The Canucks Aren't Happy About Radulov's Potential Return

Thomas Drance
March 13 2012 03:12PM

News broke earlier today that the league will allow Alexander Radulov to join the Nashville Predators for the balance of this season, and for the playoffs, without being subject to rule 13.23 of the CBA and having to pass through waivers. This is a little bit odd, and required a special agreement between the NHLPA and NHL. While Radulov still has to meet with KHL officials, the path is cleared on the North American side of things for the winger to make his NHL return. 

According to Tony Gallagher, the Canucks aren't exactly pleased to see a guy who Dan Hamhuis described as "one of the  most dynamic players in the world," be allowed to join a Western Conference rival this late in the game without passing through waivers: 

Are the Canucks right to be upset, or is this petty whining from the team (which, unsurprisingly, is the way most Predators fans saw it on Twitter)? While I'm personally excited that Radulov could be back in the NHL, I think that the Canucks, and other Western Conference teams, have some cause to be upset.

For the most part CBA rule 13.23 is pretty clear, and Radulov's return is a violation of it. Make no mistake, without a special agreement between the NHLPA and the NHL: this would not be allowed to occur. Here's what rule 13.23 states:

In the event a professional or former professional Player plays in a league outside North America after the start of the NHL Regular Season, other than on Loan from his Club, he may thereafter play in the NHL during that Playing Season (including Playoffs) only if he has first either cleared or been obtained via Waivers.

Pretty open and shut right? Radulov has played in a league outside North America this season, he was not there on loan from the Predators, and he shouldn't be eligible to play in the NHL without first passing through waivers (at which point he'd be disallowed from competing in the NHL playoffs). Thanks to the special agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA, however, Radulov won't have to pass through waivers, and since he's on Nashville's "reserve list" he'll be able to compete in the playoffs as well.

From my perspective as a fan of NHL hockey: I want the best players in the world to play in the NHL. And by any measure, Radulov is one of the world's best offensive players. Just take a look at his NHLE numbers (pro-rated over an 82 game pace) from the last four seasons (KHL points are worth .83 NHL points): 

Alexander Radulov NHLE Goals Assists Points
2008-09 29 34 63
2009-10 30 49 79
2010-11 25 76 101
2011-12 34 52 86

I've read that some people see Radulov as a snake, or a potential chemistry killer for the Preds and maybe they're right (though I doubt it). But any of that intangible "risk" doesn't change the fact that the Predators could be adding a point-per-game player to their roster thanks to this special agreement. How bad a guy can Radulov possibly be to provide the Predators with negative value at this point?

The Canucks have taken advantage of every loop-hole in the CBA - from suspicious and timely cap-space clearing injuries, to the Bill Sweatt signing, to the David Backes Offer Sheet. Hell, if we go historically, the franchise has even used shady methods to acquire ludicrously skilled Russian wingers. But never before have the Canucks received special dispensation from the powers that be (though if they ever did - what would Tony Gallagher write about?) to violate the CBA.

Which brings us to the bottom line: this is a shady situation. In all likelihood the NHL's intent here is to do the Predators a solid (they probably feel like Radulov "owes" the team his services), and the NHLPA has acquiesced. I've always liked the Predators - they're the closest thing in hockey to a pure "moneyball" team - but thinking about it empathetically, if I were an active member of the Vancouver Canucks, I'd probably be pretty frustrated by this news too.

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Thomas Drance lives in Toronto, eats spicy food and writes about hockey. He is an NHL News Editor at theScore, the ex-managing editor of CanucksArmy.com and an opinionated blowhard to boot. You can follow him on twitter @thomasdrance.
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#1 What Is Unfair?
March 13 2012, 03:31PM
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Everything you wrote is true, but this is what it boils down to.

The Canucks, and every other team in the West, not only have they not been disadvantaged, they have been at an ADVANTAGE because Radulov left Nashville. Just like how the Red Wings and Blackhawks would have been at an advantage over the last three seasons if Henrik Sedin had left to the KHL.

The fact is, it is the Predators who have been at a disadvantage because one of their draft picks left to the KHL. Did they receive compensation for that draft pick after he left? No, and the pick likely wouldn't have been worth as much as Radulov, anyway. Fact is, Nashville has already lost, is it 3 seasons?, of potentially their best forward, and they will not get those seasons back. Who knows where their franchise would be if they'd had him. They have been at a huge disadvantage.

Radulov returning would just remedy that, and make things fair again for the first time since he left. It would remedy that disadvantage of Nashville and the advantage of everyone else.

Now of course none of the other teams want their advantage taken away, but let's not confuse going from an advantageous position back to a neutral position with going from a neural position to a disadvantageous position. It's a big difference.

In reality, the other western conference teams should be thankful to have had an advantage for this long, and not complain that Nashville may finally get a fair shake.

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#2 German Canuck
March 13 2012, 04:35PM
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@What Is Unfair?

