Thursday, October 21, 2010

Suter on IR, uhhh...yikes?

If you're at all like me, you had a hard time enjoying the majority of Tuesday's tilt with the Calgary Flames.  Was it the low scoring, 1-0 result that sullied your enjoyment?  For me, that didn't even register:  I was feeling too sick after watching Ryan Suter helped off the ice just 1:26 seconds into the game, on his first shift.  It appeared that Suter hyperextended his knee after taking a hit from Cory Sarich in front of the Preds' bench.  For those calling for the customary pound of flesh for the offending hit, I should opine that the hit was clean.  For those calling for justice, either in league-sanctioned or good old-fashioned frontier form, you're better served to look at the flying elbow delivered to the face of young "Fruitcup" Franson, later in the game. It was difficult to really focus on the game after the Suter injury, though the remaining five defenseman performed admirably while stepping up to eat huge minutes in his absence. The darkest recesses of my mind kept whispering "torn ACL, out for the season," no matter how desperately I tried to quiet them.  Like everyone else, I tuned into the postgame show with hopes of good news, only to be greeted by Trotz's typical, noncommittal "day to day" prognosis.  This wasn't exactly reassuring, given that he once similarly described Sullivan's back injury, which went on to keep him out for 2+ seasons.  Suter himself brought a little bit more relief the next day, when he told Josh Cooper that he didn't think it was too bad, and that he felt confident he'd be ready to get back on the ice by Monday.  Regardless, with gutpunching gloom, Suter was placed on the IR, rendering him ineligible to return before the contest with the Blues on October 28.

So how will the Predators get by without a guy that not only plays big minutes across all situations, but comprises part of the Predators' leadership triad?  Of course Weber is still there, but like Lennon and McCartney, their individual talents, while appreciable and notable on their own,  seem to meld into something so much more when paired.  Like Voltron without the green tiger-bot, there's a limb missing when they're separated.  To make up for this loss, the sometimes-maligned pairing of Klein and Bouillon will need another strong outing.  Both played close to 26 minutes -- the most I can remember from either, without doing any empirical research. It's also important for perma-scratch Alex Sulzer to seize this opportunity for what it is-- possibly his last chance to show that he belongs in this league.  Even with a good performance from the young German, it is probably prudent to shelter the minutes of the third pairing.  The x-factor in the equation is Shane O'Brien.  Most agree that SOB has been a pleasant surprise since arriving from Vancouver -- far exceeding the most optimistic expectations.  O'Brien acquitted himself well while playing with Weber on Tuesday, and we'll need to see more of that if we're to have a chance. the very least, an unreal performance from our Finnish superhero.  While some could argue that it would be better to split up Klein and Bouillon, placing one with Franson and the other with Sulzer, so that no one pairing is too green, I think that weakens the entire pool.  As mentioned before, you can control the matchups that the third pairing faces, while icing two strong(or at least semi-strong) pairings.  The alternative would mean that you'd have a solid first pair -- but two shakier pairings after that.  You could afford to roll your pairings a bit more with this approach, but with Suter's injury hopefully short-term, I think you have to load up your top two pairs and hope they get you through until he is ready to return.  Just how I'd do it.  Maybe I'll shout the idea to the coaching staff pre-game.

They'd probably welcome my opinion, right?


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is There Really Anything Wrong with what Lou is Doing?

There's a good deal of hubbub across the blogosphere this morning as hockey media, professional and amateur alike, are either up in arms or coming to the defense of the latest Devils scandal.  Salary cap constraints are not new to the New Jersey Devils, and their evil genius GM Lou Lamoirello has long been lauded at the master of maneuvering the loopholes, going back to the Vladimir Malakhov fiasco of 2006, and leading up to the events of the highly-publicized "Koval-gate" scandal.  If there's a way to manipulate the CBA, Lou has likely identified and exploited it.  So why is anyone surprised at the latest chapter in Lamoirello's almanac of string-pulling?  And worse yet, why is anyone upset with actions benign, if not advantageous, in regard to the competitive balance of the league?

