After moving Derek Stepan, the New York Rangers find themselves with over $20 million in cap space. Several free agents are suddenly in play. One of them is the excitable Russian winger, Alexander Radulov. While he is a needed playmaker, he’s unlikely to end up on the Rangers.
Alexander Radulov returned to the NHL last year after a four-year sabbatical in Russia. The Canadiens signed him to a low-risk one-year deal for $5.75 million.
The Russian rewarded them with 54 points, leading the team in assists with 36. He ascended to the team’s top line with leading goal scorer Max Pacioretty.
A Skilled Playmaker
Radulov’s possession stats are solid. Radulov is strong on the puck, his CF% and FF% were 54.11% and 53.6%, respectively, in 2016-17.
The Rangers saw this first hand in the playoffs when the Russian lead Montreal with seven points, including five assists. Radulov set up the equalizer late in Game Two and scored the winning goal in overtime. The Rangers likely would have gotten out of the series in four or five games if not for Radulov, Montreal’s best player in the series.
What Will it Take?
Radulov wants to return to the Canadiens, but they have been unable to agree on terms. He is said to be seeking a whopping six-year deal worth $7 million per season. The Canadiens are looking for something closer to two or three years.
Montreal has several other key players like Carey Price and Alex Galchenyuk in need of new deals, so they made not be able to get it done with Radulov. They still could find a middle ground, but the sides seem to be locked in a staredown. The door is open for another team to move in.
At first glance, he doesn’t appear to be a great fit for the Rangers. With Oscar Lindberg getting plucked by Las Vegas, the Rangers are down two centers but are still have some depth at wing. And after getting out from under the restrictive contracts of Stepan ad Dan Girardi, the last thing they should do is start handing out multi-year, big money deals.
Radulov is about to turn 31. A six or seven-year deal is likely to look bad on the back end, especially for a high energy player like Radulov who could wear down. The Rangers have been pivoting toward a longer term strategy and bringing on younger players. Signing Radulov to a long term deal does not seem to be in line with the team’s new direction.
The Rangers are in need of playmakers. And with Rick Nash and his $7.8 million coming off the books after this season, the Rangers would still have cap room to bring in additional big name players next offseason if they signed Radulov. And a season of Radulov and Nash together would be exciting, perhaps on a line centered by Mika Zibanejad.
One of the knocks on Stepan was his low-energy style of play. Radulov would bring more spirit and grit to a lineup often lacking those qualities.
It is unlikely the Rangers will be willing to meet Radulov’s contract demands. But with newly found cap space, they must at least kick the tires. Radulov would bring energy and playmaking ability to a suddenly depleted roster.