The Edmonton Oilers made a characteristic mistake on Tuesday when they signed an ineligible player to a standard player contract that was summarily rejected by the NHL.
The club appeared to have a steal on their hands when they signed forward Vladimir Tkachev, who has excelled in preseason action, to a three-year, entry-level contract. As it turns out, Tkachev is ineligible to sign a contract because he's still draft eligible.
In fairness to the club, it's a relatively easy mistake to make. Tkachev played for the Moncton Wildcats of the CHL last season, and undrafted junior aged players are generally eligible to sign a contract prior to the beginning of the NHL season if they're on a tryout with an NHL club. In Tkachev's case, though, he remains draft eligible because he played a handful of games in Russia prior to joining the Wildcats at midseason.
"There's a subsection in the CBA that defines prior season. When we looked at it, it looked like Vlad fulfilled all the criteria to sign a Standard Player's Contract," Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish explained Tuesday. "He went through the draft - 30 teams had a chance to draft him - and he played the prior season in North America, which he did in Moncton.
"But when you go down two paragraphs further, in another subsection of article 8, it defines 'prior season' as a complete season. Vlad had played some games in the KHL and that went unnoticed."
Continued MacTavish: "I feel bad for the player because he played so well and he was so excited to be offered an NHL contract."
Tkachev will go back into the pool of draft eligible prospects for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Now that the Oilers have shown some interest, it seems unlikely that Tkachev will go undrafted this time around.