For the past few seasons, the collective complaint of Nashville Predators fanbase has been nothing if not consistent: we need a high-end scorer.
Don’t believe me? Read my past blogs…how many of them did I not mention it, at least in passing? Now, I don’t claim to be the mouthpiece for Preds fans on the whole, but I like to think that my finger is at least somewhat on the pulse. I read your tweets, your blogs, your messageboard rantings. I listen to the shouts and groans at games.
For the most part, a particular tie binds the community voice: we need more goals!!
So when the trade deadline came and went without the landing of a big(read: Parise, Nash, Ryan) fish, there was at least a modicum of disappointment.
Well, it could be that the only guy the Predators have ever drafted that could be classified as a “deadly” sniper could just be on the horizon to save the day.
For the past several weeks, the hubbub on the interwebz has been that Radulov was at least amenable to a return, should his team Salavaet Ufa experience an early exit from the KHL playoffs. This came to pass on Friday, after they lost in six games to Ak Bars Kazan. While some were hopeful of this result, the prevailing belief was that a desire to play in the World Championships with his native Russia would be too great a priority for Radulov to consider coming back this season. Next season? Well, that’d be great…but now…let’s not get our hopes up, right?
Not so fast, according to Yahoo’s fantastic blogger\Russian correspondent, Dmitri Chesnokov.
The rumor mill has been buzzing, and several sources in Russia have confirmed that not only will Radulov not be back to the KHL next season, but that he’s leaning toward returning to Nashville to make a run at the elusive Stanley Cup. While these rumors are still just that — rumors, there seems to be a good deal of smoke to go along with the fire this time around.
Chesnokov cited the agent of some of Radulov’s teammates, who told him flatly that Radulov was going back to Nashville. While A-Rad and his agent have levied the stoic “no comment” to this point, an official announcement is expected on March 15th. Et tu, Radu?
Logistically, a return this season makes a lot of sense for both sides. From Radulov’s perspective, he burns off the last remaining year of the 3 year ELC he signed in 2006, valued at 980K. He would then qualify for RFA status, and the Predators have no-doubt floated the idea of a lucrative multi-year extension, should both sides be happy with the spring. It’s also not a given that returning to Nashville automatically precludes him from participation in the World Championships. The actual tournament gets underway on May 4th. If the Predators were eliminated before the Western Conference finals, he could still make the team, albeit skipping camp(likely a formality for a player of his magnitude anyway). If they did make it that far, he’s getting pretty close to an NHL championship, and he likely opts for that over a second-tier international competition that he’s already won anyway.
As for Nashville, the pay-off is obvious. They return a guy that scored 26 goals in limited minutes in his sophomore season. A player that is widely considered the best player in the world outside the NHL. They add a true dynamic offensive gamebreaker at virtually no cost.
While some have expressed hesitance at bringing back a deserter, some insight is likely required:
- Radulov was 21 when he left. He was under the influence of two agents– one North American, one Russian. The Russian agent brokered the deal which would not only make Radulov the highest paid player in the KHL, but would make him the marquee, face of the league. An appealing offer to an immature kid. It’s tough to think he hasn’t done some growing up since then.
- The players that were reported to have some issue with Radulov– Dumont, Sullivan, Arnott– are all gone. The new “core” guys, including Suter, Weber and Rinne, have all been quoted as being welcoming to his return. Suter and Weber in particular have never lost touch with Rads.
- I’ve seen so much made of the “he gave Arnott a concussion!!” talk. First off– it was in the heat of a joyful goal celebration–a team pileup. Second– Jason Arnott is a guy I have a hard time feeling sorry for, anyway
At the time of this writing, a bit of breaking news has emerged that should be cause for a little bit more excitement: according to RDS’s Renaud Lavouie, the league asked for and was granted a waiver exemption for Radulov, should he return this season. While Poile has always stated that they believed he wasn’t eligible, this could be seen as last-step t-crossing and i-dotting. Does the league even make such an inquiry if Nashville weren’t trying to justify it? I’m not so sure.
In all, like the rest of you, I’ve had my hopes up and been burned too many times to get as giddy about this as I should be. But for the first time, it truly seems like all good indications point to an imminent return for our beleaguered scoring messiah.
Could we be hearing his Van Halen evocative “Rad-u-lov” theme song in the near future? I certainly hope so.