Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 06/10/12 at 05:02 AM ET
Having surveyed Russian hockey websites on a daily basis since Pavel Datsyuk joined Russia’s World Championship team, I’ve read quite a bit of scuttlebutt about Alexander Radulov’s situation, and here’s the “short” (by Russian standards; this is “long” in English) version thereof:
Despite the fact that the composite Dynamo Moscow II/HC MVD team won the Gargarin Cup, the KHL’s contingent of Moscow-based teams (Dynamo, CSKA, Atlant Mytischi, Vityaz Chekhov) haven’t had the kind of ownership and/or sponsorship heft of the KHL’s powerhouse teams like SKA St. Petersburg or the Ak Bars Kazan, and as such, underwhelming records in a league where powerhouse sponsors beget powerfully-subsidized team payrolls, so Vladimir Putin helped the petroleum and natural gas giant Rosneft ink a huge sponsorship deal with CSKA Moscow, the old Red Army team which dominated Russian hockey in the 80’s and early 90’s.
At the KHL All-Star game, however, just as KHL president Alexander Medvedev (who happens to also be SKA’s president and is on the board of directors of Gazprom, Russia’s biggest oil and natural gas company—Rosneft is #2) was giving his “state of the league” speech, CSKA president and Russian senator Vyacheslav Fetisov said something along the lines of, “Screw this, my team’s coach and GM stink, it’s messed up, I’m outta here!” stunning Medvedev and the media.
So after the season ended, CSKA shook up its front office and coaching staff, bringing in Sergei Fedorov as the team’s new GM, and in theory, the team would make a huge free agent splash by snagging the returning Alexander Radulov back from the Predators and the KHL’s self-styled arch-rival in the NHL.
Around the same time, Rosneft declared that it expected CSKA to at least reach the KHL’s Western Conference Finals during the 2012-2013 season, if not capture the Gargarin Cup, and with Radulov in tow (CSKA already signed Radulov’s brother Igor to “sweeten the pot”), and, depending on who you read, the team making a big push for Alex Semin’s services, CSKA would be back with a vengeance.
Then Salavat Yulaev Ufa, the team which currently holds Radulov’s rights, informed CSKA that it would require 260 million rubles (per Sport-Express’s Igor Larin) or approximately $7.9 million U.S. dollars, in exchange for Radulov’s signing rights. No KHL team has ever asked for that kind of money for a player, and around this time, rumors of the New York Rangers possibly acquiring the rights of a player the Nashville Predators had no desire to re-sign started picking up.
And yes, this is the “short story”—the long one involves much more bombast and political chatter on behalf of the Igor Larins of the Russian press.
This morning, the New York Post’s Larry Brooks ponders whether Radulov’s worth the Rangers’ time and money if there are more palatable players available via free agency or a trade.
As usual, Brooks’ liberal suggestions as to which players may or may not be on the market depending upon his whims, and which Rangers would magically thus be in play, may or may not be rooted in reality:
The Rangers’ interest in Alexander Radulov, as reported by The Post last Sunday, is conditional. General manager Glen Sather and the front office are weighing the prodigal Nashville winger’s upside against alternatives who might be available to fill the club’s need for an impact player up front, most notably including Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan and impending free agent Zach Parise.
But though the Blueshirts don’t appear ready to pull the trigger, we’re told there is at least one other team closer to committing to a deal for the rights to Radulov — who, all things being at least somewhat close to equal (with all things meaning, money), seems to prefer continuing his career in the NHL as opposed to returning to the KHL.
The argument against acquiring Nash is the same now as it was in the days preceding the February trade deadline — the overwhelming cost of his contract, which runs through 2017-18 at a charge of $7.8 million per season against a cap that will be recalibrated and might decrease beginning next season, plus the cost in terms of assets the Blue Jackets continue to demand in return for a player with no big-game record in nine NHL seasons.
Understand: Even if the Players’ Association eventually does accede to the owners’ expected request to reduce its cut of hockey-related revenue from 57 percent, there essentially is no chance the union will accept a rollback, meaning large contracts such as Nash’s could eat a greater percentage of a team’s cap over the next couple of years than over the past season or two.
This, too, about the Rangers: Though it is believed the club is focused on adding a winger of some renown, the organization’s most critical offseason analysis of personnel will center on young centers Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov, following twin playoff disappointments. If the front office isn’t confident Stepan — who was never quite consistent enough throughout his sophomore year in a top-six role and whose play deteriorated as the playoffs evolved — or Anisimov — who spent nearly all season on the wing anyway, and whose play was erratic throughout — can provide meaningful production as the second-line pivot, then the search for help might be better retrained down the middle.
Which means Ryan Getzlaf most certainly would become an object of desire should the Ducks engage in discussions about moving the first-line pivot with one year at $5.325 million remaining on his contract before he goes free, and so would Jordan Staal, if the Penguins opt to move the center who has one year at $4 million remaining before he can hit the open market (under current regulations).
Continued with talk about the “no leaving one’s feet to block shots” suggestion and the potential of Tim Thomas finding his way to a team looking to reach the cap floor.
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