We are roughly two weeks away from the start of unrestricted free agency on July 1st, and the Flyers have been quite busy already! They wanted a top 4 defenseman and some veteran leadership to ease the burden of their young guns on the blue line and they believe they have done so with the acquisition of Matt Niskanen and Justin “not Ryan” Braun. They wanted a 2nd line center to ease the burden of Nolan Patrick and they have accomplished that with the signing of Kevin Hayes. At the moment, all they really need is a backup/tandem goalie to pair with Carter Hart and a middle/bottom six winger to fill out their roster. In this article, I want to address that potential opening at RW3 with a young player who’s had some early career troubles: Jesse Puljujarvi.
Reports have surface in the past few days that Jesse Puljujarvi is not happy in Edmonton and he wishes to be traded for a “fresh start”.
Jesse Puljujarvi has made it clear to the Edmonton Oilers he wants to be traded. He wants a fresh start to his young NHL career. It’s believed the Oilers are willing to accommodate, but won’t give him away and intend on being patient in finding a right fit.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 19, 2019
The 4th overall pick in 2016 came into the NHL with a lot of promise but has not lived up to the hype in his short career to date. The 21-year-old has amassed just 17 goals and 37 points in 139 games spread across three seasons at the NHL level. He has also seen time in the AHL over that span, collecting the same number of points over 53 games across three seasons (though the majority of those points and games were came in his draft+1 year). Puljujarvi has also largely struggled by the underlying metrics. In fact, many of his statistical measures – CF%, SF%, GF%, SCF% and HDCF% - have decreased each year in the league, including his relative rates, or how he is relative to his team.
So, to summarize so far: he’s not producing and is seemingly getting worse with each passing year rather than improving as you’d hope/expect from any young player, let alone the former #4 overall pick in the draft. So, why should the Flyers be at all interested in Jesse Puljujarvi?
For one, he’s not likely to command a large return from Edmonton. Ken Holland can puff out his chest all he wants, but the fact that Jesse has openly asked for a trade and hasn’t produced to date isn’t exactly boosting his value. Edmonton is also clearly fed up with their performance over the past few seasons and looking to win now, so with how much Puljujarvi has struggled to contribute to date, they may be looking to move him, either for a more established player or to open up a spot on the roster for a more established player. In addition, Puljujarvi is going into the final year of his ELC; so while you would have to re-sign him at the end of next season, he’s cheap right now and frankly, isn’t likely to command a big second contract given his lack of production to date.
Another factor to consider is the Edmonton factor. Puljujarvi has clearly struggled, but it’s not as if he’s been developing in an enriching and welcoming environment. Edmonton has been an absolute disaster the past 2 seasons. Is it unreasonable to expect more out of Puljujarvi to date? No, but is it also plausible that he’s been significantly hindered by his environment? I believe so.
As things currently stand, the Flyers once abundant cap space has dried up significantly. With all their RFAs still unsigned, Chuck Fletcher does not have much money left to go out and fill the remaining holes in the roster with free agents. It’s entirely possible the middle six wing position could be filled in-house; players such as Ryan Hartman, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Isaac Ratcliffe could all present as competition for the spot to varying degrees. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Scott Laughton could fill the position, leaving the 4C spot open for a free agent, trade acquisition or in-house player. However, as far as trade options are concerned, I believe Jesse Puljujarvi is an intriguing option and one Chuck Fletcher should strongly consider as the off-season begins.