Edmonton - June 11, 2013 - Monday afternoon was a rather hectic day in Oilersville.
The big move of the day came courtesy of general manager Craig MacTavish, who announced the hiring of Dallas Eakins as the twelfth coach in franchise history.
While Eakins was the story of the day, prospect Teemu Hartikainen managed to steal a bit of the spotlight, with his decision to leave the Edmonton Oilers organization and sign a two year deal with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL.
During his three years in North America, the twenty-three year old spent much of his time in the American Hockey League, as a member of the Oklahoma City Barons but did see time during all three season with the big club.
Hartikainen saw action in 164 games with the Barons, scoring 45 goals and putting up 111 points. Not exactly mind-blowing numbers but a solid stat line for a guy learning to not only play the North American game but also adjusting to a different way of life.
While the feisty Finn showed signs of improvement to his overall game at the AHL level, he appeared to be going in the other direction when it came to the National Hockey League. Hartikainen was given his first taste of the NHL back in 2010-11 and looked as though he had a future in Edmonton. While he put up five points and three goals in his first twelve games as an Oiler, the most impressive thing was his willingness to go to the net and create havoc.
Unfortunately for him and the organization, that willingness to engage seemed to decrease with each and every year. Hartikainen was handed a role inside the top twelve heading into the 2013 campaign and he did next to nothing with it. While his minutes were somewhat limited, his job was simple. Engage physically and use his size to his advantage. If he had done that on a consistent basis, the spot would have been his.
Instead, they got a player who showed flashes of being able to be that guy but one who, more often than not, was nothing more than a passenger. His inconsistency ultimately cost him his spot and put his future with Oilers in question. That being said, that same opportunity would have likely been staring him in square in the face come 2013-14. His size and offensive abilities, is exactly what this team is trying to add to their bottom six forwards.
Making the news of his signing in the KHL, a bit of a surprise. With Hartikainen's entry level deal having expired at the end of this season, there was no question a one-way deal was coming his way. Be it as an Oiler or another NHL club, should he have been a part of some sort of package deal. Having said that, Teemu wasn't going to be hitting a home run when it came to a new contract.
With that in mind, the move to Russia starts to makes a little more sense. The former sixth round pick signed a two year deal with Ufa and in all likelihood, will be earning a decent wage during his time in the KHL.There are generally three types of players that go over to the Kontinental Hockey League:
1)Not good enough to play in the NHL, 2)No interest in playing in the NHL, 3)Unwilling to fight for a spot in the NHL
In my opinion, Hartikainen falls into group number three. His decision to bolt for the KHL, when a spot in the NHL is there for the taking, tells me it's not that important to him. Apparently, playing in the best league in the world doesn't matter to him. If the 6' 1", 215 pound winger is thinking of going back to Europe at the age of twenty-three, one has to seriously question what drives the player.
This isn't a Linus Omark situation. Omark has made it clear he wants to play in the NHL and believes he is good enough to be in the National Hockey League. While Hartikainen is willing to simply walk away from that opportunity, for the sake of a little extra cash and a far lighter workload. Like Omark, the Oilers would hold retain the talented Finn's NHL rights but if that is what truly drives Teemu Hartikainen, the Edmonton Oilers are better off without him.