David Poile meets with Russian player at World Championships
John Glennon/The Tennessean, May 13 2009
Predators general manager David Poile came away from a recent meeting with Alexander Radulov believing the talented Russian forward does want to return to the NHL.
But when — and if — Radulov chooses to make that decision remains to be seen.
The Predators want to know Radulov’s intentions by the end of June at the latest, because they will need to start planning for the 2009-10 season at the draft and in the free-agent market.
“I’ve said all along that I believe he does (want to return to the NHL) and after meeting with him, I still believe he does,’’ Poile said. “But the ball is more in his court to make that overture to us if he wants to do that.’’
Poile said he spoke with Radulov regularly at the recent World Championship in Switzerland, in part because the U.S. and Russian teams were housed in the same hotel.
It was the first face-to-face contact for the two since last offseason, when Radulov signed a three-year, $13 million deal with Russia’s Salavat Yulaev Ufa despite having a year remaining on his entry-level contract with the Predators.
“It was good to go over the respective things we wanted to say and to clear the air,’’ Poile said.
Asked if Radulov expressed regret for leaving the Predators in a difficult situation last July, Poile paused before answering.
“I think he has a hard time understanding our position when somebody else was offering him an improved situation,’’ Poile said. “Just like I believe that if he wants to come back — regardless of the fact he signed a multiyear contract there — I don’t believe he thinks it’s a problem coming back.’’
Poile told Radulov that if he did return to Nashville, he’d still need to complete his final contracted season at a base salary of $984,000. Under the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, teams cannot rework an entry-level deal. Radulov would become a restricted free agent when that deal expires.
“So that’s where we are,’’ Poile said. “It’s up to him to make the next move.’’
The 22-year-old Radulov had an impressive showing at the World Championship, totaling 10 points (four goals, six assists) in nine games. He assisted on Russia’s game-winning goal in the semifinals against the U.S., and he scored the game-winning goal when Russia beat Canada 2-1 for the gold medal.
Radulov’s point total was second best on the Russian team, behind forward Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers.
“He sees someone like Kovalchuk and he wants to be here, wants to be in the NHL,’’ Poile said. “But I can’t force him to and I can’t make that decision for him. He has to make that decision for himself.
“I do (believe he wants to return) but having said that, maybe that’s in a year from now or a couple years from now. I don’t know.’’
Poile said he plans to follow up with Radulov’s agent, Jay Grossman, in the next couple of weeks. Grossman could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
“The draft is coming up. That would be a good time to know in case you need to make trades or what have you,” Poile said. “For sure, July 1 would be an absolute date because of free agency.’’