The NHL off-season has already begun for eliminated NHL teams. Among them are the Colorado Avalanche, and their starting goalie, Semyon Varlamov, has begun some personal free agent recruiting.
The man Varlamov wants in an Avs jersey next year: KHL superstar and former NHLer Alexander Radulov, who reportedly wants to try his hand at the NHL again. Radulov doesn't have much left to accomplish in his native Russia. He's a league MVP, a scoring champion and a Gagarin Cup winner. He was alternately tantalizing and frustrating in his two seasons with the Nashville Predators plus a brief return in 2012, so he has unfinished business in the NHL. He has good years left at 29 and, unlike in his previous comeback attempt, he'll be an unrestricted free agent.
Varlamov, Radulov's countryman, is home in Russia for the World Championship right now. According to translated quotes from Russian writer Slava Malamud, Varlamov told Russian newspaper Sport Express this week the Avalanche are "waiting for Radulov. He'll be one of the leaders there." Varlamov added, "All (Radulov) needs to do is dial Patrick (Roy) and his return will happen. I hope we can win the Cup with him."
Say we accept that a Radulov signing will happen. Does it make sense?
The Roy angle fits. We know GM Joe Sakic gave Roy a vote of confidence and insisted Roy will return as Colorado's coach in 2016-17. Roy coached Radulov in major junior with the Quebec Remparts. The two essentially helped put each other on the map. Radulov's epic 152-point season came in 2005-06 with Roy coaching the Remparts. They reached the Memorial Cup final that year.
The Avs also need wingers for next season and beyond. We don't know yet if they'll re-sign UFA rentals Mikkel Boedker and Shawn Matthias (who is a natural center but played left wing with the Avs). Alex Tanguay went to Arizona in the Boedker trade. Jarome Iginla has one year left on his contract, and there's a decent chance he'll retire when it ends. Mega-prospect Mikko Rantanen almost certainly makes the team next season, but Colorado could still use another winger. Building around a forward corps with Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon up the middle and Gabriel Landeskog, Rantanen and Alexander Radulov on the wings sounds pretty good, albeit Duchene is a rumored trade candidate and not necessarily on the best of terms with Roy. Colorado needs to mix in some size for the top six but, don't forget, Rantanen is 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds. There's the upgrade. So, depth chart wise, sure, Radulov could fit.
The question is whether Colorado can afford him. It has more than $50 million committed in contracts already next season, and it has two massive restricted free agents to re-sign: MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie. Both have probably done enough as NHLers to bypass bridge contracts. Assuming both get long-term deals, it should cost the Avs at minimum $11 million in cap space, probably more like $12 million or even $13 million. Backup goalie Calvin Pickard is also an RFA, as are Mikhail Grigorenko and Andreas Martinsen. So the Avs will be tighter to the cap than they may appear at the moment, with or without Radulov.
And Radulov won't be cheap. He isn't Artemi Panarin or Sergei Plotnikov or even Roman Cervenka, because Radulov is a proven NHL scorer with years of service under his belt. He's no lock to ever become an elite NHLer, but he has a reasonably high floor. Call it 20 to 25 goals and 45 to 50 points. And the ceiling remains high because of his raw talent. For that reason, Radulov as a UFA should earn a solid chunk of change. He'd carry a cap hit north of Cervenka's $3.775 million, easy.
So while Varlamov's idea makes sense because of the Roy connection and Radulov's potential fit with the team, the money is another story.
The great irony of it all: the best way to secure Radulov is to, ahem, trade Varlamov, free up $5.9 million and roll with Pickard as the starting goalie going forward. Sorry, Semyon.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin