On Thursday, the news surfaced that Alexander Radulov may be back in the NHL. The Tennessean quoted Preds GM Dave Poile:
"What Paul said to him today was very simply, 'You made lots of money. Is money an issue? You're the leading scorer in the league, your team won a championship. You think you're one of the best players in the world. Are you going to come over to the best league and show that? Or are you going to stay in a secondary league.'"
For whatever reason the Russian media reported the story as if it was Radulov himself who said he wants to come back. Whether or not it is true, it remains to be seen. But when asked about it after yesterday's win against Canada in the World Championships in Slovakia, Radulov told the Russian media that they should learn English and then "won't be writing BS."
The timing of the Radulov to the NHL commotion is somewhat interesting. And now, more than ever before, it is very likely to be true that the Preds will get their runaway back. And here are my thoughts as to why it is a real possibility.
Alexander Radulov is one of the leading players in the KHL, a leader in his club Salavat Yulaev. Radulov was named KHL's MVP last year. And this year he won KHL's Gagarin Cup with Salavat. Salavat Yulaev is based in the Republic of Bashkortostan, an oil rich region of the Russian Federation. The team has had a strong backing on the local government and the sponsorship money had been rolling in. Salavat Yulaev just may have been KHL's richest club.
But it all will most likely change very soon.
Speaker of the Bashkortostan assembly Konstantin Tolkachev told Sovetsky Sport recently that the financing of the club will be cut considerably. Because most KHL clubs don't generate enough revenue from gate receipts, they rely on sponsorships and other financing. If there is less money coming in, Salavat won't be able to afford certain players.
Even though Tolkachev told Sovetsky Sport that Radulov "is definitely staying," I wouldn't be so sure.
KHL contracts are not guaranteed. Either a club or a player may terminate a contract. Evgeni Nabokov terminated his contract with SKA St. Petersburg last winter. Kyle Wellwood was released by his KHL club. The most popular explanation for contract termination in the KHL is that it is done "by mutual consent." Or when a club simply "releases" a player.
Last year Dynamo Moscow, one of the most storied Russian teams, died due to lack of financing. Jiri Hudler still had one more year left on his contract at the time it happened. He was effectively released by the club due to the financial situation.
KHL contracts don't contain "out" clauses. And Radulov most likely doesn't have one in his either. But with the financing for Salavat reduced, the team and the player are very likely to reach "amicable" decision to part ways, regardless of what is officially said today. To keep the face.
Eleven Salavat players who won the Gagarin Cup just a few weeks ago will not be returning to the club. Radulov may be the 12th player. The team just may not have the money to keep him, as well as pay his bonuses, which I am sure he has an agreement for.
Another reason, as hard it could be for someone to believe, is that it is time for Radulov to move back to the NHL. He has won everything he could in the KHL. As much as some don't want to believe it, Radulov has in fact become a better player during the time he spent in the KHL. And when he finally comes back to the NHL, he will surely be an asset: he has the skill, the toughness, the speed, the size.
It will be up to the Predators and their fans to either welcome him back and start over without holding the grudge, or reject his return, which will also be understood due to the complicated history.
But Radulov's return to the NHL at this point is a very real possibility.