Alexander Radulov made it no secret this past season he intended to return to the NHL when his contract with CSKA Moscow expired. The 29-year old former 15th overall draft pick of the Nashville Predators has been a prolific scorer in his native Russia, scoring 1.26 points-per-game over seven seasons, and will be a hot commodity on the open market for every NHL team.
But before his pro success, he was a standout junior player for the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts, a team owned and coached by current Avalanche coach and Vice President Patrick Roy. Under his tutelage, Radulov scored 75 points in 65 games in 2004-05 and an otherworldly 152 points in 62 games the following year -- very nearly a goal per game with 61. His first two years with Nashville looked just as promising, netting 18 goals his rookie season and 26 the next, but soon he bolted to the KHL, only returning briefly to Nashville for nine games in 2011-12. He then signed a massive 4-year 9.2 million dollar a year deal to return to the KHL.
Generally, in the midst of the NHL playoffs, we don't tend to hear free agent rumors, but Semyon Varlamov was on Russian radio today discussing the mercurial Radulov. Invaluable Russian hockey Twitter translator, Slava Malamud, provided a brief transcription today, sending Avalanche nation into its first offseason frenzy.
Varlamov speaks to Russian media, says the #Avs are "waiting for Radulov. He'll be one of the leaders there."— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) April 22, 2016
"All (Radulov) needs to do is dial Patrick (Roy) & his return will happen... I hope we can win the Cup with him" - Varlamov to Sport-Express— Slava Malamud (@SlavaMalamud) April 22, 2016
Without a doubt, this is an exciting development within the Colorado organization. Radulov is a world-class hockey player with the ability to pay immediate dividends for the franchise, but he's not without risks. As previously mentioned, Radulov has previously abandoned NHL contracts (though, that is now much more difficult under the current NHL-KHL agreement), and it's likely he won't be willing to take much of a pay cut upon his return. The Avalanche, at the moment, will have plenty of cap space entering next season, but restricted free agents Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Barrie, and Mikhail Grigorenko will all be due raises before next season. Can Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy clear enough cap space this offseason to fit 20-plus million dollars of new salaries? We will know the answer when the offseason gets underway.
The more concerning obstacle would be overcoming Radulov's reputation for trouble and his big on-ice personality. In the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he was suspended one game for a check into the boards that knocked out Steve Bernier. And in the 2012 playoffs, he was suspended by the Predators for a game for being out past curfew at a bar. But for Patrick Roy, a long-time admirer of Radulov, this is not likely to be a deterrent. A strong Russian presence on the Avalanche, including Varlamov, Grigorenko, and defenseman Nikita Zadorov, should also provide a strong foundation for a player who has, perhaps unfairly, been tagged with "character concerns."
Follow Mile High Hockey for further developments.