While many have begun to debate whether it’s time for the Detroit Red Wings to initiate a rebuild, it looks like the team has an option in their wheelhouse should they decide to attempt to keep chugging along. Former Nashville Predators forward Alexander Radulov appears to be set on returning to the NHL, and the Red Wings are among the teams that interest him.
3) but there are others sniffing around. Word is he also is interested in the likes of DET, FLA & WASH. Hard to glean their interest…
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 25, 2016
Radulov is perhaps most famous for his ups and downs with the Nashville Predators. The 2004 first-round pick performed well under sheltered minutes in a 37-point rookie season before bursting out with 26 goals and 58 points in 2007/08. Many had high hopes for the Russian winger at this point before he shocked the hockey world by leaving the league for the greener pastures of Salavat Yulaev Ufa with a year left on his entry-level deal.
In hindsight, the situation makes a little bit more sense. Radulov was at that point a 22-year-old emerging superstar with a delayed rookie contract with no bonus structure and had an opportunity to become the face of hockey in his homeland. While there, though, Radulov solidified himself as the evil supervillain of the hockey world, embracing his crazier mannerisms and channeling them into a player who was both a gifted point producer and a tremendous jerk. He could score a hat trick, curse out a referee, and swing his stick at his coach in the same night and nobody would bat an eyelash.
Radulov eventually came back at the end of the 2011/12 season to finish off his ELC, scoring at just under a point per game clip despite being four years removed from NHL action. His season finished on a sour note, though, as he was scratched from a Nashville playoff game for staying out late and drinking with Sergei Kostitsyn. In the four seasons that have followed, Radulov has played for CSKA Moscow on a deal that pays him 300 million rubles a year.
But that deal expires next week, and not a moment too soon. After all, the ruble has crashed significantly in the years that have passed, meaning what was once one of the richest contracts in hockey ($9.2M US) is now middle six money ($4.5M). He’s continued to shine as a player as well, continuously finishing near the top of the league in assists, points, and penalty minutes with what appears to be no end in sight.
Whether Detroit is the right fit for him, even if he’s interested in joining the organization, is anybody’s guess. It seems that his reported attitude wouldn’t mesh well with the loyalist culture in the Wings organization, not to mention the fact that it just might not be the right fit for him. Radulov thrives in high-event, highly intense environments where he can cause commotion, and also does best when he has a triggerman to play with. Detroit doesn’t have a shooting center at their disposal right now unless Pavel Datsyuk does indeed head back to Russia and Dylan Larkin moves to his natural position next year.
There’s also the issue of salary; Igor Eronko of Sport-Express believes that Radulov isn’t overly concerned with a massive pay day and prefers family comfort, but a winger of his calibre should still command a minimum of $5 million, if not more in the event that multiple teams get involved in the bidding. Short of shedding salary, Detroit might be too far deep into their own investments to make the space for him.
Ultimately, I’d be very interested in seeing Radulov come back to the NHL. His combination of insane skill and insane mannerisms make him one of the most entertaining players in the world, and you can count more talented active Left Wingers on less than one hand. I guess we’ll have to see where this goes; especially with teams like Colorado, Florida, Washington, both New Yorks, and Toronto all speculated to be in the mix in some respect.