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Problems With Radulov’s Return

Alexander Radulov left Nashville Predators with one year left on his entry level deal to play with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL.  He walked out on his contract.  That created a controversy where the KHL did not honor existing NHL contracts.  Radulov was able to make more money playing in the KHL than he could on an entry level NHL contract.  He spent four years starring in the KHL and now the NHL is going to get him back.  In order to do so, they must ignore a couple of their rules and this is a problem.  As a potential star player, the NHL is willing to cheat in order to make sure he is back their fold.

Any player who plays outside the NHL in a season is subject to re-entry waivers if he returns to the NHL in the same season.  This is a rule held over from the late 80s to prevent teams from hiding players in Europe and bringing them back in time for the playoffs.  This rule has made it so that almost all returning KHL players do not stay with the team that signed them ( Evgeni Nabokov is the most famous case).

On re-entry waivers, Radulov would definitely be claimed.  Thus there is no point for Nashville bringing him back this year.  That rule has been waived in his case, but it appears to still exist for other players.  The NHL is ignoring its own rules to get Alexander Radulov.

Radulov has one year left on his contract.  The ten remaining games this season will count as that season.  In order to bring Radulov back that is necessary because the KHL can outpay his entry level deal significantly.  Getting him out of the entry level deal as soon as possible is necessary to get him back to the league.

The result is that Nashville gets a significant addition to their roster in time for the playoffs.  The NHL did not follow its own rules to do this.  This is because Radulov is too good a player to be kept subject to league rules if they adversely affect him.  The NHL will break its own rules for a good enough player.  That is not fair at all.  The lesser players held to re-entry waivers who do not get to use 10 games as an entire season when it benefits them should be upset.

Radulov has a year remaining on his KHL contract.  He likely will ignore it for now, as he did the final year in his NHL contract.  He may return to the KHL and play out the year even after his NHL return for the remainder of the season.  Radulov is currently 25 years old and will be a restricted free agent this summer.  If he returns to Russia and stays until age 27, he would be an unrestricted free agent and would be able to sign anywhere he wants.  Likely that contract would be a significant one.  His restricted free agent contract, should he sign one in the NHL, will be much larger than his entry level deal.  By playing out the few games remaining this season, Radulov has set himself up for a big payday.  It may be as an RFA or as a UFA after another return to Russia.

Whatever happens with Alexander Radulov will be interesting.  He has shown that the NHL is willing to ignore its rules to get a good enough player in the league.  The league is ignoring their own rules to bring him back.  Radulov may use that to spurn the NHL as soon as next season.  In the meantime he is an unfair addition to the Nashville Predators.  This move makes the NHL look bad now and probably will make them look bad again in the future.

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As a Predators fan this whole situation embarrasses me.  I have lost respect for the league, for this team, and my fellow fans.  I think the Blues GM summed it best when he said Radulov is getting his cake and eating it too.  Radulov is an immature jackass who is getting away with murder because he can score a few goals.  This whole situation stinks on ice. This guy screwed over Poile, Trotz, his teammates, his fans, his league and now all these same people are welcoming him back with open arms and even circumventing rules to make sure Radulov can have his way.  This guy has made it 100% clear to everybody that he despises this organization and he wants no part of being a Nashville Predator.  He is doing everything he can to make sure he can get off this team.  And the Predators are allowing it.  Poile should’ve delt away Radulov’s rights years ago and washed his hands of this entire situation, at least we could’ve had something to show for all this.  Instead after all these years of waiting, all we’re getting out of it is 10 or so games and then he’s gone again. WTF is the point of any of this?  I don’t get it.  Radulov stabbed every single Predators fan in the back when he left, to now see these same fans treating this jerk off like some kind of mythic hero returning to save the day makes me absolutely sick.  At this point I am 100% cheering for the Predators to get eliminated from the playoffs as soon as possible and Radulov to be a complete bust.

Posted by Jason Castleman on 03/20/12 at 08:39 PM ET


Look, I hear that Rads had no practical choice about going to the KHL.  He had been offered a deal he couldn’t refuse, if you get my drift.  Now the league uses the fact he had a year left on his contract as the excuse to allow him to escape waivers.  I am ok with that as it allows a small market team to receive a windfall when they typically loose to the big clubs.  What happens after the season is anybody’s guess.  I understand he has to either return to his KHL club or have his contract bought out.  Will the Preds step up and do that to sign him to a contract worth who knows how many millions more.  I suspect that the circumstances of Rads return are more of a risk than a given plus for Nashville.  But hey why not, it serves to solidify Nashville as a great hockey market.

Posted by Brad Currie from New York on 03/20/12 at 10:56 PM ET

DrewBehr's avatar

A.) This whole thing is complete bullsh*t and an absolutely pathetic move by both the Predators and the league.

B.) The league uses the fact that he has a year on his deal so that they can circumnavigate the waiver wire, but then they don’t make Radulov’s contract fully count against the Preds cap hit? Stupid.

