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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    Duchene: Avs had ‘a little too much fear’ of losing

    DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 27:  Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche skates away as the Detroit Red Wings celebrate the game winning goal by Brad Richards #17 at 19:00 of the third period at Coors Field during the 2016 Coors Light Stadium Series game on February 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Red Wings defeated the Avalanche 5-3.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    For the second consecutive season, the Colorado Avalanche missed the playoffs. Granted, they were closer to making them in 2015-16 than they were in 2014-15, but that’s no consolation prize.

    The Avalanche were in the thick of the playoff race down the stretch. They battled the Minnesota Wild for the final Wild Card spot in the West, but in the end, they came up five points short. The pressure of the postseason chase may have been a bit too much for them to handle because they went 1-8-0 (yes, you read that correctly) in their final nine games.

    Three seasons ago, the Avs surprised many when they won the Central Division by collecting an incredible 112 points. It seemed as though their young roster would be dominant for a number of years. Unfortunately for the Avs, that hasn’t been the case.

    Now, forward Matt Duchene believes they need to change their mindset if they want to be back in the playoffs next year.

    “We didn’t take control, we didn’t go out there every night with the confidence we needed to win and to go and take what we needed to take,” Duchene said, per the Denver Post. “We had a little too much fear, I think, of losing and what we had to lose and I think that’s something we all can think about this summer. It’s a change of mindset. All the tools are there. We have a very good team, so we want to challenge for a playoff spot next season and hopefully a Stanley Cup.”

    Duchene put up some solid numbers this season. He led the Avs in goals (30) and points (57). Those totals were good enough to earn him a spot on Team Canada’s World Cup roster. But overall, the Avs weren’t so good. They ranked 19th in goals scored with 216 and 23rd in goals against with 240.

    Improved play in their own end would certainly benefit them and getting a bounce-back year from goalie Semyon Varlamov would definitely help too. The 28-year-old had a 2.81 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage in 57 games.

    Is time running out for head coach Patrick Roy? Another lackluster regular season in 2016-17 may lead to some significant changes.

    Matt Nieto should be available to play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final

    NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 03:  Matt Nieto #83 of the San Jose Sharks skates against the Nashville Predators during the second period of Game Three of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on May 3, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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    The San Jose Sharks are confident that forward Matt Nieto will be available for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh on Monday night. Whether he actually plays or not is a different story.

    The 23-year-old suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of San Jose’s second round series against Nashville and he hasn’t suited up since.

    Nieto might not be one of the biggest names on the Sharks roster, but he’s definitely a useful piece of the puzzle.

    “He brings speed,” head coach Peter DeBoer said, per NHL.com. “He’s one of our faster forwards. He’s another guy that gives us a little bit of a different dimension and a little bit of a different element.

    “I’ll know more by Monday, but I’d anticipate that he’d be available.”

    Nieto practiced with his teammates on Saturday, but he didn’t skate on any of the Sharks’ top four lines. It doesn’t look like DeBoer will make changes from the team that beat St. Louis in Game 6 of the conference final, but a lot can change between now and the start of Game 1.

    Nieto has one goal and three points in 11 postseason games in 2016.

    Chiasson’s agent expects his client to be moved this summer

    SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 10:  Alex Chiasson #90 of the Ottawa Senators skates prior to the game against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on March 10, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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    Alex Chiasson has been in Ottawa for each of the last two seasons, but he’s fallen way short of expectations.

    Chiasson was a key piece of the trade that saw Jason Spezza head to Dallas in 2014. The Sens received two prospects, a draft pick and Chiasson in the deal. During his two years in Ottawa, he’s scored 19 goals and 40 points in 153 games. It simply hasn’t worked out the way either side had hoped.

    Now, it sounds like his camp is expecting him to be moved before the start of next season.

    “I think that’s a potential scenario, but I don’t know if you ever really know if anything materializes until it happens,” agent Kent Hughes said, per The Hockey News. “But yeah, (a trade) wouldn’t surprise me.”

    Chiasson may have struggled in the last two years, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see multiple teams inquire about him. He’s still just 25-years-old, he has size (6’4, 205 pounds), and he’s set to become a restricted free agent on July 1st. Whatever contract he signs will likely be pretty affordable.

    “I think at the end of the day, for a lack of a better term, it’s the lack of a successful marriage, I guess,” added Hughes. “You get to a point where you either decide you’re going to say to an organization, ‘move on’ or you’re going to continue to try, but as you continue to do that, your asset continues to diminish in value.”

    P.K. Subban takes Canada 2016 World Cup ‘snub’ in stride

    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 02:  P.K. Subban #76 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on March 2, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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    Just about any contending hockey nation will force some “snubs” heading into the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Snubs feel especially inevitable for Canada, though.

    P.K. Subban has taken some confidence hits, relative to his abilities, when it comes to international play. Maybe that explains why he essentially shrugged off not making the team, as Sportsnet notes.

    “I mean, everybody wants to make the team, right? And there’s a bunch of guys that I’m sure wanted to be on the team. But that’s the way it goes,” Subban said. “Listen, at the end of the day, we could take four or five teams to this thing. When I was speaking to [Team Canada GM] Doug Armstrong, my number one thing was I just want to see Canada win gold. So, I’ll be there cheering just like everybody else.”

    Let’s face it, it’s probably pretty easy for Subban.

    He’s super-rich, generally beloved and has a gold medal to his name. That probably makes it easier to shake off a snub.

    That said, he also brings up a fun idea. If the Team North America idea runs out of steam, wouldn’t it be fun to watch Canada A vs. Canada B, or something of that nature?

    Hey, if you’re bored, feel free to fantasy draft a second Canadian team for such a scenario. Or, you know, each a sandwich instead.

    In other Subban news, he had fun with the Toronto Blue Jays: