In July 2008, Alex Radulov broke his contract with the Nashville Predators and signed with Salavat Yulaev of the KHL. When asked about a potential return to the NHL one day, he said:
"I think that if I play well I will be taken back without any questions. I will be 25. And also, who knows what will happen in 3 years? Maybe our KHL will be so good that there will be no reason to leave?"
Three years later, the Predators are claiming that Radulov can get out of the three-year contract he signed last October — because, you know, contractual commitments have been so concrete for him in the past — and they're courting him to return to the NHL next season.
[GM David] Poile said he remains in contact with Radulov's agent, Jay Grossman, but the ball remains in the Russian forward's court. Poile said Radulov talked with assistant GM Paul Fenton on Wednesday and said he could get out of his KHL contract.
Said Poile: "What Paul said to him today was very simply, 'You made lots of money. Is money an issue? You're the leading scorer in the league, your team won a championship. You think you're one of the best players in the world. Are you going to come over to the best league and show that? Or are you going to stay in a secondary league.'"
"Secondary league"? Ouch … Alexander Frolov would totally punch someone for saying that if it meant displaying any sort of physicality or emotion.
Radulov had one more year left on his entry-level deal with the Predators when he defected. Revisit the unparalleled joys of that saga with our Alex Radulov Contradiction Timeline.
The timing is right for the Predators to explore this. Radulov is older. Their dressing room, where he felt ostracized as a younger Russian player, has a different group than in 2008. And, perhaps most importantly, he's exactly the type of player they need on this roster as currently constituted.
The great "what if?" for Nashville in its second-round loss to the Vancouver Canucks was "what if they had that one guy who could create his own offense and score a critical goal?" Radulov isn't a star or an MVP-type; but that's the kind of offense he provides. And now the puck's in his end on whether he'll provide it in the NHL again.