Earlier today, Craig Custance reported that Teemu Hartikainen has signed a one-year contract with Ufa of the KHL. (Edit: Igor Eronko is now reporting that Hartikainen's contract is actually a two-year deal.) Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, I think we can safely say that Hartikainen will be earning more with Ufa than we was being offered to stay with the Oilers. For me, it's important to remember that. I had (and have) hope that Hartikainen could be a third or fourth line player for the Oilers for many years, improving the team's depth by giving them both size and skill at the bottom of the lineup, so as a fan, it can be frustrating to see the player walk away. But if in fact the young man had a superior offer in Russia, he absolutely made the right decision for himself.
This is especially true because of the situation Hartikainen is walking into. Ufa was a playoff team in 2012-13, but had just four forwards who played at least 25 games and scored half a point per game. It seems likely that Hartikainen will get an opportunity in an offensive role in Russia, at least to start, and success in that role would further maximize his earning potential, probably beyond what he could reasonably expect to make in the NHL even if he did establish himself as an everyday player. So congratulations to Teemu Hartikainen on the new gig!
As for the Oilers, this is a bit of a blow. Hartikainen was ninth in our Top 25 Under 25 series, and was ranked inside the top ten by every panelist. He garnered that ranking because our group generally considered him to be an NHL player already who was being held out of the NHL by inferior players on one-way contracts in Lennart Petrell and Mike Brown. He did get some opportunities to play this season, and though he certainly could've done more to grab a spot for himself, he also had terrible luck this season as evidenced by his team-worst on-ice shooting percentage of... ahem... 0%. I certainly expected him to be better in the NHL this season, and I would imagine the Oilers did too, though if they didn't and were only offering him a two-way contract, his move to Ufa is even more understandable.
Of course, this may end up working out quite well for the Oilers. The contract is just for
one year two years, and the KHL will definitely be a step up in opposition from the AHL. If Hartikainen spends just this year the next two years in Russia developing and then returns to the Oilers, he'll likely return a better player. The Oilers retain his NHL rights for several seasons, and there's still plenty to be written in the story of Teemu Hartikainen.