Sorry, but isn't that just bad luck, to have a player go back to Russia because he makes more money? Sure, he should have honoured his contract with the Predators, but I don't think that that rule-breaking should make it legal to break another rule! Since when do two wrongs make a right? Not to speak of the fact, that Radulov walked out on the Predators, so he should be punished for not honouring his contract in some way! But now they say: No, all is fogiven, you can just come back, because your KHL team is already out of the season and you have nothing better to do? I'm sorry, but that just doesn't seem right to me! It would encourage every player to bolt for Russia once there's more money and then come back once they feel like it!! If Henrik Sedin had left for the KHL under similar circumstances I think it would be just as wrong to let him come back to the NHL without going through waivers! Rules are Rules. (Of course in that case, I'd be happy, but I would still view it as not correct/wrong)

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#3 Mantastic
March 13 2012, 04:40PM
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Radolov is being punished, he still has to play out the remaining of his ELC istead of being a FA. i don't understand why would he have to clear waivers if he's already signed to the team.

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#5 Mantastic
March 13 2012, 05:25PM
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@Thomas Drance

he's was ELC, what kind of stashing are we talking about? less than 1 million?! call da police!! cap circumvention!!!!!111 clearly that is what poille was trying to do! and waivers would only be an issue for other teams wanting to claim him...

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#6 Perry
March 13 2012, 05:48PM
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Predators wont get past the wings in the first round. Moot point.

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#8 DaNucklhead
March 13 2012, 08:20PM
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The precedent had been set previously with a couple situations where a player under contract was required to finish the term of the contract before free agency would be attained. Nabokov signed and was claimed on waivers by the Islanders. He could have finished the season on Long Island and been a UFA but he refused to show up. This year he has had to make up the year he signed to play.

This has more to do with fulfilling Radulov's contract than having to clear waivers in order to play. I understand and agree with the NHL's ruling - if a player tries to hold out and not fulfill his contract, he should have to honor the term of the contract before he can become a free agent.

Whether you want to think of the KHL as competition for the top players in the world or not, the NHL has to have provisions to leave the door open for the best players to play in the NHL. I don't like the fact Radulov will be able to fulfill a full year in a matter of a few weeks, but it also opens the door for him to be back in the future where we will all be able to enjoy his talents.

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#9 Mantastic
March 13 2012, 08:36PM
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@Thomas Drance

and that's why the NHL and NHLPA think the rules applying to this case to be stupid and vetoing it for this case.

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#10 German Canuck
March 14 2012, 03:46AM
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@DaNucklhead

Sure, but the precedent you mentioned actually makes the case of a player having to go through waivers, because he was originally signed by the Red Wings and then claimed by the Islanders! I have absolutely no problem with Radulov returning at the beginning of the next season! But doing it this way puts all the power in the players hands! Just because his oligarch team got thrown out of the first round he now wants to come back and play for the preds, since he doesn't have anything better to do? NO, wrong message would be sent here! Let him to his full contract with the Predators the next season, then he becomes a RFA/UFA (don't know which would apply) and all is fair and by the rules!

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#11 Mantastic
March 14 2012, 09:51AM
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@German Canuck

no, it doesn't, Nabby was signs as a FA to play for Detriot last year. He had to pass through waivers so every team had a shot at him and not just the wings.

Radulov was signed 5 years ago and left while still in his ELC in which his contract froze and as it applies to all ELC contracts that if you play 1 game in the season after ELC starts, it burns that 1 year off the contract.

what the canucks are whining about is his non-waiver issue.

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#12 Mantastic
March 14 2012, 09:54AM
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Thomas Drance wrote:

@Mantastic read the rule, any player who starts the season in a league outside of the NHL has to clear waivers. It's designed so teams can't violate the cap by stashing a guy in Europe and recalling him right before the playoffs.

and btw, you can still stash players in europe to recall them later if you loan them euro clubs, later to recall them.

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#13 Surprised?
March 14 2012, 10:33AM
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I don't really think anyone is surprised that the Canucks are whining.

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#14 Hockeyfan
March 16 2012, 11:22AM
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This is not a fair ruling, this is a special favor for a small market team, because the league is run by small markets. I highly doubt other teams would have got around this.

Here's the issue with this ruling.

The league mandates a cap, and a roster maximum. So basically they've had this guy off their books all year, and playing in another league, while members of their current team are getting the ice time and experience.

I don't know Nashville's situation, but I wonder had Rudulov returned when the season begun, would Nashville have had to waive a player?

So next season, will the Teemuu be allowed to go home to Finland, or Lidstrom to Sweden, and then just come back to their teams for the playoff push? Give both teams the oppotunity to give youth some ice time, and get cap relief?

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#15 Joel
March 19 2012, 02:30PM
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If Radulov was Canuck property they would bring him back. Canucks have more to worry about than Radulov , their game has slipped.

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