Gazzola, with critics saying the Oilers didn’t handle Puljujarvi correctly, that he makes his teammates better.

But it’s time for him to move on, Gazzola reiterated. “They tried it, time to move on and I think it’s a mutual thing from both sides.”

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Puljujarvi is seen to be a nice kid but he’s not close to his teammates after years on the team, Gazzola said.

My take

1. If the Oilers keep Puljujarvi, I’m good with that. He’s a decent Top 6 winger even if he did play poorly in the playoffs. He pops pucks on the forecheck, passes well, goes hard to the net, screens the goalie like few others on the team and back checks with effort. But if both sides of this equation, both Puljujarvi and the Oilers, are ready to call it a day, who am I to complain? Puljujarvi is a free man, a free agent, albeit restricted, and under the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, he’s free to sign with any other NHL team. The Oilers can either trade him now or receive compensation if he signs with another team.

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2. The Oilers used the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft to grab Puljujarvi, at a time when they could have drafted either Matt Tkachuk or Mikhail Sergachev. But it’s a fool’s game to focus on this kind of thing. It’s the rare player who turns out to be the best possible player who could have been taken at a particular spot in the draft. Puljujarvi looked like an immensely skilled player, a high-end offensive attacker, perhaps a future NHL superstar based on his domination at the World Jr tournament.

3. I’ve written much about what I like in the player. What are his faults? He appears to lack high-end offensive talent. He’s a bit clumsy in his shooting. He seems a bit nervous and often fires it right at the goalie or misses the net on his best chances. He’s generous with the puck and handles the puck and passes well, but he’s not a player who regularly beats others one-on-one with stickhandling. He offers so much as a glue player that I think any team trading for him can slot him in on the first or second line as a complementary player but I’ve yet to see him drive a line at the NHL level. I doubt we’ll ever see that, even as JP definitely can make a contribution to a winning team.

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4. HIs playoffs were so weak this year and his puck luck shooting was so bad that I fear he’s partly being moved due to recency bias and bad shooting luck this past year. That would be a mistake. When we look at his entire body of work, we see a player who has consistently trended up as a two-way player at the NHL level. His game still has room to grow as he gets stronger and more confident. I suspect his best days as an NHLer are yet to come. It’s a shame they won’t be in Edmonton, but, again, it’s a free country, and if both sides deem it best he move on, I suspect it is indeed best Puljujarvi find another NHL home.

5. As for JP’s value, we’ll find that out shortly. Could Edmonton get a few draft picks for him, say a second and a third? One would hope. How about a late first rounder? Maybe. He’s a better bet to perform at the NHL level than most late first rounders.

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6. The trading of Puljujarvi will come as no surprise, not since the lukewarm appraisal of the players by Oilers GM Ken Holland at his year end interview.

Holland said JP had a great start with almost a point per game but the second half was a real struggle. He was going to talk to Puljujarvi’s agent about being a Restricted Free Agent and he would also talk to coaches and make some decisions. “I think he lost his confidence. He was in the Top 6 and when he lost his confidence he worked his way down to the Bottom 6. What is he? 24-years-old. He’s not really young but he’s relatively young so I got to sort out Jesse.”

Is he part of the solution?

“That’s what I got to sort out.”This was hardly a ringing endorsement. It sounded like the end was near for JP’s career in Edmonton. And that is how things are now playing out.

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Brian Jean outmaneuvers Jason Kenney on political slope. (Cartoon by Malcolm Mayes)
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At the Cult of Hockey

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