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|
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.