MONEY TALKS AND KIDS WILL WALK

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.

  • 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.

  • Word to the Bird

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

      • vetinari

        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…

        • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

          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.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    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.