 Lamoirello addresses press at recent conference at his lair in Hell

If you somehow hadn't heard, the Devils iced a lineup of 15 skaters yesterday, as they took on the Pittsburgh Penguins.  This was done for the sake of getting under the cap without having to make any real roster moves to replace the injured Anton Volchenkov and Brian Rolston, and also to allow the signing of successful free agent tryout Adam Mair.  My daily perusal of Twitter and my blogroll shows that a good many people are not happy with this approach, some even calling for further penalties against the Devils organization.  I simply don't get that.  There's no stipulation in the CBA or NHL bylaws to state that a team can't ice BELOW the maximum of 20 players (23, with scratches).  And why should there be?  The Devils played the Penguins with 3 forward lines.  Wouldn't you say that any advantage they gain in regard to getting under the cap, they lose on the ice by having to overtax nine guys, as opposed to better distributing the icetime over 12 skaters?  It's a little ridiculous to call for some investigation or amendment of the rules--essentially the Devils are having to penalize themselves.  The 12 Penguins forwards averaged  15:14 of icetime.  By contrast, the 9 Devils forwards averaged 19:41 of icetime.  A pretty substantial difference.  To further illustrate, Craig Adams had the least icetime of all Penguins forwards, with just 11:03.  For the Devils, our old friend Jason Arnott came in with the lowest icetime at 16:24.  Any perceived advantage the Devils reap from "twisting the cap" goes out the window when you examine the absurd icetime the forwards are having to take on to pick up the slack.  No team can sustain itself for very long at that rate -- the Devils are punishing themselves more than any cash penalty could. 

I don't normally weigh in too much here on non-Predators related news, but I felt strongly enough about this topic to want to get my two cents in, so hopefully you enjoyed the perspective.

Back in Nashville, NHL Preds Insider reports that our worst fears have come to fruition, and Pekka Rinne will not be making the trip to Chicago for tomorrow's tilt with the Blackhawks.  Mark Dekanich has been recalled from Milwaukee to back up Anders Lindback.  To make matters worse, Erat, Kostitsyn, and Lundmark are all staying behind as well.  I had maintained a small hope that we might take a flier on waived Sharks netminder Thomas Greiss, who I feel is better than Lindback not only now, but also has more potential, but Bob McKenzie reports that he did in fact clear.  I understand the glut of goaltenders that we're currently faced with, so I'm not all that surprised, but I would have liked to have picked up Greiss, and then shuffled the deck as needed.  Lindback could have been loaned back to his Swedish club, or Dekanich could have been loaned to another team in the NHL to accommodate an addition, but I understand the hesitance. 

On the subject of goaltenders, Chet Pickard was pulled in his first start of the year after allowing 3 goals in the first period to the Peoria Rivermen.  After a bit of an underwhelming training camp and inconsistent year last season, you have to wonder if the pressure starts to build up on young "Picks."

Lastly, 'Hawks defenseman Niclas Hjalmarsson is scheduled for a hearing with the NHL in regard to a suspect hit that left Sabres forward Jason Pominville unable to leave the ice under his own power.  While I don't think there was malicious intent, and the hit was more unlucky than anything, for the sake of leveling the playing field a bit in tomorrow's game, here's to hoping for at least a one game suspension :)


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why not Nashville?

