MONEY TALKS AND KIDS WILL WALK

Robin Brownlee
August 23 2013 03:24PM

Toni Rajala wasn't going to get a one-way contract from the Edmonton Oilers any time soon despite coming off a fine season with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL, so he's headed back to Europe because he can make more money there than he can toiling in the minors here.

I'm fine with that and so are the Oilers, although I'm not so sure about fans of the team, based on all the Twitter buzz about Rajala, placed on unconditional waivers by the team so the final year of his contract can be terminated – he's not being bought out by the Oilers -- by mutual agreement.

Why did the Oilers do that? Well, not being privy to the conversations between Rajala's agent and the team, my best guess is because that's what Rajala wanted. He wasn't going to play in the NHL next season, meaning he'd be playing 2013-14 in OKC for $50,000 instead of having the chance to make $250,000-$300,000 or more back home.

Rajala, 22, a five-foot-10, 165-pound Finnish winger who had 45 points in 46 regular season games with the Barons (and 16 points in 17 playoff games), follows Teemu Hartikainen and Linus Omark back to Europe, where the seasons are shorter and the money is better.

Easy call for Rajala, no?

THE BOTTOM LINE

I don’t understand all the fuss over Rajala, just as I didn’t understand the brief uproar from a vocal minority about Omark when he went home after failing to do enough to secure a spot on Edmonton's NHL roster. Why didn’t the Oilers at least trade Omark for some assets in return? Well, maybe because there wasn't much interest by any of the other 29 NHL teams. Let’s start there.

Did Rajala have a fine season in OKC? Sure. Might he turn out to be a player? Maybe. That said, where does a smallish winger fit on the Oilers roster right now? He doesn't. So, while Rajala would have made $575,000 on the NHL end of his deal had he played with the Oilers this season, it wasn't in the cards.

Hartikainen's last contract with the Oilers called for $65,000 at the AHL level and $875,000 in the NHL. Having done less than enough to secure his future with the team and seeing the writing on the wall, Harski signed with Salavat of the KHL rather than bide his time in the minors for a fraction of what he can make across the pond.

Why wouldn't the Oilers just "loan" Rajala to a European team and retain his rights instead of mutually agreeing to terminate his deal? Well, even on loan Rajala's contract would count against the allowable 50 contracts. As far as retaining his rights, the Oilers obviously don’t see the bright future some do.

Bottom line: if you're not a blue-chip prospect on the fast-track – Omark, Hartikainen and Rajala certainly weren't and aren't -- and you don’t have a one-way deal, it comes downs to money. It always does.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 StuckOutHere
August 23 2013, 03:46PM
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Indefensible move. We cannot just waste assets like this. Mact called for a focus on skill. A buttload of it was just released for europe today. If Rajala wanted to play this season there, fine, but why would you not retain his rights? For another contract spot? If were looking for players to shed we started with the wrong guy.

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#2 Taylor Gang
August 23 2013, 03:51PM
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Seems like waste of trade bait to see all these players walk for nothing, particularily Rajala. Packaged with, say, Hemsky minus half his salary, it wouldn't be out of the question to get a better 3rd line center than Gordon.

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#3 Dinger
August 23 2013, 04:28PM
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Or BIG, BAD STEVE MACINTYRE!!!

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#4 Tom
August 23 2013, 05:43PM
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Let him. Just another spoiled brat.

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#5 winger
August 23 2013, 04:26PM
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now we have room for BIG JOHN SCOTT!!!!!

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#6 MessyEH!
August 23 2013, 04:31PM
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With his slight build, with no hope of a growth spurt. The Oilers do not need this player type. But nonetheless I can't help but feel this is another example of poor asset management.

I hope he's not claimed off waivers by Calgary or Vancouver.

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#7 Winger
August 23 2013, 04:44PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Dinger, the Bronte 5000 is indicating that you're posting from the same IP as Winger. Are you related? Roomies? Coincidence?

Just an Oiler fan sick and tired of seeing the kids pushed around with little pushback.

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#8 K_Mart
August 23 2013, 06:13PM
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It is of little consequence seeing Rajala go, but only because he wasn't going to make the team. Not because he didn't deserve to.

I dont, and never will, see the ridiculous value in size. Do the Oilers need push back? On the score board yes. But if some goon is running around trying to physically intimidate smaller players I say push back by scoring goals, drawing penalties, and keeping pucks out of your net.

