The dust has just barely settled on a very rare two-game winning streak for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but as it turns out, the team is already working on next year’s roster. Specifically, a deal is in place to send one of the sport’s greatest villains back to the National Hockey League.
While the Gagarin Cup playoffs are far from over, and his team is still battling for KHL supremecy, the Toronto Maple Leafs are hard at work finalizing a multi-year deal with CSKA Moscow forward Alexander Radulov.
How The Heck?
As it turns out, the Leafs have been exploring a whole bunch of ways to work along side, if not take advantage of, the Kontinental Hockey League throughout the season. The original plan involved David Clarkson, and sending him to Leo Komarov’s former Dynamo Moscow on loan, in a situation similar to Cristobal Huet. In exchange, the Leafs would enter a marketing partnership deal with the team and the league, ensuring them increased exposure and revenue in North America.
After the trade to Columbus went down, however, these plans fell through. With that said, the efforts didn’t go without return. While ensuring that their original plan was as air-tight as possible, the Leafs did considerable research into the world’s second best league. This yielded a vast amount of information pertaining to everything from logistics to legitimate scouting.
From our source: “In this process, the Leafs found out that Radulov, who is now an unrestricted free agent at the NHL level, had interest in coming back on the condition that he would play in a major market. Radu is a self-proclaimed attention seeker and had a very short list of teams that he would consider going back for, and being a key member of the Leafs fit the description.”
Technically, Radulov’s contract expires at the end of next season, but the Leafs have supposedly paid a significant amount of money to make this move happen. Of course, this raises questions about the financial solvency of the KHL, but that’s not a topic for us to discuss.
Well, the Leafs may have one of the world’s premier talents, as long as he decides that he cares about playing. Radulov finished this season atop the league’s leaderboard in points, managing to put up 24 goals and 47 assists in just 46 games. This is one of the single best performances in KHL history, putting him only nine points back of… himself, in 2010/11, where he had 80 points in an additional eight games.
As well, Radulov’s mean streak has lead to him being seen as one of the more aggressive players in the game. Whether it’s a questionable hit, an overly aggressive swing of the stick, or a stupid chirp at the referees, his antics were enough to rank him second in the KHL for penalty minutes. You obviously hope that he’s able to keep this passion at the NHL level, though at the same time, it would be preferred that he did it in a way that doesn’t make him a magnet to suspensions.
A good example of what Radulov is capable of doing would be his run with the Predators in 2011/12. In seventeen regular season and playoff games, despite little chemistry with his teammates and playing for Nashville, he still managed thirteen points in seventeen games. Now, he probably would have done better if he didn’t decide to go drinking with Andrei Kostitsyn past curfew during the playoffs, but that’s nothing that the Leafs brass can’t fix.
Now 28 years old, Radulov has matured into one of the world’s premier talents. It’ll be really interesting to see where exactly the Leafs go with such a marquee player. Do they let him loose? Are they extremely strict? Common sense indicates that he should be close to a point per game player, but he also plays on the same wing as Phil Kessel. Who gets the number one spot? Does someone have to change positions?
Our source suggests that this could get ugly. “Now that the Leafs have basically acquired an elite forward for free, this allows them to really start the bidding process on Kessel. Word is that they’re not happy with his attitude shown during the losing streak, and would prefer the antics of their new signing to the complacency of their current star forward.”
Jersey numbers will also be a fun fiasco, seeing as Leo Komarov currently wears Radulov’s typical 47. Komarov has worn 87 (Dynamo Moscow, Toronto Marlies) and 71 (Finnish National Team) in the past.
We do not yet know the terms of the contract, seeing as it hasn’t been signed yet. Radulov must finish his season with CSKA Moscow first; and with them being up 3-0 over SKA St. Petersburg in the Western Conference Finals, that official announcement may not come until later in April.
At the end of the day, though, we feel safe in reporting that a long term deal has been agreed to, and despite all of the fiasco this will probably cause, you can’t help but be excited. The Leafs are set to acquire an all-world player that can contribute immediately, and have a lot more flexibility to move forward with. To disagree, you’d have to be an absolute fool.