Well, as we wait for the draft, I think now is a good time to discuss the junior systems of the world and how they transla-
Puljujarvi to be traded? "Both sides are OK with moving on," Oilers insider reports https://t.co/OeaQEmzfVL— Edmonton Journal (@edmontonjournal) June 30, 2022
...Alright, scratch that. Or at least kick it down the pike. Let’s talk about this instead.
How did we get here?
Finnish forward Jesse Puljujarvi and the Edmonton Oilers have been in an estranged marriage for a good long time now, starting with inconsistent development on the part of the Oilers, a bone spur diagnosis and surgery, him returning to Finland after asking for a trade, him coming back from Finland and honestly seeming like he’s doing better, and now we’re here; after a disappointing playoffs. Such a storied career at such a young age has created some really interesting splits in opinion on the player.
Some fans, and especially local Edmonton media, seems to despise Puljujarvi for what they perceive as a lack of goals for all his skills, an awkwardness of style, and a lack of grit. That third thing could also be tied to a virulent undercurrent of xenophobia among their ranks, but that’s neither here nor there.
The analytically minded meanwhile adore them some Pool Party, seeing him as one of Edmonton’s underrated-ly better players and simply cannot fathom why this team would actively go out of their way to kneecap themselves in the offseason, at least from the perspective of the hard math, even if his point totals haven’t yet matched up with his ability.
The easiest way to put it is that the Oilers appear to have put a lot of expectations on a young man a little too fast, and while under the hood he’s been able to be an effective NHLer, I think the Oilers were expecting more of a goalscoring phenom, and he’s tired of an organization trying as hard as they can to make “fetch” happen.
In any case, I think we can all agree it’s probably best for both sides to just split up and find greener pastures.
On the Surface:
Puljujarvi at 6’4 on the surface isn’t really a bruiser. That’s part of the reason a lot of fans have sort of written him off. But it ignores that Pool Party’s greatest skill is getting and being extremely INVOLVED.
Puljujarvi when he’s on his horse is a nightmare in front of the net: always jockeying for position, always looking for an opening, and a rebound fiend.
While his shooting may not be good at deceiving goalies, he’s definitely able to put an awful lot of power behind it, and when you’re often a target to be sprung for breakaway goals, sometimes that’s just as good as stick-handling your way to a goal.
Where he’s struggled historically has been finishing. He’s got a lot of the good tools...but turning them into a 50-60 point player has yet to occur. But...there’s still plenty to like about his play.
Under the Hood:
I mean, I think I already said it, but the underlying numbers love this player.
Puljujarvi’s return to North America has turned him into quite the play-driver, in spite of what people like Marc Spector or worryingly, like the people inside the Edmonton locker room, believe him to be. He can drive offense at even strength exceptionally well, being 2nd on the team in xGF% on a team with Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, and Zach Hyman on it.
There’s also the fact that when he’s on the ice, the Oilers just do better...in general.
There’s the fact that the Oilers tend to control the shot and shot attempt count whenever he’s on the ice, and that he’s arguably more involved in the little things than a couple of his contemporaries looking for similar money...but I think the best way to describe Puljujarvi’s work in the form of A Graph that shows the general performance with and without Puljujarvi on the ice with the Oilers, and our dear friend Micah at HockeyViz.com happens to have made one up:
What would he be worth?:
The crazy thing about this trade is that apparently there’s extremely little that the Oilers want as compensation for him. If you take what the Edmonton media suggests at their word, he’s probably leaving for little more than a 2nd or a 3rd that they would attempt to flip for another roster player. Maybe even just the picks.
But, as is the case in life, things are never clear cut: Jesse Puljujarvi is an RFA, and if the Oilers really wanted to, they could throw out a cursory offer to see if they could command more for someone attempting to offer sheet him...but it seems unlikely as of right now.
But should they do it?
Honestly? Yes. The Kraken absolutely should do this particular thing.
For one thing, in order to become competitive in the NHL, it can’t just be drafting and free agent signings that turn you from a builder to a contender; you need to find value in players. A great way to do that is to pick up players that are good when their value is at their lowest because their value to their current team doesn’t match their talent.
A very good example of this, Valeri Nichushkin, just found his way to a Stanley Cup victory a week and change ago within the same five year span of him going goal-less in 57 NHL games. Puljujarvi’s story is already shaping up to be extremely similar.
Obviously, the Kraken are not in a position to call themselves contenders yet, and it will take a couple of seasons at minimum for them to crawl out of the hole they dug themselves to start year one.
But this kind of trade is a start.
It is a low-risk opportunity to put a cost-controlled asset that will, at least by most projections, make less than 3 million AAV on his next contract on the roster, and puts the kind of player who does a lot of the little things that the eye test can’t see right, something the Kraken have had trouble with.