Today, they made it.
The Oilers have sent Puljujarvi, the No. 4 overall pick at last year’s draft, to their American League affiliate in Bakersfield. The decision comes after the 18-year-old’s ice time bottomed out in Thursday’s win over Boston — the Finnish winger played a team-low 3:27 against the B’s, his second-lowest total of the year (and to be fair, his lowest total, 3:07 against the Isles, was the result of an injury.)
Things have been trending in this direction for a while. Puljujarvi’s play has been erratic, and his ice time has decreased as a result — prior to the Boston game, he logged just 9:14 of ice time in a 3-1 loss to Columbus.
Puljujarvi finished that game with no shots and a team-worst Corsi of 23 percent at even strength. He also took a holding penalty in the first period, which the Blue Jackets turned into a power-play goal.
The decision to send him to Bakersfield has been hanging around for quite some time. Even before this latest stretch, Puljujarvi clearly hadn’t earned the trust of head coach Todd McLellan, who’d made him a healthy scratch on a few occasions.
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli had also previously acknowledged a stint in the minors could be best for Puljujarvi’s growth as a player.
“This is an age-old dilemma,” said Chiarelli. “You have to balance the development at playing eight minutes (in the NHL) versus 15 minutes or 20 minutes somewhere else.”