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Oskar Osala going to KHL

Last week, rumors circulated that 23-year old Oskar Osala of the Hurricanes had signed a deal to play with HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk “Petrochemists” of the KHL.  He vehemently denied the rumors, saying that he had gotten some calls but hadn’t signed anywhere.  He gave all sorts of indications that he wanted to come back to play for the Checkers next season, but I saw some red flags.  He tweeted about wanting to get rid of a lot of “extra” clothes, and that seemed to me like the actions of a person who’s about to leave the country. 

Today, the announcement came that he had, in fact, signed with the Petrochemists.  The rumors were true.

The native of Vassa, Finland was one of the most promising players in the Hurricanes system.  He had just five (3/2) points in the playoffs, but 42 (13/29) points in 59 regular season AHL games.  He played in one NHL game for the Canes in 2009-10, with no scoring points. 

Osala tweeted today “I’m excited to move on, but hope to be back one day”.  I think Jim Rutherford learned a lesson (although it took getting burned twice to learn the lesson) from the Anton Babchuk situation.  Obviously, the Babchuk situation was different because he bailed for the KHL while still under contract, but it’s still walking away. 

Filed in: | Red and Black Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: carolina+hurricanes, charlotte+checkers, khl, oskar+osala

Comments

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Was was the lesson?  Avoid Europeans? 

I’m not sure what you can do to avoid situations like Osala or Babchuk other than a prohibition of Europeans which is flat out ridiculous

Maybe not invest high draft picks on Europeans? But seeing as Rutherford already prefers not taking defensemen high up another prohibition would only continue to unnecessarily pigeon hole his club on draft day.

Posted by JBM on 05/25/11 at 06:51 PM ET

David Lee's avatar

No, JBM.  They’ve had a good deal of success with Jokinen and Ruutu.  It looks like Pitkanen isn’t going to be part of the plan moving forward, but it has to do with his salary and his tendency to wander into Joni-land rather than his being Finnish.

The lesson is that when a player bails for the KHL, it’s probably because he’s more interested in money than in playing hockey.  The opportunity for him is better from a hockey standpoint here, but he’s going for the money.  Maybe.  He might have other reasons. 

Again, the Babchuk situation was different, but he bailed on the team TWICE while still under contract to play in the KHL.  He, unlike Osala, was unhappy and vocal about it when he was assigned to the AHL.  So his situation was nothing more than the player being pouty and petulant. 

Osala isn’t that, but I think one thing the organization can learn is that it’s okay to shut a door on a player who would rather play in the KHL.  Nothing against Oskar—he seems like a really nice guy, but from a hockey and a business standpoint, the “I hope to be back someday” part of his comment should be ignored. 

That said, I wish the best for Oskar.

Posted by David Lee from Greensboro, NC on 05/25/11 at 06:58 PM ET

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If you could make 500k instead of 50k wouldn’t you go? KHL is as good a place to develop as the AHL. Go for a year or two, set yourself up for life with a great contract, then come back and take a shot at the NHL. I never understood why when a player leaves N.A. for Europe his love of the game is questioned. Not many people would stay in their current job if they could make 10x+ working somewhere else, NHL or no NHL.

Posted by GCM from Vermont on 05/26/11 at 09:49 AM ET

David Lee's avatar

That’s certainly a good point, GCM.

The irony of a situation like that is that young players who bail on the NHL for a season or two in the KHL with aspirations of coming back set themselves back in the process. 
I wish I was more learned on the CBA, especially with respect to free agency and arbitration, but what I know is that a player like Osala, who hasn’t accrued any NHL seasons (but probably would get one next season) is delaying his UFA eligibility.  He’s also delaying his salary arbitration eligibility.  These things will impact his ability to make money on his return to North America.

Osala completed his ELC, so he isn’t considered a “defected player”, but he’s still messing up his ability to make NHL money down the road. 

I can’t track down any details of the signing.  Neither the Petrochemists website, nor the KHL website has any mention of it.  I don’t, then, know what his KHL contract pays him, I don’t know the duration of the contract.  If and when he returns to North America, the Hurricanes will hold his rights as a RFA.

Posted by David Lee from Greensboro, NC on 05/26/11 at 11:05 AM ET

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As a Hershey Bears STH over the past couple years and seeing OO play, he still has some maturing to do. He has talent, but he doesn’t seem to have the motivation/determination to put in some extra work to get that extra step. This is the second straight year for him to have a solid season and he’s bolting again. The Canes seemed like a great in that their forward depth wasn’t as good as the Bears/Caps, but he still left. As stated already OO seems to be in it for the money at this point.

Posted by LetsGoBears from PA on 05/26/11 at 11:15 AM ET

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There aren’t too many professional athletes that I know that aren’t “In it for the money”, actually there are zero. That doesn’t mean that you don’t love the game. Just like going to the KHL doesn’t mean you are giving up on an NHL career. There are many different paths to take to get there.

I would bet that Oscar’s Agent called Hurricane’s Management and asked for a one way contract from them. This would show the teams commitment to him and ensure that he would get a good long look in camp and major opportunity to prove himself. They obviously didnt give it to him, probably offered him a two way deal with the AHL and Oscar looked at his other options. When the KHL team saw an opportunity to snatch away a great young player they probably gave him an offer NO ONE could refuse and he took it. The NHL is the best league in the world, no doubt about it, and every player wants to be there. If you aren’t there though, and it doesn’t look promising that you will be there next year, why play for 1/10th the salary to show you are “interested in playing hockey”?

I guess my biggest beef was David’s comment “The lesson is that when a player bails for the KHL, it’s probably because he’s more interested in money than in playing hockey.” Playing in the KHL is still playing hockey, and damn good hockey too. There are KHL teams that could compete in the NHL, and do pretty well (way better than Florida anyway). So I hate to see a good person like Oscar, who loves the game,  get negative press for making a difficult decision that he feels is in his best interests. That’s my 2 cents.

Posted by GCM from Vermont on 05/26/11 at 02:10 PM ET

David Lee's avatar

I’m perhaps a bit frustrated with a player who has tons of raw talent.  I still believe that playing in the American League is going to be better for a player’s development than playing in the KHL.  Maybe I’m wrong about that. 

While the money might be great in the KHL, the technology for the coaching and medical staff (especially the medical staff) is far behind what we have here, even in the smallest markets.  This player really needs some guidance to harness his raw talent, and I don’t know what kind of guidance he’s gonna get.

Like I said, I hope things work out for him, but I’m a little annoyed with the whole thing.  Maybe I’m a little extra annoyed because Oskar lied to us about it. 
It’s not the first time or the last time that a player will lie to cover up some dealings with a European club.  It’s not the first or last time a player will say “I love it here” just before bailing. 

Sorry if I seem combative. I don’t mean to be.

Posted by David Lee from Greensboro, NC on 05/26/11 at 03:23 PM ET

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About Red and Black Hockey

David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science.  He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows.  Sometimes, all in the same day. 

David has contributed to CBC.ca for their Stanley Cup playoff coverage in 2006 and to the New York Times Slapshot blog for theirs in 2008. Red and Black Hockey was founded in July of 2005.