Fun fact: Offersheets just don’t happen. This will probably apply a lot to this post, but also remember it the next time you are out on a ledge about Mitch Marner as well. Committing to an offersheet is committing to a whole lot of uncertainty and it’s hard to find a more risk averse group than NHL GMs. You’re basically committing to an overpayment, you’ll have to wait a week to see if your offer will be matched or not, you’re giving up draft picks, and especially with 1st rounders involved, are you prepared for if your team underperforms and you give up a lottery pick? Are you prepared for that pick exceed the abilities of the player you signed? No. None of this sounds like anything that a GM is willing to put on themselves. Especially when the most recent “successful” offer sheet is to Dustin Penner, who was decidedly not very good and the action nearly led to a barn fight.
Since Penner (2007) there have been 5 failed offer sheet attempts. David Backes, Steve Bernier, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Shea Weber, and Ryan O’Reilly. You could argue the quality of player has been improving, but 5 offers in over a decade don’t inspire a lot of hope of anyone trying anything this summer.
Anyways, let’s say that this year IS different, and teams realize that fans want them to do interesting things, and cautiously hoarding players isn’t as sound an idea as daring to be great. Not every team is the Lightning and can roll the dice with the same roster every year, some teams need to catch up, and we’re going to assume that the Leafs might be one of those teams willing to try, and that’s why I suggest one of the most low risk offersheet options, and the Leafs should try to sign Jesse Puljujarvi.
Who is Jesse Puljujarvi?
Well, you really know this answer, but for the purpose of establishing why you go after him, he’s a former fourth overall draft pick from 2016 (that wonderful year Auston Matthews entered our lives). At the time many considered him a potential 2nd overall pick behind Matthews, but as the year went on Patrik Laine established himself as the dominant 2nd overall option, with Puljujarvi looking like a consensus 3rd overall guy, that is until the Blue Jackets opted for Pierre-Luc Dubois over Puljujarvi and he fell into the laps of the Oilers. That always seemed like a tremendous win for the Oilers, and likely disappointment for Puljujarvi, but as luck would have it, they’d both wind up disappointed.
It’s worth noting that Jarmo Kekalainen is the only Finnish GM in the NHL, and would have had the resources to scout Puljujarvi beyond the abilities of anyone else, and he chose to pass on him. Perhaps that’s telling, or perhaps Kekalainen just isn’t hung up nationality and liked what he saw in Dubois more. Regardless, this is one of those little pieces that remind us that there’s risk involved in acquiring Puljujarvi.
The other bit of risk is everything that has happened since the draft.
His rookie campaign saw him score one goal in 28 games before being sent to the AHL, where he didn’t do too badly.
His sophomore season saw his goal total improve to 12 goals in 65 games, but he only produced 20 points. Again he saw time in the AHL.
Last season was an injury plagued year with 9 points put up in 46 games. He only had 4 goals.
In short, the first three seasons do not demonstrate the offense you’d hope to see in top five pick. They don’t demonstrate the offense you’d hope to see in any NHL forward to be honest.
That’s where the criticism of the Oilers organization comes in. While there is little doubt that Puljujarvi hasn’t been what the Oilers want him to be, there is also little doubt that he was given a proper chance to develop. He was kept in Edmonton as a rookie out of necessity, a practice they’ve gone with far too frequently with their first round picks. While it was clear that he wasn’t going to have the impact they would need him to have as a high pick, they opted to keep him beyond the 9 games that would have slid his entry level deal and often scratched him to stretch out the amount of time he would stay with the Oilers instead of being sent to Bakersfield where he could adjust to North American ice and get gain comfort in being a significant top six forward instead of a fourth line sheltered option.
The mismanagement of Puljujarvi then continued onward for two more seasons including numerous healthy scratches, and 4th line roles. The case for Puljujarvi needing a change of scenery is apparent, but there are issues that carry over from that.
- Puljujarvi’s AHL time has been burned through. As well as he no longer has any interest in an AHL assignment. You’re essentially going to need to fix him in the NHL.
- Puljujarvi is rehabbing from surgery and that’s going to hamper what can be accomplished in the summer.
- There’s the small matter of if Puljujarvi really isn’t that good, and acquiring a lemon at the salary an offer sheet would warrant is less than ideal.
Why an offersheet?
Well, Puljujarvi has pretty much said he’s not signing with the Oilers, and won’t be playing with them next season, opting for the KHL or Liiga instead if a trade or offersheet doesn’t materialize. Unfortunately the trade route seems to involve the Oilers wanting a significant payment for the potential that Puljujarvi has previously demonstrated. The price was at times rumoured to be a second round pick or a third line forward as the lower tier options. Personally, I would have loved a Connor Brown for Jesse Puljujarvi swap if that was possible, but alas, it never materialized, and frankly I’m pretty darn pleased with having Nick Robertson, so giving up a second round pick didn’t sit so well with me either.
That’s where the offersheet makes sense to me…
|$0 – $1,395,053||No Compensation|
|$1,395,054 – $2,113,716||1 Third Round Pick|
|$2,113,717 – $4,227,437||1 Second Round Pick|
The second round pick compensation is pretty steep salary to pay for Puljujarvi at this point, and probably not something the Leafs would want to explore, unless they wanted to gamble on a one year inflated deal that would present challenges in re-signing Jesse. At that price, perhaps it’s best to forget this notion.
The idea of paying Puljujarvi $1.395M for the next five years, or whatever term was most appealing to his camp would be an absolute steal, but comes with the certainty that the Oilers would match it, locking Puljujarvi into playing for the Oilers until they can facilitate a trade on their own terms. That is pretty much the risk to Puljujarvi out of the offer sheet route. If the Oilers match on any offer sheet, he’s playing in Edmonton or not holding as many cards on his trade demand.
That’s where the middle ground option of a 3rd round pick comes into play. Taking a gamble on Puljujarvi at $2.113M isn’t going to break the bank. It’s not going to be great if he doesn’t pan out, but an AHL demotion could eat a large chunk of that. There is also the opportunity to put some term to the deal which could scare off the Oilers as well, but assume more risk. This has the potential to be either incredibly good or bad for the Leafs and for Puljujarvi. It could be a five year steal or five year curse cap wise, although I can’t imagine Puljujarvi wanting to go beyond three. It would be a long time to be locked in if he gets his shit together.
There’s still a risk the Oilers would match, but here’s what they would be getting:
- A player who absolutely does not want to play there and has an active trade request
- A player who would be harder to move because the money attached to him might limit suitors and return
- A player who doesn’t seem to fit with the way their roster is built
For the Oilers this seems like a situation where they might have to kick some dirt and accept they aren’t going to get the return they want on Puljujarvi and move on. Either that or hurry up and resolve this on their own terms before July 1st.
Does this really stand a chance of happening?
There’s risk all around and it’s hard to imagine that any of Dubas, Puljujarvi, or Holland want to own the potential failure associated with it. I think of offersheets as a three way game of chicken, and in the best case scenario only one of the participants looks like an idiot. I don’t think that Dubas has the chance to come off poorly in this, unless he’s worried about his reputation with the hockey men. It’s a reasonable risk to take on potential star player. If the Leafs are overpaying a fourth liner for a couple of seasons, it would be no different than the Matt Martin years.