According to the IIHF web site, Tampa Bay Lightning forward prospect Johan Harju has been named to the preliminary roster of the Swedish team for the 2009 World Hockey Championships. Harju recently announced that he had signed a contract to play with the Moscow Dynamo of the KHL for the 2009-2010 season, foregoing a possible pro contract with the Lightning. Harju finished the 2008-09 SEL season scoring 27 goals and 22 assists in 55 games for Lulea.
Prospect phenom Victor Hedman, the likely 2009 1st round draft pick by the Lightning, was omitted from the Team Sweden preliminary roster.
According to Swedish newspaper Sportbladet, Lightning forward prospect Johan Harju has signed a one year contract with the Moscow Dynamo along with Lulea linemate and Edmonton Oiler prospect Linus Omark.
Since Lulea's exit from the SEL playoffs, rumors were rampant that the KHL were courting both Harju and Omark with promises of salaries in excess of the what the duo could get from the rookie maximum for an NHL entry level contract. The news is certainly a blow to a Lightning organization in the midst of rebuilding and a system largely devoid of elite offensive talent.
One really has to ask the question if anyone from the organization was camping in Harju's backyard since Lulea's exit from the SEL playoffs. Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?
The Swedish paper Norrbottens Kuriren is reporting that several teams in the Russian KHL are courting Lightning prospect Johan Harju and his teammate, Edmonton prospect Linus Omark. The Lightning reportedly had the inside track on signing Harju, who at 22 years of age was the second leading goal scorer in the Swedish Elitserien for Lulea, earlier in the season. However, the entrance of the Russian league into the equation complicates matters. NHL rookie contracts are capped at around $900,000, while wealthy Russian owners flush with cash are willing to spend lavishly on young stars like Harju, putting the Lightning at a disadvantage in a potential bidding war. The question is: will Harju choose the better lifestyle and top flight competition of the NHL, or will he choose to chase the big bucks behind the former iron curtain?
Harju is quoted in the report as saying, "The NHL is the dream and that is what I am aiming for." However, he didn't close the door completely, stating, "The way of life is a bit special in Russia, but it would also be an adventure in its own way."
More on this story as it develops...
Janne Niskala had 2 goals and 2 assists, all on the power play, as Frolunda put Lulea on the brink of elimination defeating the upstarts 5-1. Frolunda took a 3-1 series lead with the victory. Johan Harju was scoreless in the match.
Lulea's season ended with a nailbiting 1-0 loss to Frolunda. Janne Niskala and Johan Harju were scoreless in the match.
Harju ends his playoffs with 4 goals and 5 points in 5 games. The power forward was also -2 and 48% on draws. Niskala's 4 point game in Game Four was all of his scoring in the five game series. The defenseman was also -2 in the series.