When young Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi asked for a trade this summer and threatened to play in Europe if he was not moved, it seemed all but certain that he would be dealt before the start of the new season. However, it has been more than a month since agent Markus Lehto told the media of Puljujarvi’s ultimatum and there has been no move and really no concrete rumors either. The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples writes that the trade offers for Puljujarvi have have been underwhelming and if that trend continues, he believes new GM Ken Holland seems willing to take the risk of holding on to Puljujarvi.
Puljujarvi, 21, has failed to live up to his draft billing as the No. 4 overall pick in 2016, to say the least. The big Finnish winger has recorded 37 points in 139 games since coming over to North America three years ago and his per game production dropped to a new low last season with just nine points in 46 games. Although Puljujarvi showed elite offensive upside before he was drafted, he has failed to capitalize on ample opportunity in Edmonton. Clearly, he and his representation feel a change of scenery could be the key to getting him back on track and one would expect teams to still be intrigued by his potential. However, if the offers have indeed been less than expected, perhaps other teams have been turned off by the young right wing’s showing so far. If that is the case, no one can blame Holland for holding on to his asset rather than giving him away at a discount rate.
With a new head coach in Dave Tippett also in the fold, Staples believes that Puljujarvi can find his change of pace without leaving the team and can still be an effective player for the Oilers, especially considering the opportunity still available in Edmonton for him to be a top-six player. The team has brought in their fair share of new faces up front this off-season, but Puljujarvi still seems likely to slot in on the right side of the second or third line, at least to begin the campaign. If he starts cold yet again, Staples admits that Puljujarvi could head back to the trade block, particularly since the team could use a third-line center.
What Staples doesn’t discuss though is the “what if” of Puljujarvi backing up his claim of jumping to Europe. Staples simply assumes that if he is not traded, Puljujarvi will show up and camp and again try to prove that he is an NHL-caliber player. However, the risk the Oilers are taking is that Puljujarvi simply is not willing to play in Edmonton again and will indeed follow through on his threat to play abroad. Two teams in his native Finland, the KHL’s Jokerit and the Liiga’s Karpat, have previously been linked to Puljujarvi, so if the Oilers do intend on not trading him in the coming months, he very well could suit up outside of the NHL next season.