Id rather Omar ARCO or Rajala on the fourth line ahead of Eager and M.Brown.

Sure those guys want 15+mins a night, but tough cookie. The team is deep with skill and the physical game(important as it may be) is overrated. (IMHO)

TRASH AWAY

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#9 Archaeologuy
August 23 2013, 03:49PM
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Bob Stauffer initially presented it as the first step to buying Rajala out and the Oilers losing his rights forever. It was only later that he indicated the move was to mutually terminate the contract.

Not having room for him now at the NHL level is great when all the wingers are healthy, but if Yak goes down to injury then the AHL team has nobody with any offense who can sub in. The Organization is not deep at the forward positions by any stretch of the imagination. The high end is there at the NHL level and it's a straight drop off from there.

The big deal would have been losing one of the extremely few offensively talented players they have who isnt already an Oiler.

All that fuss for nothing though, Oilers still have his rights.

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#10 Czar
August 23 2013, 05:44PM
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When it doesn't make sense it's usually about money or pu$$y. We've all seen the Oklahoma babes so it has to be the money.

For the love of beer would MacT just throw the rights to Omark in with the next transaction so we can all get the fukc over it!

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#11 Fantheoilman
August 23 2013, 03:30PM
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Well done MacT I bet if he becomes a real player he will remember what the oilers did for him. Good luck kid, wish you were 6" taller and 50lbs heavier.

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#12 Rama Lama
August 23 2013, 04:36PM
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If the Oilers never had any intentions of playing him..........then why bother to draft him in the first place.

I hope that the amature scouts finally figure out that drafting a small player with a ton of skill will never yeild results. Short of walking on water, and pulling gold bricks out of his a-s, Tony was never going to get a chance to play.

This speaks directly to LOwe and his complusion at the time of drafting skilled Hobbits over size.........the man is a total fool!

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#13 Jerico
August 23 2013, 05:59PM
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They probably tried to trade Rajala and no one wanted him this summer.

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#14 TayLordBalls
August 23 2013, 06:07PM
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I am so right, its wrong!

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#15 Wanye
August 23 2013, 04:17PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

This is not your real name?

BROWNLEE IS KILLING IT

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#16 Quicksilver ballet
August 23 2013, 06:52PM
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Good to see the closing credits roll on the screen as this off season winds down. I was a little concerned that MacT's "Bold" comment 3 months ago may have been masking the fact that one of the kids had asked to be moved. Priming/trying to prepare the fanbase to honour such a request. A little relieved Oil fan doesn't have to suffer yet another kick in the gut type player demand.

How long will Hall hang on while management gets it ship together. These kids are so on their own to lead this team back to respectability again. Will be difficult to have any resemblance of adequate depth with the ways things are now.

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#17 vetinari
August 23 2013, 03:43PM
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Well, better to reclaim the roster spot on the 50 man list than to "lend out" a player who likely will never play a game for your team.

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#18 ubermiguel
August 23 2013, 05:02PM
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Hartikainen, 52 NHL games; Omark, 65 NHL games; Rajala, 0 NHL games.

The fuss is we never got a chance to assess him at the NHL level.

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#19 MessyEH!
August 23 2013, 05:21PM
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vetinari wrote:

Well, better to reclaim the roster spot on the 50 man list than to "lend out" a player who likely will never play a game for your team.

Then start with Abney. The team with the best hockey players wins. The Oilers just let a damn skilled one go.

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#20 vetinari
August 23 2013, 06:29PM
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MessyEH! wrote:

Then start with Abney. The team with the best hockey players wins. The Oilers just let a damn skilled one go.

Fine, Mr. Armchair GM, tell me what you would have done to get some "value" out of him? Rajala was a winger-- where would you put him in the current lineup? Who would you sit in his place?

And as for trading him, 29 other NHL team are likely to pass on him on the waiver wire, meaning you have absolutely no trading partners because unless you are Calgary, you don't give up assets for a player that you could have had for free on waivers.

The alternative is to give him a roster spot on opening night to "prove" himself or earn a trade to another team but what does that teach the other players-- p!ss and moan enough and you will get what you want? Hey, let's all do that then.

This was the best solution to a sucktastic situation. Remember, this wasn't Hall or Eberle cut loose-- it was Rajala...

