It looks like Jesse Puljujarvi is heading out of Edmonton sooner rather than later, according to the reporting of the Cult’s Kurt Leavins.
But never let it be said Edmonton Oilers fan ran him out of town.
Even after Puljujarvi’s agent made it clear on Thursday before the NHL draft that the player would refuse to report to the Oilers this coming season, fans have made it clear they would welcome him back.
In a Twitter poll on Sunday, 71 per cent of respondents said they would welcome back Puljujarvi, while 29 per cent preferred to see him traded.
This positive response to the player, even after the clear rejection of the Oilers by his agent, flies in the face of expectation. I would have guessed many more fans would have turned against the player, and that was certainly what long-time NHL GM and current commentator Brian Burke believed would be the case.
On the Oilers Now radio show on Thursday — after the agent’s ultimatum and the response of Oilers GM Ken Holland that Edmonton would only trade the player if it made sense for the Oilers — Burke said if it were up to him, he would ignore the agent’s demand. “I’d do exactly what Kenny is doing. I’d ignore the agent completely. I don’t care if a player asks for a trade, if it doesn’t make sense for the team. I don’t get paid to keep him happy. I get paid to win games. If he goes to Europe, the Oilers keep his rights, knock yourself out.
“If this kid thinks he’s going to bull rush Kenny Holland, a guy who has played what, about 100 NHL games and he’s going to bull rush Kenny Holland, I don’t think so. Sayonara, kid. I don’t know how to say goodbye in Finnish… You’re not in a position to demand a trade when you haven’t accomplished anything.”
Burke wasn’t impressed with the public threat and he didn’t expect fans to be either. “Doing it now and doing it publically, he just turned anyone in Edmonton, any fan in Edmonton that was in his corner, he just turned them against him.”
There has indeed been some blowback in Edmonton against the player, as seen with this comment from Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun and Journal, who tweeted: “Jesse Puljujarvi may be a million dollar talent but clearly he has a ten cent head. And the agent? Not a good combination.”
- Edmonton fans have indeed run some players out of time. For example, by the end of their days in Edmonton things had become toxic for players like Justin Schultz and Jordan Eberle. So many fans had turned bitterly against these two players that they definitely were better off getting a fresh start elsewhere. We apparently see this same dynamic now in Toronto with Nikita Zaitsev, who has had enough of the Toronto fish bowl. But this isn’t the case right now with Puljujarvi in Edmonton.
- Clearly most fans still believe in this player’s potential. Their fondest hope is to see him succeed in this city. The fact so many would want him back indicates that most still feel there’s a decent player there and one that might become a far stronger player down the road.
- It’s also the case that it’s hard for Edmonton to get full value for the player. He’s coming off a mediocre year where he was evidently playing hurt much of the time. I would still be happy to see Puljujarvi go to Europe for a year and see if he can turn around his game, giving him more value to the Oilers either as a player or in a trade.
- If Puljujarvi still changed his mind about returning to Edmonton for the 2019-20 season, the Oilers could set terms, such as telling the player to only come if he really wants to be here and is committed to Oilers. Having rejected the team, rejoining the Oilers will not be easy, but it might well represent a turning point in this player’s career, where he makes an a difficult and adult choice and commits to a hard path.
- As my Cult of Hockey colleague Kurt Leavins has now reported , though, Puljujarvi is likely to be traded before July 1. Leavins says this would give Holland more certainty about how much cap space has to make moves this year. I can’t say that I fully grasp this line of thinking, as Puljujarvi made just $925,000 last year and only has to be qualified now. He’s not going to cost the Oilers much in 2019-20. He won’t cost the team a thing if he simply goes to Europe for a year. That said, if there are decent offers on the table for Puljujarvi — and it’s not surprising that there would be given his size, skill and age and given how relatively little he’ll cost in salary the next few seasons — it also might well make sense to move him now.
- I will always wonder what Puljujarvi might have done here if a) he hadn’t been hurt, b) he had ever been used in his best power play spot on the right half-wall and c) a struggling Milan Lucic hadn’t been his most common even strength linemate.
P.S. Oilers Development Camp roster for this week: Goalies: Dylan Wells, Stuart Skinner, Olivier Rodrigue; Defence, Philip Broberg, Evan Bouchard, Matt Cairns, Leon Hutti, Phil Kemp, Michael Kesselring, Dmitri Samorkukov; Forwards: Matej Blumel, Skyler Brind’Amour, Cameron Hebig, Raphael Lavoie, Kirill Maksimov, Tomas Mazura, Graham McPhee, Patrik Siikanen, Nolan Vesey, Taylor Ward.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019