by PuckStopsHere on 03/31/12 at 01:45 PM ET
Alexander Radulov has returned to the NHL. He had abandoned the Nashville Predators during his entry level contract to play in the KHL. After the conclusion of the KHL season the NHL bended their rules to let Radulov return. They allowed him to return without being eligible for re-entry waivers and they allowed the handful of games he plays at the end of this season to count for an entire year thus ending his entry level deal. Without these concessions, Radulov would not be back in the NHL.
The problem is entry level deals keep top players from being paid as much as the market would otherwise allow them to command. Some players, particularly Russians, can command this money in the KHL. This keeps a few players out of the league. One such player is Evgeni Kuznetsov who was drafted by the Washington Capitals with their 2010 first round draft pick.
Kuznetsov was named the MVP of the 2012 World Junior Championships. In that tournament he looked to be too good a player to be there. He is clearly an NHL capable talent. If he was playing in North America he would be in the NHL and thus not have been available for the World Championships. He was the 16th highest scorer in the KHL this season at age 19. Nobody younger than him came close to outscoring him. He is a case of a player who would make more money playing in the KHL than he could in the NHL on an entry level deal. As a result of this, Kuznetsov is likely to stay in the KHL and Washington will lose his rights and be left with a compensatory pick in his place.
The KHL has an advantage over the NHL in terms of what they can pay their entry level players. Star players will be higher paid in the KHL than in an NHL entry level deal. In order to get around this problem with Alexander Radulov the NHL bent its rules. Will it have to do the same to get Kuznetsov into the league?
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