C.) The very possibility of the Preds wanting to re-sign a guy who walked out on their team in the middle of his contract is crazy. Plus, if he’s the “star” that some are claiming, and will command a large contract, what money will the Preds have left after (if) they sign Suter and Weber? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Posted by DrewBehr from The Mitten on 03/20/12 at 11:12 PM ET


The whole conspiracy theory about Radulov getting strong armed by the Russian mafia is so silly.  This guy has shown what an immature brat he is on multiple occasions. I’m sure many of the stories never made it out of Nashville since the team was such a nothing at that point.  He was even threatening to return to Russia years ago because he didn’t want to play in the AHL, and guess what, they bowed down to him then too and he didn’t go to Milwaukee that year. That had nothing to do with the mafia, it had to do with a baby wanting everything to go his way.

There were so many other factors that went into this.  He clashed with the leadership of the team over his goal celebrations. Arnott, Dumont, Sullivan, were constantly on the kid’s back over that stuff.  He felt stifled playing in Trotz’s defense first/score by committee system. He thinks he’s an elite level player and deserves a big market and a big salary and all the attention that brings.  He gets all that by going to the KHL and by making these deal so he can skip out on RFA status and go right to UFA, he’s thinks he’ll get here too.

To me the only hope the Preds would ever really have to keep Radulov is if they held out and forced him to play that entire last year of the deal.  Maybe if he stayed here all that time it could change his mind.  He could see the culture here is different than it was, he’d see a much better crowd, he’d have a better experience and maybe he stays.  But instead we’re getting 10 games from an unmotivated player being held hostage and forced to play for a team he doesn’t want to play for.

Posted by Jason Castleman on 03/21/12 at 12:25 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Jason, I can’t fault Poile too much here… why would someone have taken that contract, even for a late pick, when everyone was under the impression that he’d have to clear waivers to return in-season, and wouldn’t want to play for his entry level dollars to come back over before the start of the season?

It is silly. The NHL looks seriously weak here, and the owners, GMs, coaches, etc. of St. Louis, Detroit, and Chicago have real reason to be irritated, to put it mildly.

The only silver lining is that maybe, and it’s a long shot maybe, the PA pushed to allow Radulov back against the rules (not sure why they would), and this is the NHL showing some good faith for a negotiation that’s about to take place. But that is admittedly a pipe dream/crazily optimistic view.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 03/21/12 at 09:59 AM ET


Was this same rule applied when Juri Hudler returned to the Red Wings?

Posted by Kale on 03/21/12 at 12:49 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Hudler returned to Detroit at the beginning of the season.  Radulov is returning in mid-season after having played abroad this year.  They are different situations governed by different rules.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/21/12 at 12:56 PM ET


I honestly don’t really have that much of a problem with the league allowing Radulov to return without going through waivers.  This is a stupid situation where a player had a valid contract and just snuck off the in the middle of the night without letting anybody know he was going.  He was here one day, a ghost a next.  Radulov royally screwed the Predators by doing it, what’s to gain by screwing them again by taking away the player they’ve been waiting to get back for 4 years? 

For me what the league should’ve done is allowed Radulov to come back but then suspended him for the rest of the season and not allow this silly few games count as a whole season thing.  My biggest problem with this entire situation is that Radulov is not only NOT getting punished for what he did, but getting rewarded.  Now everybody in this situation looks dumb, while Radulov is just skating around with a smile on his face.  The league should be making a statement here that what Radulov did was bad for the league.  Contracts can’t just mean nothing or else the entire way the league works is thrown into disarray.  They need to send a message to everybody that this isn’t something you want to try to pull off ever again.  Now everybody involved is either getting screw or being made to look stupid while Radulov gets nothing but pats on the back.

What really kills me is whenever I’ve brought up the fact that Radulov should be hit with some kind of punishment for what he did, other Predators fans can never understand why I think that. They tell me it’s stupid and that the team, the GM, the coach, and the fans all want him back so the league shouldn’t stand in the way of that.  That just boggles my mind.  I mean, if Shea Weber hits somebody in the head with an illegal hit and concusses the guy, he’s getting suspended.  The league doesn’t decided to punish somebody based on what that team’s GM, coach and fans think.  Or they say you can’t suspend somebody just because they did something ethically or morally wrong.  Seriously?  Tell that to Sean Avery.  But my favorite defense is, but the Predators suspended him after he left, as if suspended a player who isn’t even here means something.

Posted by Jason Castleman on 03/21/12 at 03:21 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Hudler returned to Detroit at the beginning of the season.  Radulov is returning in mid-season after having played abroad this year.  They are different situations governed by different rules.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 03/21/12 at 11:56 AM ET

That and Hudler didn’t leave the NHL under contract, but under an arbitrator’s decision.  Hudler basically left an unsigned contract on the table to play in the KHL, then returned during the offseason to sign that contract and compete for his spot in training camp.

The only thing that Hudler and Radulov have in common is that they have played games in the KHL.  You may as well be asking whether Jagr should have been forced to clear waivers before playing with the Flyers this season for as silly as the comparison looks.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/21/12 at 03:34 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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