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#22 Gaz
August 23 2013, 08:15PM
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Is anyone else here worried? We haven't seen DSF since Grabovski signed in Washington. He's probably furiously scribbling down assumptions and line combos in an attempt to convince himself the Flames will be better than the Oilers this year.

Come back, D!

@Tom

Thanks for the insightful commentary. You're right, electing to improve your financial situation after (likely) coming to the realization your NHL shot is growing more faint, is the move of a spoiled brat. Bang on. Yeesh.

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#24 GLS
August 23 2013, 07:54PM
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If he wasn't worthy of opportunity to make the Edmonton club then why did they sign him up in the first place?

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#25 Quicksilver ballet
August 23 2013, 08:32PM
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Sure looks to be a real leap of faith move for Toni. How long till he can call his own shot and sign anywhere, if he can establish himself as a top 6 player?

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#26 Racki
August 23 2013, 06:22PM
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Not a fan of seeing assets go for nothing, but what can you do. Rajala likely wouldn't have been an impact player in the NHL, at least in Edmonton.. so he's just stealing a spot in that 50-players limit. I'm curious if he'll ever make it in the NHL somewhere else... but here.. I can't really fathom how we need a 165 lb winger. Do we need Eagers? No, but we could use some skill with size.

At any rate, Rajala leaves a whole in OKC for MacT to fill. That was one thing that Tambellini actually seemed good at.

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#27 DonDon
August 23 2013, 09:45PM
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Jerico wrote:

They probably tried to trade Rajala and no one wanted him this summer.

Just like Hemsky, 29 teams not interested in the Oilers' $5.5 million man either. What a great contract engineered by the former GM, whose name we won't mention.

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#28 toni_rajalapeno
August 23 2013, 03:57PM
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Goodnight, sweet prince, this will be my last post with his namesake

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#29 Sloppy Joe
August 23 2013, 04:28PM
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I don't follow the twittersphere, but I imagine there is a lot of hand-wringing going on. I don't understand the portion of the fanbase and/or media who dump on european players who opt to play in europe instead of toiling in the AHL for a pittance (e.g. Matheson dumping on Hartikainen when he left).

Life is short, and a professional hockey career is shorter. If an NHL career is uncertain, you can't fault a guy for making money while he can, and doing it closer to home.

I wish Rajala the best.

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#30 LoweBlow
August 23 2013, 04:39PM
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Seems to be the right move for him. Were the Oilers just doin this kid a favour? It seems strange to just burn an asset for seemingly nothing. Something must be going on in good/bad faith. I fear we'll never know the whole story.

See ya Raja, wrong place at the wrong time.

Bon courage.

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#33 K_Mart
August 23 2013, 07:47PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I think there is room for smaller, skilled players in the NHL, but fit and timing is a key.

If a player like Rajala was with an organization that had most of its top-end forwards on the NHL roster pushing 30, hockey ops would put more value in a young player coming off the season Rajala just did because there's a light at the end of the tunnel regarding where he might fit.

The problem for Rajala is everybody in the top six with the exception of Gagner and Hemsky is younger than him. The other factor is size -- how long have fans complained about too many small forwards? He's not as proven as guys his age or younger who already have long-term deals and he's more of the same -- skilled, small. So, where's the fit?

In this case, it's a tough sell for Rajala and his agent to hang tight in the minors for $50,000 -- no way he deserves a one way deal at this point -- when he can make way more in Europe.

Why can't a guy like Rajala beat out players like M.Brown, Eager, Lander, Smytty etc...

Why does skill HAVE to get 15+ mins? Why can't he just play 8 mins?

As long as he has a good 200ft game I don't see any reason he couldn't at least compete for a job.

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#35 MessyEH!
August 23 2013, 08:11PM
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@vetinari

The best solution was to give away an asset for nothing. An asset that had just put up really good numbers in the third best league in the world. An asset that had value. They could have loaned him to a team in Europe and retained his rights.

My point was if you need to clear a contract, buy out ones with Zero value.

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#36 Fresh Mess
August 23 2013, 04:30PM
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I don't blame him. I would do the same thing. Where did he sign?

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#38 Marshall Law
August 23 2013, 06:48PM
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While we're on the topic of small players who have been exiled, I'd like to ask an honest question. I fully expect to get laughed at here.

Acknowledging that Linus Omark has become a full-fledged punch line amongst the local media types, can anyone tell me why the name Omark has become such a trigger for ridicule?

