To say Alexander Radulov left his mark on the Nashville Predators would be a two-tiered statement. On the ice, Radulov dazzled Predators fans with his offensive flair as one of the best young hockey players in the world. Off the ice, Radulov left Nashville hockey fans with a bitter taste in their mouths when he bolted for the KHL in favour of a three-year $13 million contract with Ufa Salavat, all while having one-year remaining on his entry level NHL contract. Rumours of Radulov leaving the KHL to rejoin the Predators have persisted over the last three years, but the chances at that happening received a boost on Wednesday when reports of Radulov stating he’d like to play for the Predators surfaced.
Reports out of Nashville stated that Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton had spoken with Radulov about the prospect of returning to the NHL. Preds GM David Poile via The City Paper:
“[He says] he can get out of his contract,” Poile said. “I don’t know what he wants to do. … We [told] him … we can trade his rights, but he said, ‘No, no. I want to play in Nashville.’
“So that’s where we’re at.”
Radulov had ‘secretly’ signed a new three-year deal with Ufa Salavat back in October which, if money is the issue, could pose a major obstacle in Radulov rejoining the Predators. If Radulov is determined to play in the NHL again, he would have to complete the final year of his entry-level contract and earn less than $1 million.
Radulov was named the KHL’s MVP for the 2009-10 season and his Ufa Salavat club recently claimed the Gagarin Cup with a 4-1 series win over Atlant Moscow Oblast. The KHL has served as a viable option for many aging former NHL stars like Jaromir Jagr and Sergei Zubov, but Radulov set a precedent by leaving the NHL for the Russian league in his early 20s. The underwhelming Alexander Frolov is the most recent NHL player to depart for the KHL, as he signed a deal with Avangard Omsk rather than revisiting unrestricted free agency in the NHL.
There’s no doubt that the Predators would welcome Radulov back if that is what he desires. Poile put it bluntly:
“If Radulov came back here, would he be a benefit to our team?” Poile said. “Absolutely.”
The problem with Radulov and the Predators reuniting may be whether or not the two sides can subvert the red tape. For a team that has struggled to score goals since losing Radulov, it’s a no-brainer to try.