For those of you unfamiliar with the saga, a quick recap: Alexander Radulov was drafted by the Nashville Predators in 2004, 15th overall.
He signed a three-year entry-level deal with Preds after his years in the QMJHL (152 points in his final season there), started in the AHL with Milwaukee in 06-07, and got called up after compiling 18 points in 11 games. He put up 37 points the rest of that season with Nashville (64 games), and went on to put up 58 in his sophomore season.
He still had a year left on that entry-level deal, and looked poised to seriously breakout….when he signed a three-year deal in Russia.
Thus, in order to come back to play in North America, he’d have to play out the third year of his entry-level deal with the Predators.
Well, his three-year term in Russia has come and gone, his team in Russia has been eliminated from playoffs, and word out of Russia is that he’s contemplating a return to the NHL (Kevin Allen of USA Today says ”…there have been Russian news reports suggesting Radulov is considering a return to North America”).
If he were to come back to North America now, it would be legal, it would count as his final year, and this summer he could negotiate a much, much larger contract. If he wants to come back but waits until next season, he’d have to play the whole year for the $1 million he’s owed.
Radulov has led the KHL in scoring in back-to-back years, so I can’t believe he’d be willing to play out a season in his prime (he’s now 26) for a mere million scoots.
These factors make it look likely that he could return this season….so what if he did?
If I’ve had a knock on the Predators year-in, year-out, it’s that they consistently lack a game-breaking scorer. They need that dynamic play-maker to break open tight games at the pivotal moments if they hope to seriously contend. They could always defend, sure, but one-dimensional teams rarely get it done.
If Radulov returns, there’s not a team in the West you could claim to be head and shoulders above Nashville. There’s always competition, and luck matters, but finally, I would be able to seriously look at their roster and imagine them lifting the Stanley Cup.
The Predators have made it clear they won’t pursue him any longer (it wasn’t a pretty break-up) - if he wants to come back, he has to come to them first.
Well, the situation is perfect and the time is right. It sounds like there may be news from Russia saying he’s considering making the turn. This could be the pivotal event of the 2011-2012 season.
If he comes back, wouldn’t you consider the Predators one of the Stanley Cup favourites heading into playoffs?