On those “Radulov returning to Nashville” rumblings…

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There’s some interesting scuttlebutt making the rounds about former Predators forward Alex Radulov.

Radulov, 25, infamously bolted from Nashville to the Kontinental Hockey League in 2008. He’s since gone on to become one of the KHL’s most elite talents (Preds GM David Poile called him “the best player not playing in the NHL”) and led the league in scoring this season.

He’s currently in the midst of Gagarin Cup play with his team, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, down 3-2 in the opening round to AK Bars Kazan. It’s been a contentious series, evident by this Game 3 recap (brilliantly translated on the KHL website):

In the 30th minute of the Game 3 between Salavat Yulaev and Ak Bars a shot from visitors’ forward Evgeny Bodrov triggered a controversial passage of play which could only be resolved with the aid of the video goal judge.

Despite close and detailed scrutiny of the episode using all the technology available, the video goal judge was still unable to determine beyond doubt whether the puck had crossed the Ufa men’s goal line and therefore the referee made the decision not to award a goal.

ANYWAY, the point is Radulov’s season is close to being over — and that’s where things get interesting.

  • According to Sovietsky Sport’s Pavel Lysenkov, Radulov could go back because he “has the contract” with Nashville. When he left for Russia, Radulov also left a year on his entry-level deal and the NHL essentially “froze” his deal. That means if he comes back to the NHL, he’s bound by that remaining year with Nashville.
  • Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov followed up on Lysenkov’s tweet by reporting Radulov’s Russian agent wouldn’t deny his client’s interest in returning to the NHL this year, but also didn’t want to comment on it.
  • TSN’s Bob McKenzie furthered the intrigue by tweeting that if Radulov was inclined to return to North America he would be eligible, pending NHLPA approval.

Given the Predators got royally shafted in 2008 (Radulov’s KHL deal survived on a technicality, because it was signed days before the NHL reached an agreement with all international hockey leagues to respect players’ existing contracts), it stands to reason there won’t be much objection to him returning to Nashville, given he owes a year of service.

Of course, several things have to happen before that becomes an issue. Salavat needs to get eliminated (Game 6 of the series goes Friday) and Radulov needs to actually decide he wants to play in North America.

Until then, it’s all idle speculation — but also intriguing speculation. Given how aggressive Poile has been this year in “going for it,” the potential of adding Radulov is quite enticing.