Expect NHL to fight for Radulov
“We would view any signing, from either side, of a player under a valid contract, who does not have any legally valid out-clause, to be a clear violation of the mutual understanding and existing principle. It would potentially be punishable with suspended national team eligibility and suspension from all competition or activity organized by the IIHF or any IIHF member national association. This would include events like the Olympic Winter Games, the IIHF World Championship or international club competitions like the Champions Hockey League."
The NHL has flexed its muscle already, working out a transfer agreement yesterday that really only benefits the North American side. Under those terms, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has already asked that the Radulov deal be nullified.
Let's face it, there's not a great worry by the Continental Hockey League that its veteran players are about to be poached. What the Russian teams really want is compensation for when their top youngsters — like Blue Jackets prospect Nikita Filatov — sign overseas, and that wasn't part of what was hammered out.
Because Radulov has an NHL contract for another season, however, the NHL's in the right here, and unless Fasel was bluffing last month, the IIHF is about to throw the book at the young Russian. If faced with a potential ban from the 2010 Olympic Games, which Radulov would surely be a part of, my guess is he'll return to Nashville.
The question then, however, is what happens when his contract runs out on July 1, 2009.
It's clear from this Q&A over at FanHouse that Radulov is very interested in playing close to his hometown, Nizhny Tagil, which is only about 350 kilometres from Ufa. Nashville's a world away.
This idea that none of the game's young stars will choose to stay home is misguided, especially when the money, at least compared to an entry-level deal, is far better overseas.
NHLPA director Paul Kelly spoke yesterday to the potential benefits of having the KHL bid against the NHL for free agents going forward:
"It gives some of our guys another place to play," Kelly said. "It gives them some leverage they might not otherwise have, which is to present to their NHL teams that they have a competing offer from a KHL team and maybe improve their bargaining position."Underpaid for now, Radulov will command a contract in the neighbourhood of $4- to $4.5-million a season as an restricted free agent beginning in 2009-10, a deal that might be more difficult for the KHL to match. If money's not the issue, however, and he still wants to return home after 2008-09, there's very little the NHL can do about it.
Radulov's not Alex Ovechkin, but he is one of the league's up-and-coming stars. For now, however, he's got a contract, and it strikes me as exceedingly unlikely that he'll be allowed to breach it.
Even if the courts have to get involved.
UPDATE The Hockey News' Ken Campbell has a discussion with Radulov's agent.