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Why the KHL needs to step in and split Radulov and Salavat Yulaev


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Photo Credit: RIA Novosti. Aleksey Malgavko

All the talk in Nashville this morning hasn’t necessarily been centered around the possibility of future NFL Hall of Famer Peyton Manning joining the Tennessee Titans, but of the ongoing soap opera in Russia involving the Nashville Predators prodigal child: Alexander Radulov.

How is today’s news any different than what was said yesterday? Easy, everyone now knows what the hold-up is in regards to the possible return of the KHL poster boy and arguably the best hockey player outside of the National Hockey League.

This morning, Dmitry Chesnokov (reporting news coming via Pavel Lysenkov of Sovietsky Sport in Russia) reported the following:

“Radulov wants to leave for Nashville right now. The KHL club hasn’t granted their permission. Salavat wants to keep rights to Radulov but can only do so if he leaves in the fall. Hence, no permission to leave now. If Radulov and Salavat terminate their contract now, he can leave but Salavat will lose his rights. Something they don’t want to do. Dead end right now.

Bottom line: Radulov wants to play in the NHL right now. His KHL club is ok with that but wants to keep his rights”

Other sources familiar to the situation later noted that the KHL could step in and resolve the conflict between the two teams. Tomorrow morning in Moscow, KHL president Alexander Medvedev has a meeting scheduled between the two conflicting parties about what is to be done in this circumstance.

Now, Medvedev and the KHL have already given Radulov the go ahead to leave stating that they didn’t want to be the “iron curtain” between Radulov and his return to the NHL. With Salavat standing in the way of it, this presents a prime opportunity for Medvedev and his crew to try and build a lasting impression with the NHL.

Medvedev needs to take a step back and look at this problem with a much wider angle: the decision that the KHL makes tomorrow on what they will do in regards to the Radulov situation not only impacts the now, but could impact the future relationships between 1) the NHL and 2) their poster boy superstar Radulov.

Radulov has expressed his interest in returning to Nashville to finish the season with the Predators and, in the same swing, his Entry Level Contract as well, which was promised to be fulfilled if he stepped on the ice for just “one game” in a Nashville uniform this season, directly via David Poile.

There isn’t any guarantee that Radulov will stay with the Nashville Predators past this season if he were to return. I believe David Poile knows this and so does every other General Manager in the NHL. Medvedev could take that opportunity to make one very keen point with Alexander Radulov:

“We love you in Russia, but we know you have a contract to finish in the NHL. If you want to come back and play in the KHL, the door is always open”

Letting Salavat control the situation and not allowing him to finish his time in the NHL is sending the wrong message to the KHL and the players in the system. Granted, this isn’t the best possible outcome for the Nashville Predators, but how often has Alexander Radulov factored into the plans of David Poile and Barry Trotz in the past 4 years?

Not at all.

Think that will change if he comes over to the NHL, even if it’s for only 2 months?

Nope.

Yes, Radulov can give Nashville something they’ve never truly had in their entire existence: a true sniper/goal scorer/superstar. Yes, Radulov could definitely help Nashville’s chances to win a Stanley Cup this season (and for many seasons in the future if he were to take a contract with the Predators). Yet, look at the facts for this season:

Nashville is 9th in the NHL in goals forced and goals averaged per game (196 and 2.84)

Nashville has the second best powerplay in the NHL converting at a 21.1% rate (Edmonton has the number 1 with 21.8%)

Could Nashville use a player like Radulov? Sure, who couldn’t?

Will it hurt Nashville’s chances if he never played for the Predators again? Nope. Not in the least.

Nashville has survived this long without Radulov and they will keep doing so if he were to never come back. Radulov would be a welcomed addition to the offense of the Nashville Predators, don’t mistake me, however it’s up to Alexander Medvedev to find a way to split the two feuding factions apart.

Whether it’s Medvedev paying Radulov’s contract to Salavat (s/t to Slava Malamud [@SlavaMalamud on twitter] for that piece of knowledge) and Radulov goes back to the KHL this summer to join Medvedev’s team, SKA, or if Radulov comes back to the NHL for good, it’s time for a decision to be made.

If Alexander Medvedev wants to try and let bygones be bygones with the NHL and MAYBE, just perhaps, try to clear up the darkest blemish on the KHL’s name, then it’s time to step in and do what it takes to let Radulov come back to Nashville this season.

With the KHL having regular season games in Brooklyn to start their season next year (just like the NHL’s regular season games in Europe), this would be a great opportunity to start things off on the right foot with the NHL and it’s leaders.

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