During the off-season, former Nashville Predator Alexander Radulov teased the possibility of a return to North America. He wasn’t getting any younger, he said, and might have one last shot at winning a Stanley Cup if he found the right fit.
Well, so much for that.
According to Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko, the CEO of CSKA Moscow, Igor V. Esmantovich, has said the club plans to sign Radulov to a long-term extension soon. That would result in no free agency for Radulov, no switching clubs and certainly means no return to the NHL.
In July, Radulov spoke with Russian news outlet Business-Gazeta and said he would have loved the opportunity to be a free agent for the first time in his professional career, but he hadn’t ruled out the possibility of signing another contract with Moscow.
“I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to be free, with no obligations to some club, to determine their own fate himself,” Radulov told the paper. “So probably I wait it, but now I cannot guarantee anything.”
Radulov, 29, is one of the most polarizing players to suit up in the NHL over the past decade. While he’s immensely talented, he was criticized for not giving everything night in and night out and was heavily scrutinized after a post-season incident in 2011-12. During his return to the Predators after four seasons in the KHL, Radulov missed a curfew and was subsequently benched during the playoffs. It’s often that type of behavior that’s brought up when Radulov’s name is mentioned, and not the fact he scored 47 goals and 102 points in 154 career games.
Radulov will turn 30 shortly after NHL free agency opens, but even past his prime years, he would have been able to be a solid second-line contributor in the NHL had he come over. During his last stay, he scored three goals and seven points in nine regular season games before adding one goal and six points in eight post-season games. He has been an above average scorer everywhere he has gone, and if he could choose his destination, he would have likely been able to find an offensive role for himself. During his days in Nashville, the team played a more defensive brand of hockey under coach Barry Trotz.
Radulov first left North America before the 2008-09 season to join Ufa Salavat Yulaev, but returned to Nashville once his contract was up. His 17-game stint with the Predators in 2011-12 was enough to make him an NHL free agent, but Radulov chose instead to sign with CSKA.
Over his past four seasons with CSKA, including the half-season in 2015-16, Radulov has scored 67 goals and 209 points in 159 games. He’s currently second in the KHL in scoring with 12 goals and 36 points in 31 games.