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The Oilers, The Finnish Transfer Agreement, And Teemu Hartikainen

Ever since Ben Massey mentioned Teemu Hartikainen in his "Communications Breakdown" article, there's been an air of uncertainty surrounding the deadline on signing Hartikainen to his entry-level contract.  Uncertainty surrounding the details of the collective bargaining agreement isn't new to the Oilers.  You may recall the confusion surrounding Gilbert Brule's waiver eligibility which generated the now famous "YOU ARE WRONG" line that everyone loves.  Gregor got his information straight from Rick Olczyk, reconfirmed that information and went to bat for Rick Olczyk in a big way.  It wasn't until Brule declared himself waiver eligible that the Oilers finally backed away from their position and admitted that Brule did, indeed, need to clear waivers before going to the AHL.

Everything old is always new again and that brings us to Rick Olczyk, Teemu Hartikainen, the CBA and the Finnish Transfer agreement.

The dates and terms for signing draft choices are laid out in Exhibit 15 of the NHL CBA as June 1st.  The transfer agreement addendum was worked out in the Letter Agreements at the end of the CBA.  I requested a copy of the new agreement signed in July 2009 from multiple league entities and, unfortunately, that request was rejected by all parties.  However, I was able to reach out to a number of other sources that helped to point me in the right direction.

In response to our suggestion that Edmonton was closing in on the deadline to sign Hartikainen, Guy Flaming from Coming Down The Pipe! contacted the Oilers:

I requested an update from the Oilers... "Cornet is the only one who needs to be signed before June 1st; Hartikainen is under contract in Finland and we can't sign him until he is relieved of his contractual obligations over there."  (I am looking to confirm when his deal in Finland expires but perhaps one of our CBA-guru readers will be able to explain why they don't have to sign him by June 1st).

I talked to an SM-Liiga source who told me that "Hartikainen signed a two-year extension in January of 2009, running through the end of KalPa's 2010-2011 season.  If he is signed by the Edmonton Club he can choose to leave before the transfer window closes and he would not have to fulfill his contract."  If the Oilers are waiting for his contract to expire, there is no doubt that they are going to miss the signing window, as it won't matter if the deadline is June 1st, 2010 or June 15th, 2010 because the deal expires in 2011.

After taking some heat on that explanation in the comments, Guy called the Oilers again:

I pressed on for more of an explanation and I can report that this is what I have been told:

"The Finnish Agreement calls for 2008 Drafted Players to be signed by their drafting club by June 15, 2010. If not signed then the players re-enter the Draft."

So according to that, it's true to say that they don't have to sign Hartikainen by June 1st like they do with Cornet, however, it doesn't mean that they'd hold his rights for long beyond that. It's not a similar case as with players in Russia.

I contacted some other sources to try and nail down the date.  In fact, I spoke with six different people with varying degrees of intimacy with the Finnish Transfer Agreement and there was much disagreement on the meaning of the language.

From Guy's statement above, the Oilers' reading of the document is clear - they have until June 15th, 2010 to sign Hartikainen but they can't sign him until his contract with KalPa is up in 2011.  At least I think that's what they are saying based on Guy's statement.

I spoke with an agent that represents various clients, including Finns and Swedes and he agrees with the Oilers, that the signing date is June 15th, 2010, not June 1st, 2010. I spoke with an AHL source with experience in transfers and he thought that June 15th was also the new date:  "It's June 1st for North American players and European players not contracted have until June 15th to sign."

On the other side of this, a separate SM-Liiga source told me "...the contract deadline for all Finns taken in 2008 is June 1st, 2010.  A  source close to the NHL echoed that sentiment and told me that "the team would need to sign the player before June 1, 2010, otherwise the player will re-enter the 2010 NHL Draft."  Contacts in the front office of a Western Conference team confirmed the June 1 date, saying that "June 1 is the date by which they need to sign their draftees from Sweden and Finland or they are back in the draft." 

Either there are clauses that are not entirely clear in the Agreement, or it's written in Kiswahili because a group of people involved in hockey as a living are arriving at markedly different conclusions after reading the document. 

One thing that all six people I spoke with agree on - the Oilers do not have to wait for Hartikainen's contract with KalPa to expire.  That's exactly why there is a transfer agreement in place and a transfer window each season.