McKenzie: Oilers have to be ‘real careful’ with Puljujarvi

A lot of things need to change within the Oilers’ organization, but will that include shipping Jesse Puljujarvi away to another team?

Bob McKenzie had a Saturday afternoon radio hit on Ottawa’s TSN 1200.

During a lengthy conversation on the Edmonton Oilers that covered the two minor trades made and the direction of the franchise, the Insider was also asked if he thought Puljujarvi might be moved before the February 25 trade deadline, given his agent’s recent comments.

“It’s possible,” allowed McKenzie. “But they’ve also got to be really, really careful here. The kid’s only what, 20 years old - 20,21 years old - and case in point, look at what Dylan Strome is doing for the Chicago Blackhawks. Couldn’t produce regularly in Arizona, and now he’s playing like a legit No. 2 center with Alex DeBrincat on the second line of the Chicago Blackhawks. So I think you’ve got to be real careful.

“I think you’ve also got to be real careful because Keith Gretzky is the interim general manager, but he’s not the full-time GM. Maybe the full-time GM is somebody that would say, ‘No, you know what? We need guys like Puljujarvi. We don’t need to get rid of him.’ Now, it depends obviously what they’re offered I guess.

“That one is hard because even if Puljujarvi is going to turn out to be a lot better than he’s been in Edmonton so far, the well water might be poisoned on that one simply because there has been a lack of development. And I’m sure the player is thinking to himself, ‘These guys have really screwed me around here,’ and I’m sure the club is thinking, ‘We’ve given this guy every opportunity and he’s not getting it done. And it’s not the best of relationships right now.

“And there seems to be a sense that on Monday, if not sooner, that he’s going to get sent to Bakersfield for the rest of the season and I’m not sure he and his agent are too peachy about that idea. He’s had multiple stints down there and the development just hasn’t come the way anybody wants it to.

“So that one’s a tough one. But I think the Oilers need to be really careful there because I’ll tell you what: I’m really surprised he hasn’t emerged as a regular NHL player a lot better than he’s been. And I don’t know whether it’s on him or whether it’s on the club, or how much of what percentage falls each way on that.

“But I watched this kid play in multiple world junior hockey championships and… I didn’t think he was going to win Hart Trophies, but I thought he was a guy that was going to be a big-time NHL shooter that could score 25 or 30 goals on a fairly regular basis.”

Puljujarvi is in the final season of his entry-level contract, and can become a restricted free agent this summer.

Contract-related info via CapFriendly