With Gaborik sidelined, the Rangers are interested in Alexander Radulov

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The Rangers had enough offensive worries last season with a healthy Marian Gaborik. Now that they’re looking at Gaborik missing the opening of next season after shoulder surgery, GM Glen Sather is on the hunt for scoring help.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports Sather is in touch with Predators GM David Poile about working out a deal for free agent-to-be Alexander Radulov. Brooks says Sather isn’t just casually calling to find out if he’s available either.

The degree to which these discussions between Sather and Poile have advanced is unknown, but The Post has learned this is more than the GM “kicking the tires.” The Blueshirts, of course, would have to be given a window in which to conduct contract negotiations with Radulov before agreeing to trade for his rights.

Brooks says Radulov has a big offer from CSKA in the KHL to return to Russia which would be a huge stumbling block. Still, the Rangers’ need for more offense and Gaborik’s injury have put them in a tough position heading into next season. While Rick Nash will be out there to be had via trade, the cost in players and prospects may still be too high to pull that off.

Preds GM Poile on Suter meeting: “Very, very good”

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Josh Cooper of The Tennessean reports Predators GM David Poile met with impending UFA defenseman Ryan Suter on Thursday at Suter’s house in Madison, WI.

“The meetings were very, very good,” Poile said. “They were very positive and very constructive.”

Poile also stated he and Suter’s agent, Neil Sheehy, would continue to talk on a regular basis leading up to the July 1 free agency deadline. Given how the NHL landscape has shifted recently, these talks are going to be of great importance as it seems things are transpiring for Suter to at least test the free-agent waters.

The Detroit Red Wings — rumored to be one of Suter’s main suitors — have both a No. 1 defenseman spot and $6.2 million available now that captain Nicklas Lidstrom has retired.

Yesterday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie noted that — based on the current CBA and Hockey Related Revenue — the upcoming salary cap would be $70.3 million, meaning a whole bunch of teams could have spending money to throw at Suter.

Of course, the CBA expires on Sept. 15 and nobody knows for certain where the cap will end up.

It should also be noted that Nashville is one of the teams with surplus cap space. The Preds could have as much as $38 million available, though they do have a number of key RFAs and UFAs in addition to Suter: Shea Weber, Sergei Kostitsyn, Alexander Radulov, Colin Wilson, Andrei Kostitsyn, Paul Gaustad, Jordin Tootoo, Hal Gill and Anders Lindback.

Ilya Kovalchuk is making Russian players look really good

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Remember earlier in the playoffs when Russian players were getting a bad rap? Alexander Radulov was out partying, Alexander Semin had his usual ups and downs, and Ilya Bryzgalov had a rough playoffs.

Through all that negativity and occasional needless potshots at Russian players, Ilya Kovalchuk has prevailed for New Jersey. His 18 points leads everyone in the postseason and after never getting out of the first round in his career before this year, he’s become a force to be reckoned with.

Coach Peter DeBoer tells Katie Strang of ESPN.com says Russians get an unfair knock and the Devils couldn’t have made it this far without him.

“Superstars often get bad raps, especially Russian superstars,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said before the series began. “That couldn’t be further from the case. This guy could be born in Canada or the United States and you wouldn’t know the difference other than his accent.

“He’s here to win. He’s a team-first guy. He’s very unselfish and he’s just a great person. I don’t think that’s common knowledge around the league.”

Kovalchuk’s play in the postseason has shown why he’s one of the best players in the league and why the Devils gave him a monster 15-year contract two summers ago. The whole stigma of Russian players being “enigmatic” is pretty silly to begin with (Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk seem to be OK) but Kovalchuk is helping to make sure this one talking point goes away for a while.

Yakupov, Shinnimin headline the CHL Awards

The Canadian Hockey League – which oversees the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League – dished out its awards today. Here are some of the highlights:

— Nail Yakupov was selected as the Top Prospect of the Year. If you haven’t heard his name yet, you will soon. Yakupov topped the NHL Central Scouting’s rankings and there’s a good chance that he will be selected first overall. One potential obstacle in his path is the fact that he’s a forward and the holders of the first overall pick, the Edmonton Oilers, are already stocked up on superb young forwards. The Oilers might ultimately decide to draft based on need and select defenseman Ryan Murray.

— Brendan Shinnimin became the first player since Alexander Radulov in 2006 to win both the Top Scorer of the Year and Player of the Year awards. Sidney Crosby also captured both of those awards in 2005. Shinnimin had an incredible 134 points, which is the most from a WHL player since 1998-99. Shinnimin went undrafted, but inked an entry-level deal with the Phoenix Coyotes in March.

— Dougie Hamilton nabbed Defenseman of the Year honors. Hamilton was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins. They were using one of the picks they got from the Toronto Maple Leafs as part of the Phil Kessel deal.

— Mikhail Grigorenko was selected as the Rookie of the Year. Like Yakupov, Grigorenko is eligible to be taken in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. It would be a huge surprise if Grigorenko ends up being selected before Yakupov, but both should be top-10 picks.

Radulov wins KHL MVP

In an announcement ripe for “wonder how he’ll celebrate?” jokes, Nashville Predators forward Alex Radulov has won the Golden Stick trophy, awarded annually to the KHL ‘s most valuable player.

This is the third straight Golden Stick for Radulov, who also won a “Golden Helmet” prize for being named to the league’s All-Star team. Radulov also won the league’s top scorer trophy, which is actually a Brazilian gold mine.

While it might sound like I’m making fun of Russian hockey and its fascination with metallurgy, I have to admit the league awards are pretty cool. For instance, the KHL gives out a “Sekunda” award (“Split Second” award) for scoring the earliest and latest goals in a game. There’s also the “Best Troika” award given to the highest-scoring forward trio in the league and the “Most Valuable Player” award that, for reasons unexplained, is given to the guy with the best plus-minus.