Outrage directed at the characteristic disrespect shown by prognosticators of both the amateur and professional variety to the Nashville Predators is becoming a fall ritual for many of us. With yesterday's season-eve posting of standings prediction from Canadian sports juggernaut TSN, it should have come as now surprise that the Predators are predicted to finish on the outside precipice of the postseason, in ninth place It seems that every year, the pundits love nothing more to extoll the virtues of whatever flavor of the previous season team has captured their spot as feel-good darlings.  Last summer it was the Columbus Blue Jackets, this year it's the Phoenix Coyotes. Of course the media, like everyone else, loves an underdog.  So that raises the question: why not Nashville?  Invariably, when these ultimately meaningless rankings are published, Nashville is on the outside looking in.  Why is that?  Is it the stigma of backing a team in a warm-weather climate?  No, everyone loves the Coyotes.  Recent expansion team?  See the Wild, and even at times the NHL's great trainwreck, the Atlanta Thrashers. So is it something personal?  Do they hate us for our only-a-mother-and-a-fan-could-love-it goal song? The mustard thirds? Our neckless coach?  When I examine the teams that we are realistically in competition with from an analytical standpoint, I repeatedly come up empty.  So what is it?  What did we do to you?

With this eternally burning question, I'd like to look at two teams in particular that seem to be getting all of the predictive hype in favor of the Nashville Predators:  St. Louis and LA.  An argument could be made that the Coyotes are possibly unfairly rated above the Predators, but I like enough about their lineup and coaching that I think most of the predictions around them are justified.  They get a pass--for now.

A season ago, the Blues finished with 90 points, good for 9th place and a full ten points behind the Predators. Their offseason has consisted of jettisoning older veterans such as Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk, while replacing the solid--albeit inconsistent-- goaltending of Chris Mason with Montreal's playoff hero Jaroslav Halak.  While admittedly, this is theoretically an improvement, Halak is still relatively unproven, a good playoff year aside.  As most of us remember, Chris Mason and Dan Ellis both had similarly dazzling playoff performances, only to return to earth the next season.  Many in the media point to disappointing years from young contributors like Patrik Berglund, David Perron, David Backets, and Brad Boyes.  It's just assumed that most, if not all, of these guys will rebound.  Can the same not be said for David Legwand, JP Dumont, Steve Sullivan, and Martin Erat?  When I look at the Blues, I see a team that looks, more or less, similar to the team that fell short last season.  So why then does TSN have them at 6 in the west?  CBS Sportsline sees them at 8, just above the Predators, who finished ninth in both places.

Almost as confusing as the love for the St Louis Blues is the massive amount of fanfare surrounding the Los Angeles Kings.  The Kings came out of nowhere last season, rising above the belief that many held that would have seen them as a lottery team(further proof that preseason rankings are bunk), eventually finishing in fifth place.  While it's impossible to ignore two young stars like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, what else is there?  The Kings defense is extremely young\unproven, with both Davis Drewiske and Jake Muzzin  are both coming into their first full season.  The elder statesman, recently-signed Willie Mitchell, has had trouble staying healthy.  The Kings are best known for the offseason acquisition they DIDN'T make, playing also-ran to the New Jersey Devils in the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes.  But Alex Ponikarovsky is a fine consolation prize, right?  The Kings will rely on a sophomore goaltender in Jonathan Quick, who will need to avoid Steve Mason-itis, if they are to be successful.  The other hope would be that highly-touted rookie Jonathan Bernier can shoulder the load quicker than expected.  What this all adds up to is a lot of "ifs."  Despite these questions, many consider the LA Kings to not only be a playoff lock, but a "top contender!"  According to XM NHL Home Ice's celebrity correspondant Denis Potvin, "The Canucks, Red Wings, and Kings are the heavyweights in the west."  This, in spite of the fact that the Kings nearly plummeted out of the playoff race down the stretch, before rebounding to finish sixth and "provide a challenge" to the Canucks.  Very confusing, indeed.

To play devil's advocate for a moment, I can see some of the things that might make an outsider skeptical of the Nashville Predators.  Dan Hamhuis and Jason Arnott are gone.  There continues to be a question of scoring.  Aside from perhaps Patric Hornqvist, there's no one that you could call a bonafide top line forward, rather a solid group of second liners.  For those of us familiar with the team and the way it operates, these aren't really questions we have to ask ourselves.  We've watched Hamhuis's abilities and physicality degenerate over the past couple of seasons.  Arnott's leadership and work ethic have been a rumored source of contention behind the scenes for some time, now.  As for scoring, the Predators have never had that marquee guy that can pot 50 goals.  It's always been a matter of getting it done by committee, and the additions of Matthew Lombardi and Sergei Kostitsyn should help in that regard.  With Trotz running a new-look power play, there should be improvement on special teams, as well.  Of course, these scenarios represent a lot of "ifs" as well, similar to what I documented with the Blues and the Kings.  I'm sure their fans believe that the lofty predictions are justified. 

