Jesse Poliography’s Oil Traders was an inevitable necessary solution

It shouldn’t have come to this point for Jesse Bulgojarvi and the combination, but that’s the way it should be.

The #4 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Puljujarvi is 24 years old and should be in the prime of his career as a key member of a team aspiring to the Stanley Cup.

Puljujarvi’s trading against the Hurricanes on Tuesday clearly shows that this is not the case. The Oilers are in salary cap hell and need to get rid of their $3 million cap to increase their financial flexibility before Friday’s NHL trade deadline.

While his six and a half years in the organization haven’t yielded the steady progression expected from a prospect with his pedigree, make no mistake, Puljujarvi has shown flashes of promise in Edmonton.

Only superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Drysitl have scored more goals than Bulgojarvi in ​​2021, a point in time that has been dubbed “The Bison King”. He changed his style when he returned from Finland for the 2020-21 season, becoming more assertive about the blue paint and more physical in the corners than ever before. He did it all with a megawatt smile that endeared him to everyone.

They were all short-lived.

The past 15 months have been miserable for the lanky right winger. Although he continued to be a useful defensive contributor and provided some muscle up front, Puljujarvi’s confidence in the offensive zone was so drained that he could no longer be relied upon for initial scoring opportunities with McDavid or Draisaitl.

His Oilers tenure is now over, and aside from the 2021 season, Puljujarvi’s time in Edmonton has never lived up to his high-recruiting status hype.

There is a lot of blame to go around.

Puljujarvi was fully managed by the organization during his rookie season. Injuries haven’t helped either, from double hip surgery in 2019 to the many ailments slowing him down a year ago. The player himself needs to wear some of this as well. For example, Puljujarvi rarely stayed on the ice to hit the finish line after the official part of practice was over.

However, the one person who shouldn’t get too much finger pointing when it comes to Puljujarvi’s situation is Ken Holland.

Many Oilers fans have a love-hate relationship with their favorite team’s chief decision-maker. I’ve tried to criticize GM Edmonton when I felt warranted, too.

Holland ultimately has to take the ‘L’ here for the way things were worked out with Puljujarvi. But a loss is akin to a baseball manager putting in his closest with enough rest and the opposing team out for it. It’s hard to blame the skipper.

After he was named GM in May 2019, Holland made it a priority to understand Puljujarvi’s wishes and not pressure him about his future. Puljujarvi wanted out of Edmonton and ended up playing in Finland awaiting a deal.

Holland never hesitated to sell down Puljujarvi during the 2019-20 season even as the Oilers outperformed expectations. He could have moved Puljujarvi for a second-round pick or even Bryan Rust – and perhaps he should have taken advantage of hindsight – but he’s maintained a first-class talent or equivalent.

Had it not been for Holland doing so, the Oilers would not have had a chance to see the 2021 Big Jess.

Puljujarvi returned to the commercial market in the summer after things deteriorated for him in the back half of last season. Once again, Holland refused to give up Puljujarvi for a few cents on the dollar.

The Oilers, after a trip to the Western Conference Finals, poised to win more than at any other time in recent memory. The Netherlands have tried to make the team as good as possible and have bet quite reasonably on a young striker who has been very impressive lately.

A one-year contract with a $3 million cap to avoid arbitration represents a significant increase from Puljujarvi’s previous mark of $1.175 million. At the same time, the rise in wages was not prohibitive and one year meant that Holland was not handicapped in the long run.

If Puljujarvi had rediscovered any semblance of attacking touch, the deal would have been in order – perhaps even a steal. But for all of Puljujarvi’s other positives, five goals and 14 points in 58 games don’t diminish him at this price point—especially when the coaching staff doesn’t trust this player’s teams.

Through it all, Holland tried to find the best deal possible for Poligarrvy right up until the end.

Rightly or wrongly, the winger was placed on waivers earlier this month — until rookies Dylan Holloway and Vincent Desharnais were moved to the minors to activate Kailer Yamamoto from LTIR.

Forfeiting Puljujarvi would have been shoddy asset management to see such a high draft go to nothing but a divorce was coming one way or the other and it was the best solution for both sides. Puljujarvi is now going to Carolina, where he plays one of his best friends, Sebastian Aho.

Still, it’s an unfortunate ending, even if this season it was clear that it would go down like that. It’s a necessary evil as the Netherlands make room to try and make the Oilers better in the playoff run.

(Photo: Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)


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