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.

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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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#51 Ryan2
August 24 2013, 01:30AM
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Good for Rajala - I hope he signs a deal that sets him up for a long while.

I take it that all of the upset fans on Twitter were those talking about him already leapfrogging Hemsky last week?

What this does show is how woefully bare the cupboards are with forward prospects in the Oilers' system. Outside of maybe Pitlick in a 3rd or 4th line role, and Lander (although how long until he bolts for mo money in Europe?), they do not have any other forwards in the system that are within two years of the NHL. Arcobello appears to be a new MacFavorite, but he does not skate well enough to be a regular. Weil this is troubling from e perspective t hat the team will not be able to address the Center or bottom 6 deficiencies with cheaper and younger players internally, it also means that they will have to trade away one of the three big d-prospects they have and deplete depth there as well. Right now the system is in a mess - no solid goalie prospects, limited to no forward prospects, and time will tell how many of the d-prospects pan out.

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#52 Gaz
August 24 2013, 12:03PM
Trash it!
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@DSF

Welcome back!

Monahan is their Gagner...the Flames story does not brighten anytime soon.

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