At this point, the KHL seems like a sponge for some of the NHL’s most unwanted contracts. Even when a good player like goalie Evgeni Nabokov departs for the Russian league, it no longer seems like a huge deal.
Yet that wasn’t the case in 2008 when Alexander Radulov left the Nashville Predators for greener (read: more money) pastures in Russia. It was a tough deal to take for the Predators since he was already a top line player for a team desperately short on offensive punch.
In a Russian-language interview translated by Russian Hockey Fans.com, Radulov discussed the possibility of returning to the NHL after he finishes the final year of his KHL contract.
Recently Radulov ensured that David [Poile], Predators’ GM, knows his chances to get back to the USA for the next season and that he accepted the fact that he wants to honor his 3-yr deal with Salavat Yulaev Ufa. But he believes that no links were broken and that he’s ready to welcome Radulov back in the NHL.
“People were nice to me there, they have good fans and I liked the organization. My agent actually talked to them during these years. But I don’t want to play the speculation game. For now I’m a KHL player.”
Even if he refuses to officially state a return, he also said that he was always honest about his desire to play in the NHL. After his departure many pointed the finger at him for having left the Predators just for money.
“People said and written many things about me after my departure from Nashville, but I never lied about my intention to play in the world’s best league. The KHL is a good league, but the NHL is still the best.”
One potential snag is that the Predators still own Radulov’s rights on an entry-level deal (more discussion on that factor here). Would the young sniper be willing to play at the NHL level – whether it’s with Nashville or a team who acquires his rights – for less money than he would make if he stayed in Russia?
It’s a question NHL teams should be eager to answer because he was showing some serious promise at 21, with a 26 goal, 58 point output in just his second season during the 2007-08 season.