The question that will continue to vex me is, "why do they get the benefit of the doubt?"

Why not Nashville?  Why not, Nashville.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Let's all step back from the ledge, shall we?

"A huge step backward."

"Undoing an entire summer of great moves in one day."

"...bringing another player that doesn't fit the Predators mold."

The previous three statements are just a small sampling of the jumping-from-the-rooftops panic/outrage that has taken hold of the Preds' Twitter community.  While much of this sentiment was culled in the hours immediately following yesterday's surprising transaction, and certainly cooler heads have since prevailed in many cases (including my own), I'm surprised at how many are still upset.  With a good night's sleep behind me, I'm one of those that's warmed to the move, after a bit of reflection.  There are tangible reasonings for this, but also a few that might not be so apparent.

First, I try to pride myself on not letting my emotions get the best of me.  I don't like to think of myself as a unerring apologist or pollyanna.  I certainly have the capacity to disagree with some of the moves made by the Predators' front office.  For example, I've stated my belief that failing to sign a more experienced, proven backup goaltender could be a mistake. From that standpoint, I'm also not one to get easily worked up when I do disagree with the actions of management.  At the end of the day, David Poile and company don't have the reputation of doing more with less than any other team by accident.  While it's easy to look at Ryan Parent as a guy that played well in training camp, or Jonas Andersson as solid depth for our weak penalty kill, it's important to keep things in perspective.

Let's start with Ryan Parent. While he had a solid preseason, he was not without some worrisome history.  Most evident is his failure to stay healthy, with last season representing a career high of 48 games, tracing back to chronic back trouble.  In addition, simply being healthy hasn't been a guarantee of getting on the ice for Ryan.  In the Flyers' run to the Cup finals last year, he was a frequent healthy scratch.  At the end of the day, he's still young and has room for improvement, but the Predators don't have the luxury of time for him to reach his potential.  Worth noting also is that Vancouver promptly waived Parent.  He has since cleared.

On the note of waivers, I've seen several complain that we could have had SOB for free the previous day.  While this is true on the surface, it's important to remember that Nashville operates on a strict budget.  According to David Poile, in an interview yesterday on 104.5, they had inquired about O'Brien at an earlier point, but with the stipulation that the trade would need to be dollar to dollar.  Mike Gillis initially rejected the idea, but later relented.  The Canucks, in need of cap relief, could afford to bury the one-way contracts of Parent and Andersson.  The Predators were able to turn two guys who they felt couldn't significantly contribute to the team this season into a guy that makes them immediately better, and did so while adding only minute payroll.  As the old adage goes, "he who gets the best player in the deal--wins the trade."  I could be paraphrasing that, I'm not sure.  Something like that, at any rate.

Speaking of Jonas Andersson, I had high hopes for him when he was signed.  Like many, I saw the way he was able to produce at last year's WCs, and felt that he could be a great bottom six utility forward for us.  While I do think his defensive skill could have been beneficial, unfortunately his offense didn't appear to be NHL level in any of the chances I had to watch him play.  That leaves him as yet another one-dimensional "specialist," and I simply think there are better options.  I couldn't figure out where he was going to fit into the lineup, and apparently neither could Trotz.  It'd be nice to be able to afford to hide a guy like that in the minors, but that's not our reality.  No huge loss, at any rate.

