The Nashville Predators are having problems signing a talented, offensive-minded Russian restricted free agent. The more things change, they basically stay the same.
We weren’t talking about Sergei Kostitsyn the last time this happened—we were talking about Alexander Radulov. The last time Radulov played in the NHL, he scored 26 goals and 58 points in the 2007-08 season. He had all the makings of an offensive force that could help the Predators score goals (and become successful) for years to come. He had a flair for the dramatic and could break out YouTube worthy individual highlights that could help pack
Sommet Bridgestone Arena.
In short, he’s exactly the kind of player the Predators could use right now—especially with the possibility of losing Sergei Kostitsyn to free agency. Well NHL fans, there’s hope that Radulov will make his return to North America for the 2012-13 season. At least GM David Poile thinks so:
“”He has won two MVPs, he’s won a championship and with all due respect, the KHL is not the NHL,” Poile said. “Just like I said to him and I like I said to you. It’s getting to be that time for one of the better players in the game of hockey to play with the best players in the world.”
To be clear, Poile does not have visions of Radulov returning to the NHL for the upcoming season—although the timing would be perfect considering the potential Kostitsyn debacle. Nashville finished the season with 99 points and tied for 4th place in the tough Western Conference last season and hopes to build on their first playoff series victory in franchise history. An elite scoring talent like Radulov would go a long way towards helping the Preds take the next step.
Remember, when Radulov left the NHL to take his big payday in Russia, he was a young prospect that the Predators had high hopes for in the future. He was their first round draft pick in 2004 drafted ahead of guys like Mike Green, David Krejci, and Travis Zajac. We’re talking about a guy who had 152 points in his second year of junior hockey in only 62 games. He’s a guy who was third on his team in scoring in only his second year at the NHL level. He’s won two consecutive MVP awards in the KHL and scored a league record 80 points last season. With all due respect to Jaromir Jagr, he’s been the best player in the world over the last few years not playing in the NHL.
The Predators are still in the driver’s season once he chooses to return to the NHL. He still has a year left on his entry-level contract, so not only will they get his services when he comes back, but it will be at a GREAT price. If the organization decides that too much damage has been done between the team and player, they’d be in the position to trade his rights to the highest bidder. It’s an option—but as time goes on, there are fewer players in the locker room who were around when he scorned the team in 2008.
For now, the Predators will continue to sit and wait. But for fans who want to see a dynamic player in Nashville—the wait may soon be over.