A big storyline coming into the 2016-17 NHL season was the return of Alexander Radulov to North America after spending four years playing in the KHL in his native Russia, signing a one-year, $5.75 million deal with the Montreal Canadiens.
Once upon a time, Radulov was a high draft pick by Nashville (15th overall, 2004) but essentially ran himself out of the league following two stints in North America that didn’t work out. The second time, in particular, was especially ugly, benched during the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs after violating his curfew. The Predators lost that series in five games to the Phoenix Coyotes as Radulov missed games three and four of that series after being spotted at a bar in Arizona with teammate Andrei Kostitsyn the night prior to the second game of the series, which prompted the discipline. Radulov was told to take a hike after the season, to the surprise of nobody.
While many felt Radulov had played his final NHL game following a second ugly exit from Nashville – he bolted in 2008 to join the KHL with a year remaining on his entry-level deal – Marc Bergevin was a man who believes in second chances. The Canadiens general manager brought Radulov in over the summer, signing the forward to a low-risk, high-reward that so far has reaped the awards and then some. Radulov is second on the Canadiens with 35 points in 39 games as Montreal holds a commanding eight-point lead in the Atlantic Division standings with 63 points, slotting the Habs fourth in the playoff standings with 34 games to play.
Radulov’s comeback and newfound maturity was highlighted in a Sportsnet piece over the weekend written by Ryan Dixon, documenting the 30-year-old’s time in the KHL to the mark he’s made on the Canadiens dressing room.
Of course, being 30 and a veteran playing for what potentially could be a big contract likely plays a big role in the evolution of Radulov as a player, on and off the ice. Your world view tends to change for the better as you get older (usually). But nonetheless a great story of a unbelievably gifted player who finally appears to be getting it.
You can put it in the box score score as another win for Bergevin, who seems to be having one of those ‘everything he touches turns to gold’ type of years.