 While the quantifiable reasons to like this trade are easy enough to point out, the biggest reason that I'm pleased is more philosophical.  In the Predators' entire history, there's been a recurring theme of "safety."  We love safe draft picks, and as a result, we have a knack for finding "good" players.  We like "safe" players; blue-collar guys that might not command a lot of star power, but you can comfortably say that they won't hurt you.  Even our front office and coaching staff is replete with safety and familiarity.  We've come to love and appreciate our safe players -- the Vernon Fiddlers, the Joel Wards of the league.  How can anyone not root for these never-should-have-been success stories?  Unfortunately, all of that safety doesn't necessarily breed success.  I don't need to remind anyone of our postseason record.  David Poile, if one can criticize him, it's that he too often shies away from the "homerun swing."  Moves like the Kostitsyn and now O'Brien trades represent to me a new attitude.  These are guys that, in the past, I think Poile would have evaluated as "not worth the risk."  Safety.  While many of us are scratching our heads and even tweeting our discontent with these moves, I'm personally excited.  This is such a departure from the type of move we've always made, and I think the potential for reward far outweighs the risk.

Shane O'Brien looks like an intriguing player -- big, strong, not afraid to play a physical game. I think that he makes the bottom pairing better than Parent would have.  For that reason alone, I like the trade.  But at the end of the day, it's the attitude and moxy from our GM that has me really excited.  Safety can only carry you so far, so the time might be right to roll the dice and see what happens.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Preds acquire Shane O'Brien and some other dude for Parent and Andersson

According to official release from the Preds (find it here), Nashville has acquired 6'3, 225 pound tough guy Shane O'Brien, as well as ECHL winger Dan Gendur for defenseman Ryan Parent and forward Jonas Andersson.

Parent and Andersson both enjoyed only a brief tenure in Music City, and like many of you out there, I'm left scratching my head a bit on this one.  It's not so much that SOB was available on waivers yesterday, and could have been had for free.  I understand that from a dollars and cents perspective, Andersson + Parent and their one-way contracts > O'Brien's 1.6 million contract, which he has one year remaining on.  What I can't get my head around is why this trade was made.  In my own semi-qualified observations in both training camp and preseason play, Parent looked to be the type of observation that would be regarded in hindsight as another one of David Poile's legendary "steals."  Number 77 arguably outperformed both Klein and even the veteran Bouillon, and had many of us believing that the pains of losing the perhaps overrated\definitely overpaid Dan Hamhuis might not be so bad afterall.  He played a simple, smart game, and seemed to have the footspeed and defensive acumen to compliment the slower, more offensively-focused Cody Franson.  Andersson had a bit of a disappointing camp, looking to be more in the Jerred Smithson ilk than a defensively responsible scorer, but was still a useful player.  But throw out Jonas, and look only at Parent.  What does Shane O'Brien offer that Ryan Parent doesn't?

On the "pro" side, O'Brien is a tough, erm...SOB.  He out-PIM'd Jordin Tootoo by 7, and would have thus lead the team in that category.  Perhaps the greatest facet that could come of this trade is that Wade Belak's usefulness and role are even further diminished.  O'Brien can go toe-to-toe with most anyone in the league, but unlike Belak, can provide some tangible on-ice value.  If this trade means that Belak's time as anything more than a funny guy in the locker room--WIN.  As for Andersson, he was a useful player, but appears to have been surpassed by not only SK74, but also Jamie Lundmark and Matt Halischuk, both of which had better camps.

As for the "cons," O'Brien comes with a bit of a checkered past.  Last season, he was disciplined by Canucks' benchboss Alain Vigneault for nebulous "disciplinary issues."  He has a reputation for not having the greatest work ethic, and also not placing a high value on conditioning.  Could this be another reclamation project, similar to the acquisition of Sergei Kostitsyn?

I guess to err on the side of safety, they probably shouldn't room together.

As with most trades, the verdict can't really be made until we see how it unfolds.  While I'm clearly one of the preeminent hockey minds in amateur sports journalism, I allow for the outlandish possibility that maybe David Poile knows what he's doing, and there's motivations beyond what the armchair GM in all of us can see with the naked eye.

