On Tuesday, Metallurg Magnitogorsk defeated CSKA Moskva in game seven of the KHL Finals to capture the Gagarin Cup. You may be asking yourself right now: what does Russian hockey have to do with the Colorado Avalanche?
In truth, Avalanche faithful have one very big reason to care about the KHL. The outcome of this particular game really doesn’t make much difference to the Avs, but what it marked might. In all likelihood, it marked forward Alexander Radulov’s last game in the KHL (for the time being, at least).
Radulov has spent the last four seasons with CSKA, but he recently rejected a contract extension offer with his eyes set on attempting a return to the NHL. That return very well may come in burgundy and blue.
The Avalanche were linked to Radulov last offseason, and his addition would make a certain amount of sense. Depending on whether the team brings back Mikkel Boedker, the Avs could be in the market for a top-six winger. Radulov represents an uber-talented, fiercely competitive and tremendously exciting alternative.
Radulov also has a connection to Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy, who coached the Russian forward with the QMJHL’s Quebec Ramparts. In 2006, the Ramparts captured the Memorial Cup, with Radulov capturing the Stafford Smythe Trophy as MVP. Perhaps a reunion could garner similar results.
Radulov last played in the NHL (albeit briefly) in 2012, when he joined the Nashville Predators for the stretch run following the completion of his fourth KHL season. On the ice, the results were solid, as he posted seven points in nine regular season games and six points in eight playoff contests,
Off the ice however, there were some concerns. Radulov was suspended by the Predators for a playoff game after he missed curfew. He also bolted the Predators in the summer of 2008 for the KHL, even though he was still under contract.
Perhaps Roy will be able to keep Radulov happy and under control. Either way, it is likely worth considering; as his talent is unquestionable.
Radulov is the second-leading scorer in KHL history, with 492 points in 391 games. This season he scored 65 points in 53 contests, adding 16 points in 19 playoff games. He has been named MVP of the KHL on four occasions. He also won the Gagarin Cup in 2011. He has won two gold medals at the World Championships, scoring the clinching goal in 2009.
Radulov has also proven successful at the NHL level. In 154 career NHL games (all with the Predators), he scored 47 goals and 102 points; adding 14 points in 18 playoff contests.
Unfortunately for the Avalanche, other teams (including the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders and New York Rangers) are rumored to be interested in Radulov as well. With Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie both due new deals, the team can ill-afford to get in a bidding war. Regardless, moving the NHL will likely mean a paycut for Radulov, who made a reported $9.2 million/per season in the KHL.