Originally written April 10, 2012 on The Predatorial:
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Photo Credit: predators.nhl.com Reports emerged this morning from a Russian Hockey news website, “AllHockey.ru” that the Nashville Predators have offered prodigal winger Alexander Radulov a deal that would see him paid an average of 9 million dollars per year, for the next four years: http://allhockey.ru/news/120648/ Google’s translation:
“Nashville,” Radulov offers four-year contract for $ 36 million 09.04.2012 14:45
According to AllHockey.ru, “Nashville” offers striker Alexander Radulovfour-year contract worth about $ 36 million.As you know, the leadership of the American team, who returned Radulov, KHL best striker in recent years, its membership has already announced its intention to keep him in their team for the long term. And the Radulov arrival in America, said that back at the end of this season in the NHL has not promised to anyone, and that the decision to continue a career in the U.S. or Russia will at the end of this season. In the nine games held this season for “Nashville,” Radulov scored 7 (3 +4) points.
  At first blush, that’s a lot of money.  But is the idea of forking out such a huge payday for the quixotic Russian completely insane?  I’m not so sure. As much as we’d like to pretend that every contract was its own entity this offseason, it’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room:  we have a few players that happen to be the face of the franchise that have been somewhat wishy-washy when it comes to committing to their futures here.  In a perfect world, we could handle the Radulov contract like most other teams would.  We could offer what we deemed to be fair market value, and if he didn’t like it, his only option would be to sit at home stewing until his head cleared.  That’s how it’s supposed to work with RFAs. But unfortunately, due to several extenuating circumstances, that’s not the case here.  First, there was the highly visible arbitration debacle involving Shea Weber, last summer.  Most of us, myself included, that it was a slam dunk that he’d re-sign with the Predators, inking a long term deal that would finally put an end to the irritating “he can’t wait to get home and sign with his beloved Canucks” rumors.  Of course, that didn’t happen.  Instead, whispers emerged that Weber was hesitant to commit to a team that hasn’t always displayed a capability to keep its homegrown talent. Okay, no big deal…he just wants to make sure that we’re not going to ship out Rinne and Suter to afford him.  Easy enough, we’ll just sign them, then he’ll have no reason to want to leave, right?  We’ll have done enough, we’ll have proved ourselves. Problem solved? Of course not.  While Rinne was willing to sign early, it took a slight overpayment\slightly-too-long deal to get it done.  Then, things got really complicated: Suter made a series of “I’m not going to sign with Nashville/Oh wait, I was misquoted/I might sign with Nashville./I might not sign with Nashville/We’ll see” statements.  The end result was an even murkier future for the young blueliner.  By proxy, this extends to his BFF and partner, Shea Weber.  All of a sudden, the Predators were faced with a situation that caused quite a bit of collective nail-biting: two thirds of “the big three” might move on. Amidst all of the fretful speculation, a variable that no one could have foreseen inserted himself into the situation: Alexander Radulov came back to town.  Since nothing is ever easy, he arrived with the requisite amount of uncertainty and vagueness surrounding his future. MAYBE he’d be here past this summer, MAYBE he’d be returning to the KHL. A lot of he-said/he-said ensued, and as of today, there’s still not a whole lot that’s clear, going forward.  Radulov’s entry was particularly interesting, given that it’s long been rumored that Weber\Suter have politely demanded additions to bolster an offense that lacked any real star power. So with these three asteroids hurtling in questionable, ever-changing directions through space, it’s important to keep your eyes on all three, at all times.  Because of that, the Predators are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating with Radulov.  Everything that they do has to be calculated, given the possibility of a chain reaction erupting from the volatile condition of their star players.  Tell Alexander to screw off, and perhaps his buddy Ryan Suter is bristled enough to decide that the grass is greener in Philadelphia, which in turn causes Shea Weber to seek the damp climes of his home province. Now, this is clearly a speculative “worst case,” and perhaps it’s overly pessimistic, but for a franchise that’s finally establishing footing in a community of fans that has historically been small but passionate, it’s a dangerous game of chicken to play.  I think that a reasonable goal would be to retain 2 of the remaining 3 unsigned “faces,”  and since Radulov is a restricted free agent, he makes a good first candidate.  Likewise, Suter’s status as an unrestricted free agent at season’s end makes him the most difficult to sign.  However, retaining Radulov could be enough to keep the captain in town, and thus soften the blow that Suter leaving would render. So, to summarize a few scenarios that could play out, we have: GREAT: Radulov signs, Suter signs, Weber signs. Rinne already signed. GOOD: One of Suter\Weber\Radulov leaves, the other two sign. Replacement defenseman (Matt Carle? 4M per for 3 years?) or replacement forward is signed\traded for (see countless previous blogs about Ryan, Nash, Parise, et. al) OKAY: Two of Suter\Radulov\Weber leave. Roster starts to look very different, going forward. DISASTER: Radulov bolts back to the KHL, Suter signs elsewhere, Weber signs a one-year deal to carry him through to being UFA, making a pretty clear statement about his long-term desire to stay in town. Now, since I’m often accused of being a negative-nancy on Twitter, I want to emphasize that I’m not making any declarations that I think this worst-case WILL happen, just that it could, and that it would be very, very bad. As such, I think it’s important to start making any provisions that we can.  A big offer to Radulov may be step one. While the amount is semi-absurd, you have to keep his situation in perspective.  The ever-present KHL threat, with its deep pockets and promises of Russian pop-stardom is something that has to be reckoned with, and there’s an inflation factor that comes along with it.  My pal Chris Burton(@predatweeter) made the argument this morning, “That’s more than Malkin and Stamkos make.) True enough, but both of those contracts were signed under a more conventional set of circumstances.  There wasn’t a large league salivating at the prospect of gettings its golden boy back. There weren’t teammates sitting on the Strummer-ian “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” fence.  Contracts aren’t negotiated in a vacuum, and unfortunately, the Predators don’t really hold the high card.  It’s important to consider here that the Predators likely value Radulov at elite forward level.  Fair market value for such a forward falls in the 7ish million range. If you were thinking that Nashville could\should offer Radulov a 2 year deal at 4 million per– understand that was not likely to ever get it done, and the very offer might spurn him enough to send him into Medvedev’s doughy arms.  So, like when negotiating with Rinne– getting your cookie might mean paying too much for it, but ultimately the Predators will have the cap room to do so, albeit things may be tight. I guess it rides on just how serious ownership is about the “cap team” boasts. The other alernative that comes to mind is that the Predators have already resigned themselves to life without Suter. Perhaps they think he’s replaceable with a combination of a less expensive external signing and the continued development of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. Or perhaps he’s said enough behind closed doors that they’re aware that there’s no chance he’s going to stay.  In either scenario, Operation “Pick Up the Pieces” goes into effect, and retaining everyone else that they can becomes the priority– even if it means dumping a bunch of cash to do so. I really didn’t foresee this being such a wordy post, and it maybe it’s in vain, given the shaky credibility of some of these Russian sites, but I saw enough on Twitter to justify it.  There’s a lot of “that’s kooky talk,” “he can’t get that much from us,” “we’d never offer that much” going around, but as detailed above, I can think of a few reasons that maybe it’s not all that farfetched. As always, feel free to disagree and tell me what an idiot I am in the comments -JN
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