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Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt from his fan base this week, what with the controversial P.K. Subban trade and the heavy flirtation with franchise nemesis Milan Lucic as a free agent.
Then it was announced on Friday that the Canadiens had signed Alex Radulov, former member of the Nashville Predators and CSKA of the KHL, to a 1-year deal worth $5.75 million.
And eyes rolled.
Radulov has a reputation. It’s not a good one. There was the time he broke his contract with the Predators to leave for the KHL. There was the time he hit a coach with a hockey stick. There was the time he came back to the NHL in a cameo appearance with the Predators in 2012, and then infamously broke curfew in the playoffs.
But Bergevin claimed that he did due diligence on Radulov, not only in a face-to-face meeting but in a conversation with Radulov’s former teammate and new Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber.
“Shea talked to me about when he was with him in Nashville. It wasn’t a character issue. It was a maturity issue,” said Bergevin.
You know who agrees with that assessment?
“I made a mistake. I did it. I realize that as time goes by, you look at things in the past and you think about what you should have not done. You realize some things,” said Radulov of the curfew violation. “I know what I’m doing right now. I know what I want. I know how to do this. You have to be 100 percent on hockey, work hard, be ready for every game.”
Radulov will turn 30 on July 5. It’s his third stint in the NHL, and this time his return is born out of his desire to play against the world’s top players – and, perhaps, to prove that he’s finally put together his world-class offensive talent with newfound maturity.
One reason to believe he’s changed a bit? Radulov became a father for the first time last November. And that reordered his life.
“I have to lead by example, now that I have a kid. When he gets older, he will look at his dad and try to do the same thing, so I have to be a good example,” said Radulov.
“I’m living for my child right now, as every father can say. There is no ‘me.’”
The Canadiens made a major investment in Radulov as far as cap space, but not in term. If things don’t work out, he’s one and done, and either headed to another NHL market or back to Russia.
But Radulov seems confident that it will work, because he’s confident that a lot has changed for him as a professional and a person.
“When you are younger, you maybe don’t realize those things. But when you get older, and meet older guys, you take examples from them. It’s a whole process,” he said “I just know that a guy who is a leader can never stop or quit. He has to lead by example, play hard and be there for their teammates.”
Time will tell if Alex Radulov can back up his words with actions.
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