Leading up to the 2016 draft, three names dominated the conversation. Auston Matthews was looking like a clear #1, while Finnish winger Patrik Laine came in as one of the best #2 selections of all time. And then when it came for the third selection, those fateful words came through, in one of the most “wtf just happened?” moments in NHL draft history.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are proud to select… Pierre Luc-Dubois?
Puljujarvi not coming off the board at #3 was a shock to many. It seemed the big Finn with the massive smile would make it two Finnish players in consecutive order. After all, Laine and Puljujarvi absolutely lit up the World Junior tournament the previous year,
But maybe Jarmo Kekäläinen was right. Dubois has put up 52 points in 90 NHL games, while Puljujarvi has managed to total just 29 in 100 games even. There’s more to both stories, surely, but it’s looking less and less like Columbus’ pick was a disaster.
Looking purely at production, there’s definitely a few players on the board either team wishes they probably took off the board. But while Dubois’ established himself as a regular in Columbus’ lineup, Puljujarvi is often finding himself on the outs.
Yesterday, Oilersnation head dude Baggedmilk suggested the Oilers would move JP out of town for a defenceman at some point.
I have nothing to base this on but I'm going to guess that the Oilers trade Puljujarvi for a defenceman sooner than later. He played about the same number of minutes as Marody last night and it's clear the coaches don't really trust him.
— Baggedmilk – Oilers Beet writer (@jsbmbaggedmilk) October 24, 2018
As he stated, it was based on *nothing* in particular, but at the same time, greener pastures could make sense for the young Finn who’s clearly struggling in that lineup. As well, Edmonton’s injury to Andrej Sekera and uncertainty on the backend could see them make a move for an NHL-ready talent.
Today, it was announced Puljujarvi would be sitting tonight in Edmonton’s matchup against Washington. Convenient timing considering I was already working on this article.
Caggiula & Khaira return, Puljujärvi & Kassian out, Talbot starts vs WSH.
— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) October 25, 2018
The Leafs don’t necessarily need any more young talent on the wings, considering they’ve got you know, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander (fingers crossed), and to a lesser extent, Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson.
Furthermore, you could go along with 27-goal scorer last year in Patrick Marleau, as well as Connor Brown and Zach Hyman, who are in the prime of their careers and both capable of playing up and down the lineup.
That’s seven wingers just about any NHL team could use, and you only need eight of them in a lineup.
We won’t really consider Tyler Ennis, Josh Leivo or Par Lindholm to really have any trade value, and hopefully don’t need to debate that much.
You could look to the Marlies and see prospects such as Carl Grundstrom or Jeremy Bracco, and if you want, Trevor Moore and Dmytro Timashov. Simply, put, there’s really no shortage of options in the pipeline.
So the big question is…
- They could win the trade.
Puljujarvi’s value has to be lower right now than at any point in his career to date. He’s barely pushing the lineup on a bubble team, and has gotten off to a rocky start. And like, it’s Peter Chiarelli, who has arguably the worst trading record of any GM in the league. If there was ever any time to trade for a reclamation project, it’s now.
- Another cost-controlled asset.
He’s making just 925k on his entry level deal this season, and doesn’t look like he’ll be signing a massive extension right out of the gate next year. If you keep his salary low and find the right forward lines for him, he could be an absolute bargain on his next contract.
You could also make the point about never having enough forward depth, but like, let’s be real here. This is the Leafs we’re talking about.
What is Puljujarvi?
Outside of the ugly 1 point so far this season, he’s actually pretty talented at creating offence for his teammates. He’s pushing a 57 Corsi For per 60 minutes, compared to 56.34 for… his teammate and 2x Art Ross winner Connor McDavid. Not saying they’re comparable, but he’s at least tilting the ice in the right direction so far.
Written in March, this article from Oilersnation’s Dustin Nielson makes a good case that Puljujarvi should really be playing up in the lineup.
What can the Leafs offer?
In a perfect world, the Leafs offer up Nikita Zaitsev straight up and the Oilers take it. Zaitsev’s signed through just about eternity (2023-24) for $4.5 million per year, which is limiting the team’s options to sign Jake Gardiner, William Nylander, and others. It’s cap space the Leafs would like back, and while he’s struggled, the Oilers could still probably find some use out of Zaitsev.
Otherwise, they’ve got a bevy of picks to part with. Their first rounder next year will be in the mid-to-late twenties, in all likelihood, and while JP’s struggling, you don’t exactly acquire top-5 picks very easily this quickly into their career. On a similar note, dangling a Timothy Liljegren or Rasmus Sandin might seem crazy, but at the same time, imagine going back to your 2016 self and saying you could trade for Puljujarvi by only giving up a player drafted 17th or 29th overall. You’d do that trade every day of the week.
And heck, if you could start of the package with Zach Hyman or Connor Brown? You’re laughing if you get a 4th overall talent for the fifth and sixth rounders those two were.
Will the Oilers actually get rid of him?
Puljujarvi might simply break out out of his funk and become a reliable top-six winger next to McDavid for years to come.
But if they’re looking to move him, the Leafs could find it in their best interests to make a play for the troubled Finn.