Former fourth overall draft pick Jesse Puljujarvi has had his future chances of being an NHL player slashed by the incompetence of the Edmonton Oilers front office and coaching staff. Much like Nail Yakupov before him, Puljujarvi’s needs were never considered by the Oilers and the once-promising forward is now demanding out of the franchise.
Imagine being drafted to a team that a season prior drafted the biggest generational talent since Sidney Crosby? It would probably feel like a dream, especially as a big-body skilled winger who most likely envisioned himself aside Connor McDavid on the Oilers first line.
Instead, Jesse Puljujarvi was thrust onto an atrocious NHL roster too soon, stunting his development and forever making him a scapegoat for the Oilers failure to “take the next step.” Fast forward to June 19th, and Puljujarvi has demanded a trade out of Edmonton with just his RFA rights left on his contract.
The Maple Leafs would be insane not to venture into negotiations for the winger. I’d go as far as saying Puljujarvi is the ideal forward the Leafs can sign this offseason and could be a massive coup for the team and their cap issues, too.
Trading for Puljujarvi
While Puljujarvi has requested a trade, as per Darren Dreger, the Oilers “aren’t going to give him away“. It’s the team’s right, absolutely, but with the player being a restricted free agent the team has little leverage to force him to sign a contract. As determined as the Oilers are to get fair value on their asset, they have to come to terms with this trade being a loss for them.
What the Leafs can offer the 21-year-old winger is an opportunity to develop into a regular, everyday NHL player. The bottom-6 of the Leafs is quite interchangeable so at a base, there are two rightwing positions available to him. With a skillset like his, however, the ability to rise up the lineup could be attractive to the player.
The Leafs have McDavid’s old Erie buddy Connor Brown ready to trade based on his $2.1m cap hit which could entice the Oilers to move on from him. As well, rumors linking Zaitsev to Edmonton could suggest that a bigger deal could be agreed to for multiple NHL pieces.
What to expect from the winger
As mentioned, Puljujarvi is a big boy. At 6’4″, 223 lbs he would be amongst the Leafs’ heavyweight division and would bring the boisterous size element to the forward corps that the Buds have been missing.
Statistically, however, there is little to suggest this player will be a slam dunk if he does sign in Toronto. Last season he played in 46 games and put up just 16 points, and the season prior he scored 20 in 65 games. His high draft selection was off the back of a World Juniors performance that saw him net 17 points in just 7 games.
Puljujarvi had great promise but was rushed to the NHL by a dimwitted management team in Edmonton. Too shallow on forward options, Puljujarvi was slotted in the lineup and eyes turned to him to ignite the offense. This should have never happened, and now both the player and team are dealing with the fallout from it.
Should the Leafs make a move for him, properly slotting him into the lineup will be clutch. If he can be signed for multiple years at a sub-one million dollar deal then the pressure can be removed from the player and he can focus on just playing hockey again. The Leafs could do a lot worse than Puljujarvi when looking for bargain deals, but don’t expect the transition to be instant