May 08 2010 12:11PM
Teemu Hartikainen, pictured above, is one of the Oilers’ more interesting prospects. Drafted in the sixth round of 2008, Hartikainen must be signed by June 1 or else the Oilers will lose his rights and he’ll re-enter the draft.
Hartikainen has taken big strides since being drafted. Over two full seasons in the top Finnish league, he’s shown a willingness to play a physical game, and a surprising goal-scoring touch. He’s not a perfect player – skating is listed in most scouting reports as an area that needs work – but sandpaper and goal-scoring is a rare combination, and one that he might be able to showcase at the major league level in a few years, assuming that he gets signed.
There’s been some confusion as to when Hartikainen needs to be signed by.
On April 26, Guy Flaming passed on news that the Oilers had told him Hartikainen didn’t need to be signed by the June 1 deadline:
“Hartikainen is under contract in Finland and we can't sign him until he is relieved of his contractual obligations over there.”
Flaming’s comment section disagreed with that assessment; the NHL recently signed a transfer agreement with Finland meaning that players under contract in the SM-liiga could be signed and brought over to North America.
So, Flaming went back to the Oilers looking for clarification, and on May 3 published what he’d been told:
“The Finnish Agreement calls for 2008 Drafted Players to be signed by their drafting club by June 15, 2010. If not signed then the players re-enter the Draft.”
First, the Oilers initial position that Hartikainen couldn’t be signed until his Finnish contract expired was completely wrong. Zona approached a source in the SM-liiga, who told him that Hartikainen was signed through 2011 by KalPa, but that he could come to North America if signed by the Oilers. As Zona points out, if the Oilers waited until that contract expired in 2011, Hartikainen would long since have re-entered the draft and seen his rights go to another NHL team.
The Oilers’ second statement to Flaming, highlighting the June 15 window, was something that different hockey people disagreed on. To quote Zona, who did a lot of legwork on this:
I spoke with an agent that represents various clients, including Finns and Swedes and he agrees with the Oilers, that the signing date is June 15th, 2010, not June 1st, 2010. I spoke with an AHL source with experience in transfers and he thought that June 15th was also the new date: “It's June 1st for North American players and European players not contracted have until June 15th to sign.”
On the other side of this, a separate SM-Liiga source told me "...the contract deadline for all Finns taken in 2008 is June 1st, 2010. A source close to the NHL echoed that sentiment and told me that “the team would need to sign the player before June 1, 2010, otherwise the player will re-enter the 2010 NHL Draft.” Contacts in the front office of a Western Conference team confirmed the June 1 date, saying that “June 1 is the date by which they need to sign their draftees from Sweden and Finland or they are back in the draft.”
Either there are clauses that are not entirely clear in the Agreement, or it's written in Kiswahili because a group of people involved in hockey as a living are arriving at markedly different conclusions after reading the document.
The day after Zona’s excellent article ran, the Oilers called up Flaming to let him know that they’d been in contact with the league office, and that June 15 was not the correct date – instead, they needed to have Hartikainen signed by June 1 in order to retain his rights.
This is the second year running that the team has had this sort of problem – last year Jason Gregor passed on the news that the team believed Gilbert Brule to be waiver exempt, information that led to an entertaining dispute in the comments and which eventually turned out to be wrong.