I get it. The fans sometimes throw out ridiculous trade proposals. But doesn't that happen with every player? (remember when Staples thought Oleksiak was worth Gagner and the 7th???)

My question is: why does Omark have no value? He's small, cocky, and has some defensive holes - I get it. But from what i recollect, he showed pretty well when he was given a sniff with line-mates other than Colin Fraser and Lennart Petrell. And for a player his size, he was shockingly effective at protecting the puck from larger opponents.

As a rookie in 2010-2011, he put up 27 points in 51 games. That's a pretty good pace. He even made Pajaarvi look like a sniper for a while. And the next year? He was given a total of 14 games where he bounced in and out of a lineup where he was slotted in alongside some of the best 4th line talent a 30th place team can muster.

All he has done since getting kicked out of E-town is tear up every league he has played in.

So back to my question.

How is it that the Oilers have turned what seemed to be a pretty promising young player into an asset that no one will touch with a ten-foot pole?

In short, how is it that Omark has become a joke?

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#39 Pouzar99
August 23 2013, 06:53PM
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It is hard to disagree with Robin's assessment, so I won't. I would only say that it is a shame that there is no place in the NHL for highly skilled players like Omark and Rajala, and says something negative about the way the game is played and officiated in North America.

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#40 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 23 2013, 08:03PM
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On the plus side...there is a trend developing....the Oilers are no longer going to mess around with Tweeners....After a year or two of AHL you either have it or you don't....with the "have it" being skill and compete.

See ya Tuebert, Plante, Harti, Omark, Rajala, etc.....says something about the organization and the change that is occurring......seems positive to me.....

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#41 YFC Prez
August 23 2013, 09:50PM
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So a team and player can mutually agree to terminate a contract after clearing waivers. I learned something today.

I'm surprised this isn't done more often now that I know it's possible

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#42 K_Mart
August 23 2013, 10:14PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

You are overlooking part of the equation here -- Rajala had a say in this. After competing for a job in Edmonton, he could then report to OKC for $50,000 for another season or go to Europe for five or six times as much. Guess which option he chose?

I realize that, but if Rajala's agent approached the brass, and they had said "But Toni has a great chance at making the team on the fourth line" He may have gambled. Instead they likely said "We understand, best of luck." A clear sign that he was cut before even showing up to camp.

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#44 StuckOutHere
August 23 2013, 06:54PM
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Good teams have good players waiting in the wings. This was the closest skilled forward we had to nhl calibre on the farm, like it or not. If this was a one off, whatever, but poor player evaluation has become something of a trend with this team. I was hoping this would have ended with tambo.

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#45 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
August 23 2013, 07:57PM
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Rajala was ranked by some professional analysts as the Oilers top forward prospect...the most NHL ready forward prospect we had.......what does this move say about the rest of our forward prospects?

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#46 OILERSORDEATH
August 23 2013, 08:55PM
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Would of been nice to see him play at least in the rookie tourny. If he be allowed to even play?

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#47 K_Mart
August 23 2013, 10:15PM
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Also, in that pic Rajala looks like a 12yr old Taylor Hall

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#48 DSF
August 24 2013, 10:22AM
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Gaz wrote:

Is anyone else here worried? We haven't seen DSF since Grabovski signed in Washington. He's probably furiously scribbling down assumptions and line combos in an attempt to convince himself the Flames will be better than the Oilers this year.

Come back, D!

@Tom

Thanks for the insightful commentary. You're right, electing to improve your financial situation after (likely) coming to the realization your NHL shot is growing more faint, is the move of a spoiled brat. Bang on. Yeesh.

I'm very surprised that Feaster couldn't or wouldn't beat Washington's offer.

I guess the Flames are really tanking.

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#49 YFC Prez
August 23 2013, 09:50PM
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A little trigger happy today. Double post

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#50 DonDon
August 23 2013, 09:55PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

You are overlooking part of the equation here -- Rajala had a say in this. After competing for a job in Edmonton, he could then report to OKC for $50,000 for another season or go to Europe for five or six times as much. Guess which option he chose?

Absolutely, Rajala chose the best option. It was a business decision and hockey is a business.

Why would one of the posters call him a spoiled brat? He took his shot with the Oilers, it didn't work for him. He has moved on. We can probably expect more of this in the future.

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