The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/13/12 at 07:47 PM ET
updated with some odd comments from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and Predators GM David Poile: In no small part due to the fact that the KHL “poached’” restricted free agent forward Alexander Radulov from the Nashville Predators and then spent the past four seasons insisting that Radulov was the prime example as to how the KHL-NHL relationship had improved in terms of the NHL respecting the KHL’s valid contracts and not “poaching” players themselves, the NHLPA has no problem with a restricted free agent-to-be coming back to fulfill the terms of his contract, and as such, they’ve rubber-stamped the NHL’s front office’s decision to allow Radulov to return to the Nashville Predators, and play for them during the playoffs, without having to clear waivers.
Given that the Detroit Red Wings both lost Evgeni Nabokov’s services because players who play in pro leagues outside the NHL after the NHL’s regular season begins have to clear waivers if they sign with an NHL team, given that the league never really grieved Jiri Hudler’s one-year stint with Dynamo Moscow the way they consistently pestered the KHL about Radulov’s situation, and given that the Wings may very well have lost in terms of bidding for the mercurial Jaromir Jagr’s services because that no-sign-without-waivers rule applies to players until July 1st of the summer following a European pro with NHL experience’s decision to play in a non-NHL league during the regular season, it should come as little surprise that, according to the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle, the Red Wings aren’t delighted with the NHL and PA’s decision to exempt Radulov from returning to a possible playoff opponent in the Predators, and the Blues aren’t happy with the league’s decision, either:
Radulov famously bolted Nashville in 2008 for the newly formed KHL in his homeland despite having one year left on his entry-level contract. The NHL team is willing to welcome him back, which would allow Radulov to burn off the final season of that deal if he plays just one game.
“All the things are aligned,” said [Predators GM David] Poile. “The [KHL] playoffs are over, the hurdles are cleared. He can burn off the year, get himself to free agency. More important than all of that, I’ve always felt like he was going to come back. From the day he left I always felt he would come back to the best league in the world.”
Radulov could be a potential game-changer for a Predators team that has Stanley Cup aspirations. He scored 26 goals as a sophomore in the NHL and went on to become a two-time KHL MVP and Russian Olympian, prompting some to label him the best player outside of North America.
With less than a month to play in the regular season, some of Nashville’s rivals were unhappy that the NHL opened the door for him to return. Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, whose team could draw the Predators in the first round of the playoffs, refused to comment on the decision.
Others accepted it with gritted teeth.
“Fair or unfair, I guess you just have live with the ruling,” said St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong, another Central Division rival. “Bill and (commissioner) Gary (Bettman) have difficult decisions to make. They felt that this is the acceptable way. He’s a suspended player, they’re going to lift the suspension and allow him to play. We have to just move forward and accept it.”
Continued with some other GM’s meetings news…
Update: According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, more than a few GM’s are pissed off about the situation.
The Predators are a Cup contender icing perhaps the best team they have ever assembled anchored by stud rearguards Ryan Suter and Shea Weber and a Vezina-worthy netminder in Pekka Rinne. Poile also added scoring depth at the trade deadline in the form of Andrei Kostitsyn and grit with Paul Gaustad and defenseman Hal Gill. Would Radulov, a two-time MVP in the KHL, put them over the top? Only time will tell of course, but the ability of the Predators to add such a potentially important piece to their playoff arsenal at such a late date in the season certainly rankled a number of GMs.
Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, normally among the most erudite and approachable GMs, declined to comment on the league’s ruling. His Red Wings appear to be on a collision course with the Predators in the first round of the playoffs.
Other conference foes wondered about the fairness of essentially rewarding a player who walked away from an existing contract and signed another contract in another professional hockey league.
“I understand it from Nashville’s perspective, that they didn’t initiate this. The difficult part is from Radulov’s perspective he did,” said Doug Armstrong, general manager of the current Central Division leader, the St. Louis Blues. He gets his cake and eats it too. I understand Nashville’s point of view but from Radulov’s point of view, he wins on all fronts. Fair or unfair, I guess you just have [to] live with the ruling. As I said, Bill [Daly] and Gary [Bettman] have difficult decisions to make. They felt that this is the acceptable way. He’s a suspended player, they’re going to lift the suspension and allow him to play. We have to just move forward and accept it.”
Although team officials were guarded in their comments to the media, multiple sources told ESPN.com that the discussion got pretty heated when Daly explained the ruling Tuesday morning.
“Oh, it’s competitive, absolutely,” Montreal GM Pierre Gauthier said. There’s some competitive issues there. Why are they allowed to get a player back? If you’re in the Western Conference, you bring those things up for sure. We all have our competitive juices going.”
Oddly enough, Bill Daly doesn’t like the concept of Radulov getting away with leaving the league and not honoring the full year remaining on his contract…
“The guys in this room are competitors,” Daly said. “So, I certainly understand that they might like the result in this situation to be different. But it’s the result that we’ve tried to preserve for our clubs from the start.”
“I don’t like it,” he added. “I don’t like the fact that a player owes a full year under a contract, but ultimately the club didn’t have to take him back [with so little time left in the season]. If they wanted to insist on the full year [of service] it is within their rights to do it.”
And David Poile seems to have forgotten that he’s not alone here:
“Nobody else has been through this as we have,” Poile said. “The NHL and KHL have made a deal after the fact. It’s like ‘We’re not going to take anybody else’s players.’ What about Radulov? ‘Well, after Radulov.’”
Yeah, and Hudler, who was supposedly “different” because he filed for arbitration, which made the restricted free agent, according to the KHL, anyway, a “free agent beyond all bounds.” Hudler was also re-signed and suspended, but I guess he doesn’t count.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.