I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten to use the “enigmatic Russian” trope, but if I were ever going to use it today would be the day. The Dallas Stars are reportedly signing right winger Alex Radulov of the Montreal Canadiens to a five-year deal worth a shade over $31 million.
Radulov has an, I guess, checkered NHL history. After the 2008 season, he left the Nashville Predators with a year remaining on his contract to go back home to Russia. The Predators and IIHF disputed the move, but it went through anyway. Radulov was suspended without pay for the 2008-09 season.
He eventually fulfilled his obligation with the Predators. His return to Nashville in 2012 didn’t go particularly well. Radulov was suspended for Game 3 of the Predators’ playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes for being out at a bar until 5 a.m. with a teammate prior to Game 2. Radulov would then sign with CSKA Moscow before returning to the NHL last season with Montreal.
It sounds as if he matured quite a bit with his last stay in Moscow. He captained CSKA and came back with Montreal incident-free. People do mature, and the soon-to-be 31-year-old winger appears to have made that transition to adulthood. He’s also really good.
Radulov averaged over a point per game yearly in Russia. Stateside, Radulov has 156 points in 230 games. Historically, he’s been a very good shooter and playmaker. He isn’t known for much defensively, which makes for an interesting fit with the Stars under the defense-oriented Ken Hitchcock. The success of fellow Russian Vladimir Tarasenko under Hitchcock with St. Louis suggests it could work out just fine, though.
Tarasenko is a better player, but the point is more that the role of an offense-first forward does exist and can thrive under Hitchcock. Tarasenko had 70-plus points in each of the past three seasons while the Blues gave him as much offensive zone time as possible. If Radulov is put on a line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, it makes sense to think that line would get a heavy dose of time in the offensive zone.
Fans in Dallas will love Radulov. He’s a passionate guy. Just do a Google image search of him. Half of the pictures are of him yelling or celebrating a goal. He’s a very good skater who should be able to keep up with what the Stars have stated that they want to continue doing tempo-wise. He’s a very good fit for what they need and despite the high price the Stars have to be thrilled he’s here.
Radulov brings clarity to the Stars’ top six. They came into the free agent period looking for two or three forwards, but ultimately the biggest need was to find a right wing to play with Benn and Seguin. Radulov was the top winger on the free agent market, and the Stars brought him into the fold despite intense competition from the Canadiens and possibly a couple of other teams.
They still have about $4 million in cap space to sign Brett Ritchie and Radek Faksa, but as of now this is one successful offseason.