The issue of Alexander Radulov’s long-term future with the Nashville Predators is settled. He doesn’t have one.
In the wake of the team’s announcement earlier this week that it plans to trade the forward’s rights or allow him to return to Russia and the Kontinental Hockey League uncontested, some questions linger.
What is he worth? And was he worth it?
There is not much precedent in Predators’ history to know what a player like Radulov, the franchise’s first-round pick (15th overall) in 2004, can command on the trade market.
Nashville dealt two first-round choices, Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent, to Philadelphia in 2007 as part of the deal that brought Peter Forsberg to town. At the time, neither Upshall nor Parent was an established NHL player.
Two years ago, defenseman Dan Hamhuis (12th overall, 2001) was shipped to Philadelphia fewer than two weeks before the start of the free agency period. What the Predators got in return — Parent and a conditional pick — was below market value because all they effectively did was trade negotiating rights to Hamhuis, who ultimately signed with Vancouver after having been dealt from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.
The best comparison probably is Scott Hartnell (sixth overall, 2000). He was 25 and had more than 400 games of NHL experience when he was shipped to the Flyers in 2007 along with veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen for a first-round pick.
It seems unlikely, therefore, that Nashville can get a first-round pick straight up for Radulov, who will turn 26 in less than a month and has played 364 games combined in the NHL and KHL.
“We have reached out to some teams in the NHL to see if there is any interest,” general manager David Poile said in an interview posted on the team’s website. “Our thought process in that is that Rad is an asset and if we got something for him in the form of draft picks or younger players, we’d be better off.”
In time, that question will be answered with certainty.
If — or when — they trade him, that is what he’s worth.
Whether or not it was worth it for the team to bring him back in late March is a little harder to categorize.
Certainly, he got off easy by virtue of the fact that he was allowed to satisfy the remaining year of his entry-level contract by appearing in just nine games. That got him to his first time as a restricted free agent, which creates the possibility of a significant pay increase for next season and beyond.
There was an undeniable payoff when he delivered seven points (three goals, four assists) in those nine games. The Predators went 6-3-0 over that stretch and overtook Detroit for fourth place in the Western Conference standings, which earned them home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
It also seemed to work well when he had a point in four straight contests as Nashville eliminated the Red Wings in four games in that first round of the postseason.
Then came the Phoenix series and the very public reprimand he and Andrei Kostitsyn received for a missed curfew. He was suspended for one contest, benched for another and the Predators were eliminated in five games.
For many, his off-ice antics and subsequent punishment provided an easy explanation for the team’s disappointing showing in that series.
“Obviously, it’s a distraction whenever something like that happens just because you have to answer questions regarding it,” defenseman Ryan Suter said following the season. “But in the [locker] room it wasn’t a distraction.
“We’ve been through a lot in the locker room throughout the years with ownership and changes. So in that regard it was not a distraction.”
For now, this much is certain: The Predators no longer feel it is worth their time or energy to try to keep him here or fit him into their team.
“During the time Alex was here at the end of the season and in the playoffs it was good but it was not perfect,” Poile said. “It wasn’t what we both had expected and both sides had some question marks about the fit.”