According to a report from Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal, the Edmonton Oilers have released forward prospect Toni Rajala. McCurdy states that the Oilers have placed Rajala on unconditional waivers with the intent of being bought out. Bob Stauffer confirmed that when a situation like this arises it typically means the two sides have agreed to a mutual termination of the player’s contract.
The move is considered to be a shocking one writes McCurdy given that Rajala led the entire Oilers organization in scoring. When combining Rajala’s ECHL and AHL games, he put up 99 points in 92 combined games. Taylor Hall was second on that list with 88 points in 82 games split between the AHL and NHL.
Granted Rajala has decided to flock for the European leagues and Oklahoma City and the Oilers organization in the rear view mirror, the parent club could have merely lent him to a team overseas while retaining his rights. Rather the Oilers chose to give him his walking papers.
Rajala is small in stature in NHL terms, standing in at 5’10” and just 163 pounds, facts that could have led to the Oilers decision. The other notion that McCurdy mentions is the iron fist that Craig MacTavish is taking with players that don’t want to be a part of the Oilers organization. To borrow the term from McCurdy when he quoted Mac-T as saying “weeding out the complainers” as something the new GM was set on accomplishing, this could be one of those moves. Of course that only stands if Rajala was unhappy with his position in the Oilers depth chart that would have seen him start and likely finish the year in OKC. Everything else is speculation.
Either way, it’s another prospect that the Oilers have watched flea North America for the European leagues, further depleting their cupboards of young and up and coming talent. Rajala may not have been a NHL ready talent and his size may have held him back from ever sustaining a lengthy career in the NHL, but he sounds like an entertaining player to watch in the minors.
The other concern that has to fester in to these conversations is if MacTavish is earning himself and the organization as a team you don’t want to get drafted by. If a handful of prospects have left the organization for a chance to play in Europe, is the Oilers management developing a reputation as a bunch of hard-asses? Or is this just another case of a whiner who doesn’t want to put in his time and work his way to the big leagues? Either way, there are more questions than answers at this point and if anything further develops, we’ll keep you posted right here at Oil on Whyte.