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.

Scroll Down For:

    Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

    at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
    Getty Images
    1 Comment

    With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

    After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

    It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

    Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

    Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

    Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

    Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 9.02.42 PM
    3 Comments

    A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

    It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

    Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

    “He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

    “I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

    Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

    Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

    DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

    Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

    2 Comments

    The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

    But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

    In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

    (In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

    Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

    Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

    Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

    Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

    Leave a comment

    There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

    “Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

    “Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”