Though it has been an open secret for months that Alexander Radulov was going back to the KHL, the league only just announced his new two-year contract with Ak Bars last night, after his NHL deal expired.
Radulov, 36, is probably finished on this side of the pond, after scoring just four goals and 22 points in 71 games last season. If that is it for his NHL career, it was an impressive one, if not exactly what was expected.
Selected 15th overall in 2004 by the Nashville Predators, Radulov would immediately come to North America to play for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. It was there where he showed the world just how talented he was, scoring 152 points in 62 games during the 2005-06 regular season, and adding another 55 in 23 games while leading the Remparts to a Memorial Cup championship. He was awarded basically every trophy junior hockey had to offer, including CHL Player of the Year, and created an incredible amount of hype regarding his NHL future.
This wasn’t just another prospect. Radulov was the prospect, expected to quickly join what was already a good Predators team and take them to the next level. It worked, at least for a little while. The uber-confident youngster quickly made an impact at the NHL level, scoring 18 goals and 37 points during his rookie season, and registering even better numbers the following year. Then, it all came crashing down, when a contract dispute led to his return to the KHL in 2008.
For four years, the Predators had to watch him destroying the competition overseas, winning three consecutive KHL MVP awards and lifting the Gagarin Cup. He returned in late 2012 for a handful of games at the end of the season but would bolt for Russia again that summer, signing a new four-year deal with CSKA Moscow that essentially guaranteed his prime years would be lost, at least to the Predators.
Upon his return in 2016, he was given just a one-year deal by the Montreal Canadiens, as the whole hockey world was unsure of what his long-term plans were. It turns out, they were to play the next six years in the NHL, nearly tripling the time he had previously spent there. For the Canadiens and then the Dallas Stars, things went well enough, though Radulov was already 30 when he returned, meaning his real dominating years had passed.
One of the players that will always have a “what if” attached to his name, Radulov’s NHL career ends with 524 games played, and 368 points.