According to the highly reliable Craig Custance of ESPN, Oilers forward Teemu Hartikainen will play in the KHL next season.
Oilers prospect Teemu Hartikainen (RFA) headed to the KHL to play for Ufa.
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) June 10, 2013
This is an extremely surprising development. Despite the fact that Hartikainen is a restricted free agent, the expectation was that he would play a role in the NHL for the Oilers this season. He’s coming off an entry-level contract where he established himself as a contender for NHL work, though last season he failed to take advantage of an opportunity to cement himself in a top-nine role on the roster and was likely bound for a depth role to start 2013-14.
Despite a disappointing season, Hartikainen was still well-placed for NHL advancement. His waiver exemption had expired, meaning that the Oilers could not have re-assigned him to Oklahoma City without allowing the other 29 teams a chance to claim him – something they almost certainly would not have done. The results were lacking in a lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, but Hartikainen’s combination of size (6’1", 215 pounds) and ability (his work in the AHL has been excellent) made him an intriguing prospect for the Oilers.
There has yet to be any official reaction from the Oilers organization – or, for that matter, independent confirmation of the move – but there are essentially two different ways of looking at this. If Hartikainen was a player the team had firm plans for and who they felt could be an asset in the NHL this year, than this is an unfortunate loss for the team. If, on the other hand, he was the kind of player they were ambivalent about and were only planning to keep on the NHL roster because of waiver rules, a year in Russia could actually turn out to be a benefit – it gives Hartikainen another year to show what he can do (in a more difficult league than the AHL) and clears a roster spot for the team.
Right now, the only thing that is certain is that this opens yet another spot on a 2013-14 Oilers roster that was already looking at a significant transformation.
Recently around the Nation Network
At Canucks Army, Thomas Drance makes the argument that Vancouver might be able to learn a little from old employee Craig MacTavish when it comes to making a coaching hire
Time will tell if the Oilers were too hasty, or if the Canucks were too dithering, in their respective pursuits of Dallas Eakins. Going forward, however, I think Canucks management needs to seriously consider whether their preternaturally patient approach to pretty much everything is borne of prudence, or of indecision.
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