Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Oilers Mistake With Puljujarvi

One clear way that teams are repeatedly making a mistake is by rushing their prospects into the NHL before they are ready.  It has the potential to stunt the development of a top prospect.  It also has significant opportunity costs under the CBA.  A player who is kept in the NHL as a teenager uses up a year of his entry level contract.  This can be significant because in a salary capped world, the best teams will have to have players who produce more value than their salary cap value.  This can often happen on entry level contracts and is more likely to happen as a player matures.  By burning a year on the entry level contract earlier than necessary, the likelihood of this happening decreases.

Worse a player can reach unrestricted free agency a year earlier by playing in the NHL at a younger age.  This means a team could lose the player for no compensation when he is more likely to be in or near his prime. 

I argue that players should only play in the NHL at age 18 if they are clearly already star players such as Auston Matthews or if his team is a Stanley Cup contender today who will improve their chances with the player on their roster. 

The Edmonton Oilers kept 18 year old Jesse Puljujarvi in the NHL until they finally sent him to the minors today, but not until they burned a year of his entry level contract and pushed him a year closer to unrestricted free agency.

Puljujarvi was the Oilers first round pick selected fourth overall last summer..  In 28 games played so far this season he scored one goal and seven assists for eight points.  He missed his final game as a healthy scratch.  He played only three minutes in his game before that.  All told he played slightly over 11 minutes per game, which is awfully low for a developing player.

He will play for the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL.  This should give him a chance to play hockey and that will hopefully allow him to continue his development. 

Puljujarvi would have been eligible to play in the World Junior Hockey Championships if he was allowed.  With Finland finishing last in their group they could have used him.  He was the MVP of the tournament in 2016.

Edmonton is a team that made a significant improvement this season.  They are on pace to make the playoffs.  However they are not serious Stanley Cup contenders.  They are not better Stanley Cup contenders with Jese Puljujarvi in their roster.  The main reason for their improvement is the addition of a healthy Connor McDavid.  He comes with improving players such as Cam Talbot and Leon Draisaitl.  They are a team that might have a serious Stanley Cup shot in a few years.  By then they may be wishing they still had Puljujarvi on an entry level contract because of salary cap issues.  In the future if they remain Stanley Cup contenders, Jesse Puljujarvi becoming an unrestricted free agent and potentially leaving the team will hurt their cause.  These have become possibilities because they pushed an 18 year old who wasn't ready into the NHL.

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Comments

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You have to believe Edmonton thought he could be one more piece that would help them GET to playoffs this season. It’s been a long drought there and that would create a lot of good will. Don’t be surprised that if he goes down to the AHL and finds his game he is a late season callup in hopes of cementing that spot.

Posted by evileye on 01/10/17 at 03:33 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com