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.