How Alex Radulov's defection from the Predators to the KHL created 'The Russian Factor'

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for radulov.jpgIt’s a distant memory for most hockey fans who don’t swear an allegiance to the Nashville Predators, but Alex Radulov’s defection to the KHL – right in the middle of his entry-level deal with the Predators – was at one time an anomaly.

OK, it still is to some extent because most defectors wait until their contracts expire before they jump to Russia. Still, it was uncommon at that time for a young candidate entering his prime to leave the NHL for a foreign league. Most of the time, it was the other way around, like the case of Evgeni Malkin and many others.

Matt Reitz of A View From the Cheap Seats brings up a great point: we’re still seeing the impact of Radulov’s defection years later.

When the deal went down, it was a big story-but like anything else it faded away when the next big story grabbed our attention. But looking back, the moment when Alexander Radulov decided take his talents to Russia might have been one of the biggest hockey culture changing moments of the last decade.

It changed the landscape. And whether we know it or not, we’ve been living in a different world ever since.

Since Radulov left for the KHL, we’ve had a new term introduced into our hockey lexicon: The Russian Factor. No longer was a Russian player drafted solely for their merits on the ice. Now, they would be measured against a different standard. Are they talented? That question was just as important as another: Are they committed to playing in the NHL? Some might think it’s a silly question to ask a prospect who wants to play in the best league in the world-but answer that question wrong and a player will have a helluva time trying to find someone willing to take a chance on him.

Reitz points out that the biggest impact might be felt in the way teams draft Russian players. Many people believe that the Washington Capitals landed one of the steals of the NHL Draft when they chose Evgeny Kuznetsov, but others wonder if players of his caliber will tolerate the league-enforced rookie minimum contracts (and there’s also some concerns about character, but that’s a whole other discussion).

It’s been an interesting give-and-take between the NHL and the mysterious-yet-sporadically-deep-pocketed KHL. Without a solid transfer agreement, there will be worries from the North American side that they’ll throw a high draft pick away on a gamble who will never play for their team.

While Radulov hints that he might come back to the NHL (and the Predators, for their part, are being PR-friendly by implying that the door isn’t closed for his return), the damage has been done. Teams will be weary of drafting a young Russian player until a transfer agreement is put in place. In that way, Radulov is one of the NHL’s most prominent recent trendsetters.

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    Former Flyers goalie Heeter signs with Detroit’s AHL team

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    The Red Wings added some goalie depth on Monday, agreeing to terms with journeyman Cal Heeter.

    Heeter, 27, broke in with the Flyers organization a while back and made his big-league debut in ’13-14, appearing in one game.

    Since then, he’s bounced around the ECHL, AHL (with the Toronto Marlies) and, last season, split his time between Hamburg of the German League and Zagreb Medvescak of the KHL.

    By itself, this signing isn’t especially noteworthy, as Heeter projects to be an American League mainstay next year.

    But the contract is kind of interesting when looking and the big-picture goalie situation in Detroit. The Wings now have Heeter, Petr Mrazek, Jimmy Howard, Jared Coreau, Eddie Pasquale and Jake Paterson all under contract for next season, which is an awful lot of goalies.

    With that in mind, remember that Howard’s name has been in trade talks for quite some time.

     

    Ex-NHLers Bellemore, Collins sign with KHL’s Chinese club

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    HC Kunlun Red Star, the Beijing-based expansion team that will begin playing in the KHL next season, has added a pair of former NHLers.

    Sean Collins, who appeared in a pair of games for the Capitals last season, and Brett Bellemore, a veteran of over 100 contests with the Carolina Hurricanes, have agreed to join the club, per Russian news outlet R-Sport.

    Bellemore, 28, was originally drafted by the ‘Canes in 2007 and spent most of his professional career with the organization. He signed on with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence last year, and appeared in 56 games.

    Collins, 27, broke in with the Blue Jackets before signing with the Caps last season. He spent the majority of the year in AHL Hershey and fared well — 16 goals and 39 points in 75 games — and scored three times in the playoffs, helping the Bears advance to the Calder Cup final.

     

    Report: Journeyman Santorelli signs in Swiss League

    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 02:  Mike Santorelli #25 of the Anaheim Ducks looks on during a game against the Montreal Canadiens at Honda Center on March 2, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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    Veteran forward Mike Santorelli, who’s appeared in over 400 NHL contests over the last eight years, is headed overseas.

    Per multiple reports (see here and here), Santorelli has signed with Geneve-Servette of the Swiss League. The 30-year-old spent last season with the Ducks, scoring nine goals and 18 points in 70 games but didn’t dress for any of the club’s opening-round playoff loss to Nashville.

    Santorelli broke into the NHL with Nashville but enjoyed his best years with Florida and Vancouver. He was a former 20-goal scorer with the Panthers and enjoyed a successful stint with his hometown Canucks in ’13-14, scoring 28 points in 49 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

    Santorelli is the second veteran forward to sign in the Swiss League recently. Over the weekend, fellow journeyman Kris Versteeg agreed to join SC Bern.

    Jackets sign d-man Harrington, acquired in Rychel trade

    TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 14:  Scott Harrington #36 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on November 14, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Leafs defeated the Canucks 4-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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    Upon trading Kerby Rychel to Toronto at the draft for Scott Harrington, Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Harrington was “a guy we’ve watched for a while,” and a “steady, smart [and] good defender.”

    Which makes today’s move none too surprising.

    On Monday, Kekalainen announced Harrington signed a one-year, two-way deal (financial terms weren’t disclosed). The contract comes after Harrington split last season between the Leafs and the AHL Marlies, appearing in 15 NHL contests.

    While Kekalainen was high on Harrington, the most noteworthy thing about the acquisition is it ended a long-running saga with Rychel, the 19th overall pick in 2013. There were repeated rumblings that Rychel wanted out of town, and felt stifled by Columbus’ reluctance to make him a full-time NHLer.

    For a while, Kekalainen stood firm in the face of the reports, once openly wondering where they came from. But in the end, the decision was made to part ways with the 21-year-old, the son of ex-NHLer Warren Rychel.

    As for Harrington, he should compete for a spot on the Columbus blueline next season. Right now he projects to be the No. 7 or 8 guy, assuming that super prospect Zach Werenski is primed for a full-time gig in the NHL, firmly entrenched in the Blue Jackets’ top six.

    In other news from Columbus today, the club has also agreed to terms with AHL forward Alex Broadhurst.

    One of the pieces acquired in last summer’s Brandon Saad blockbuster, Broadhurst was a key contributor to AHL Lake Erie’s Calder Cup championship this past spring, finishing second on the club in playoff assists.