Monday, July 3, 2017

Alexander Radulov Jersey card

Coming off a terrific comeback season with the Montréal Canadiens, Alexander Radulov will go from a team that has Jordie Benn in its top-six on defense to the team that got rid of him as their seventh guy but is captained by his brother (Jamie Benn), the Dallas Stars. Indeed, the former Nashville Predators first-round draft pick (15th overall, 2004) has just signed this summer's most lucrative free agent deal, a five-year, $31.5M deal that carries a $6.25M cap hit.

It's a mixed summer for Habs GM Marc Bergevin, as he signed the Washington Capitals' best defensive defenseman (in my opinion, the best of the second-tier guys who do what he does, behind the top-four of Marc-Édouard Vlasic, Marc Methot, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm), but lost his team's best forward last season in Radulov, is playing hardball with one of the organization's best defensemen of all time in Andrei Markov, and looks primed to sign goalie Carey Price to the team's highest-paying contract of all time, likely top in the league by over two million per season (edit: actually by $3M, and since most of the money is in the form of signing bonuses, cannot reasonably be bought out to minimize the cap hit, as signing bonuses are guaranteed money), which will handicap the team's chances of building a contender for eight years. It's like he's hockey's Donald Trump, doing his best to get fired.

Oh, and he followed the league-wide trend of signing veterans to $1M/one-year contracts, but instead of opting for, say,  Michael Cammalleri (Los Angeles Kings), Patrick Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks), Scott Hartnell (Predators), Nail Yakupov (Colorado Avalanche), David Desharnais (New York Rangers), Dominic Moore (Toronto Maple Leafs), Kyle Quincey (Minnesota Wild), Jussi Jokinen (Edmonton Oilers), Brandon Bollig (San Jose Sharks), or Benoît Pouliot (Buffalo Sabres), he went for injury magnet Ales Hemsky.

The Stars' Jim Nill, however, is looking to build a contender, after missing the playoffs entirely due to shaky goaltending following a first-place finish in the Central Division. Antti Niemi was bought out, Ben Bishop was brought in via trade-and-sign, and Kari Lehtonen will back him up for one season. The aforementioned Methot was acquired in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights, and the team still boasts Tyler Seguin, Benn and Jason Spezza on offense, in addition to signing Martin Hanzal, who could be Nill's mistake of the summer, as he's shown with the Minnesota Wild last season to be slow and unable to make those playing with him better.

Because of that, I envision the Benn/Seguin first-line pairing to remain intact, I expect Spezza to hit 50-60 points playing with guys who can finish his plays a small portion of the time (Antoine Roussel and Mattias Janmark) and Radulov to take Hanzal on his back and get him to some 40-50 points, which should also get casual fans thinking "Radu" is having a disappointing season while Hanzal's producing at his expected rate, when in fact the Toothless Russian will have carried him all season long. Case in point: Phillip Danault, who I like a lot, but whom Radulov got to the 40-poin mark despite his having never even reached that production level in the Chicago Blackhawks' AHL system and had obtained a grand total of 10 NHL points in his previous 53 NHL games spread over two seasons. Hey, this type of situation made Phil Kessel turn Nick Bonino into a "prized free agent" and two-time Stanley Cup winner...

As a reminder, Radulov is not only one of the hockey players that is most difficult to knock off the puck and an adept playmaker and scorer, but also a two-time World Championship gold medalist with Team Russia (2008 and 2009), a Gagarin Cup winner with Ufa Salavat Yulaev (2011) and Memorial Cup champion with the Québec Remparts (2006), as well as the KHL's second all-time leading scorer behind Sergei Mozyakin.

Here he is wearing the Preds' former home uniform, on card #HM-AR from Fleer's 2007-08 Hot Prospects by Upper Deck:
It features a matching white game-worn jersey swatch.

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