by PuckStopsHere on 03/20/12 at 08:12 PM ET
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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