George Malik discussed the Detroit Red Wings’ hopes of bringing former winger Jiri Hudler back to the NHL next season. As you may remember, the cash-strapped team was unable to dissuade Hudler from chasing better ice time and bigger money in the KHL last summer.
The Red Wings seem optimistic about the possibility of an “out” clause, but my gut reaction is to “follow the money” – something I sense Detroit will once again lack this summer. Essentially I agree with Malik regarding their chances of luring Hudler back.
My take is this: whether Hudler returns to the Red Wings next season depends on which people Hudler prefers to listen to–Golovkov and Svoboda gave him a helluva line about “breaking free” from the Wings’ third line to establish himself as a top-six player and star, which he did become, all while earning oodles of near tax-free dollars and all the amenities of KHL hockey in an apartment, use of a luxury automobile, a cell phone, utilities, and sometimes even groceries all paid at the expense of the club–and whether the KHL feels like getting into a fight with the NHL about Hudler’s rights again.
If Hudler feels that he’s had a nice time in Russia, can put a chunk of change away for his post-hockey nest egg, and is ready to listen to Ken Holland and Mike Babcock tell him the truth–that his best opportunity to establish himself as an NHL’er is to come back at 26 years of age and make himself invaluable to a team in transition, not wait another year to make a few more million dollars in Russia and find himself without a job–then he’ll come back. If the lure of the KHL’s petro-dollars and whispers in his ears about becoming the player he never could be in Detroit hold sway, and especially if the KHL decides to make a stink about Hudler fulfilling his contract, then he’s going to play in Russia until 2011.
Honestly, I lack even a hint of expertise on KHL/NHL transfer loopholes and other factors of that ilk. My guess is Hudler will make the easiest, most lucrative decision.
The real reason I bring this topic up, though, is to take a look at some familiar names overseas. How are a few former NHLers – ones who may even return next season – doing now? I’m glad you asked, voice in my head!
(All stats compiled from Hockeydb.com. Obviously, G = goals; A = assists; P = points; parentheses = my innermost thoughts.)
Jiri Hudler: 19 G, 35 A, 54 P in 54 games with Moscow Dynamo
Nikita Filatov: 9 G, 13 A, 22 P in 26 games with CSKA Moscow
Jaromir Jagr: 22 G, 20 G, 42 P in 51 games with Omsk Avangard
Alex Radulov: 24 G, 39 A, 63 P in 54 games with Ufa Salavat Yulayev
And just for kicks:
Robert Esche: 29-7-5 with a 2.07 GAA and a 91.7% save percentage with St. Petersburg SKA