As most of you probably know, it was announced today that Oskar Osala has signed with a KHL team, the Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk for next season. He was scheduled to become an RFA this summer, and was a player I personally would have been outraged about had the Hurricanes organization not extended him a reasonable offer to continue his development.
As an aside, if you don’t already follow him, check out Oskar on Twitter. He’s an intelligent, fascinating guy! I will seriously miss him!!!
I tried to do a bit of research on the Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, and found it’s a KHL team located smack dab in the middle of Russia, in a city of approximately 230K people. The most notable NHL alumni of this club is Mikhail Grabovski, currently an alternate captain for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Grabovski is mostly familiar to this blogger as a member of the 2007 Calder Cup Champion Hamilton Bulldogs, my favorite AHL team prior to the Checkers.
Osala had a great season in Charlotte, racking up 13 goals and 29 assists in the 59 games he played for the Checkers. He was out for a few weeks with an injury, but was a big contributor during the playoffs. During his down time while injured, his Twitter updates were exciting to me, as someone who is employed in the professional theater business, because Osala took the time to explore the cultural side of Charlotte by seeing plays put on by local theater groups, and I ran into him a couple of times at one of my favorite bars/restaurants in Charlotte, a Scandanavian pub called Valhalla (named in honor of Viking heaven!).
Osala is definitely a Checker I’m going to miss. He’s a defensively responsible player, and his size and playing style is one that I think an NHL team could definitely use. I hate he didn’t give the Carolina organization another year, because I could have seen a lot of great things from him, but I know that there are a lot of things that go into a decision like this, so above everything else, I wish Oskar the best of luck in Russia, and I hope to see him back in North America soon!