Seven NHL teams that could take chance on Alexander Radulov

Elliotte Friedman sits down with Alexander Ovechkin while Daren Millard, Nick Kypreos, Darren Pang and Doug MacLean talk to and breakdown the team Russia will field at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Between the ongoing Stanley Cup playoffs, Saturday’s NHL Draft Lottery and subsequent June draft, plus a looming off-season that will feature Steven Stamkos likely hitting the open market, it’s an exciting time for hockey fans.

Friday’s news that skilled Russian winger Alexander Radulov is planning on a return to the NHL only adds to that excitement.

Kyle Okposo, Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson, Mikkel Boedker and Andrew Ladd are among the strong crop of wingers slated to become unrestricted free agents and Radulov is just as talented as any of them.

He’s more than capable of adding 20-30 goals to a lineup but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee there will be long list of suitors ready to hand him a contract. Teams will be concerned about the baggage Radulov brings with him and whether or not it could be a distraction.

The 15th overall pick from 2004 played two years with the Nashville Predators (2006-07 and ’07-08) before leaving for the KHL where he spent four seasons with Ufa Salavat Yulayev. He returned to the Preds in the spring of 2012 but Radulov’s second NHL stint with the Predators was short-lived after he and then-teammate Andrei Kostitsyn were suspended during the playoffs for violating team curfew. The pair was reportedly out partying until 5 a.m. the night before Game 2 of a second-round series against the Coyotes.

Too bad there isn’t already an NHL team in Las Vegas. Radulov would fit in swimmingly in that market. Just kidding.

Despite all the distractions that ailed him with the Predators, some reports suggest he has matured in recent years. He has an infant son and people change, so why not give him the benefit of the doubt?

If teams don’t have to worry about off-ice distractions, the talent he possesses is tantalizing. He’ll be 30 in July but has plenty of hockey left in him.

With that in mind, here are seven teams that should and could take a chance on Radulov.

Detroit Red Wings

With Pavel Datsyuk heading back to Russia, Detroit needs to improve its forward group. It’s believed the Red Wings could be players in the Stamkos sweepstakes, but Radulov would also add a punch to a Red Wings offence that registered its lowest goal total in a non-lockout-shortened season since 1976-77.

Red Wings beat reporter Ansar Khan confirmed Friday the team has spoken with Radulov’s agent. They are also speaking to some of Radulov’s former teammates to get a sense of his character.

With pending UFAs Kyle Quincey, Brad Richards and Darren Helm all potentially off the books — plus the fact they could trade Datsyuk’s cap hit to a team needing to get to the cap floor — money wouldn’t be an issue for Detroit unless Radulov is looking for a lucrative, long-term deal.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche were listed as early favourites to land Radulov when news first broke that he was planning an NHL return and it makes sense for a couple reasons. Colorado’s head coach Patrick Roy was Radulov’s bench boss in his final year with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts in 2005-06.

Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov told Russia’s Sport-Express last week the team is “waiting for Radulov” and that “he’ll be one of the leaders there.”

Radulov and Varlamov won a silver medal together in 2006 on Russia’s world junior team. They’ve also been teammates at world championships and at the last two Olympics.

Take the Avalanche talk with a grain of salt, though, because Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman warned in his latest 30 Thoughts that these are nothing more than rumours at this point.

Florida Panthers

One team Friedman says is definitely interested in Radulov is the Panthers. After being upset by the Islanders in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s clear the team isn’t quite ready to be a contender in the East just yet. Adding another top six forward like Radulov would have its perks.

GM Dale Tallon will have money to burn this summer with the contracts of Brian Campbell, Jaromir Jagr, Teddy Purcell, Jiri Hudler, Willie Mitchell and Al Montoya all expiring. It appears at this point both Campbell and Jagr are both set on re-signing with the team.

The Panthers have a strong balance of youth and experience, so he’d fit in well in that respect. Also, having someone like Jagr to look up to can only help. Jagr also bolted to the KHL mid career (albeit under different circumstances), only to return years later.

Vancouver Canucks

Adding a veteran forward shouldn’t be the Canucks’ top priority this off-season but the makeup of their roster suggests they have their sights set on making the playoffs next season rather than fully focusing on a rebuild. Vancouver struggled to put the puck in the net last season. In fact, only the Devils scored fewer goals.

New Jersey Devils

As mentioned above, New Jersey had the lowest goals-for in 2015-16. They only had five players that registered double digit goals. If Radulov hypothetically added 20-25 goals to that team they could feasibly contend for a playoff spot next season considering they ranked eighth in goals against and weren’t among the bottom feeders in the East.

The Devils received the short end of the stick when Ilya Kovalchuk bailed on them back in 2013. Adding a talent like Radulov could be somewhat of a reparation for the franchise.

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks just fired Bruce Boudreau after yet another Game 7 failure, so they need a new coach and some new talent. Wingers David Perron, Jamie McGinn and Chris Stewart are pending UFAs. Adding Radulov would soften the blow of possibly losing those three players.

Washington Capitals

Washington’s interest in a player like Radulov could hinge on how their series with the Penguins unfolds. If they get eliminated in the second round after winning the Presidents’ Trophy they’ll have to shake something up. There is a contingent of top Russian talent with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov that could help Radulov assimilate.

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