I'd be remiss not to mention one quick anecdote from last night's Meet the Team party:

After receiving my autograph from the oblivious-to-the-impending-death-knell Ryan Parent, I jokingly asked Steve Sullivan if he could talk his old friend Dan Ellis into returning to Twitter.  He immediately began laughing. Hard.

"That's not going to happen. He is a BRUISED MAN!"

I was tickled by that. :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Weighing in on the Ersberg rumors...

The 2010/11 NHL season is nearly upon us, but we're not quite there, yet.  As such, PredsNation is not immune to getting a little overexcited over the prospect of acquiring a player, regardless of who that player is.  Kevin Allen caused quite the buzz across the Twitterverse earlier today, when he pondered the possibility of the Preds putting in a claim on the Kings' wayward backup, Erik Ersberg.  It was reported earlier today that Ersberg had been cut, despite a favorable track record as the Kings' backup (and even sometimes starter).  With the Predators leaning on unproven behemoth Anders Lindback to play behind Pekka Rinne, it's understandable that such speculation would be drawn.  While there were some reports that the Predators had officially claimed Ersberg, it's worth noting that he was only placed on waivers this morning -- thus making such a claim impossible.  Bob McKenzie verified this obvious oversight, but did allow that it's possible that the Predators could have already put in a claim, though there are 18 other teams that would get the opportunity before Nashville.

Regardless of the merit of any of the rumors, it does pose an interesting question: are the Predators truly set in goal?  If Peks plays a Vokounian amount, and shoulders a 75 game workload, we might be alright.  After all, much like Vokoun, Rinne has shown that he thrives under heavy action.  But what if the worst-case comes to be, and Rinne is injured long term?  I'm not sure that Anders Lindback has done enough to earn the confidence of the team to step into a starting role.  While he certainly outperformed Pickard and Dekanich in training camp, I would stop short of saying that he did so with any sort of authority.  Flashing back to Dan Ellis's first training camp, coming in as a relative unknown, there was a statement in the way he played.  You knew that there was no other option to back up Chris Mason, and you could see the potential for an eventual coup.  I'm not sure the same could be said of Lindback, who I would personally rate as "adequate."  He stood in the goal, he stopped shots...but there was something missing.  I look for a sort of "swagger" from a goaltender, a tell that makes it known that a goalie has the confidence to win a game for his team.  It's not something that you're born with or that happens overnight.  I like Lindback as a prospect, but I'm not sure he's there yet.  Again, it may not even matter--Pekka could play 77 games, relegating Lindback to the tailend of a back to back versus the Blue Jackets and the occasional mop-up-duty game. have to consider the unexpected.

So what if we do claim Ersberg?  Jeremy Smith was sent to Cincinnati yesterday, and the tandem of Pickard\Dekanich appears ready for a reprise of last season, in which they split starts nearly down the middle.  What do we do with Lindback, in this case?  I would guess the best option would be to "loan" him back to the SEL, to ensure that his playing time and development stay on track.  This is similar to what we did with Finnish netminder Atte Engren, earlier in the spring.

I would like to see us put in a claim on Ersberg, but if not, I still believe we'd be best served to pick up an experienced backup.  I was with many in PredNation that had hoped to snag Jose Theodore, though his eventual contract (1.1 for one year) is likely a little rich for Nashville, given the playing time he could see.  Another interesting option that's currently on waivers is Joey MacDonald, of the Red Wings.  He acquitted himself well in several  appearances for the Islanders last season.  Speaking of the Red Wings, there's always former archnemesis Manny Legace to consider...though the sight of his name on a Preds' sweater might induce too much bile for many fans to stomach.

So for now, we can only wait for 5 more days to see what happens. least until 11 CST tomorrow morning, when Erik Ersberg will either clear--or not clear--waivers.

Speaking of waivers, TSN reports that Aaron Johnson did in fact clear.  I have to think that the only reason he's not our seventh defenseman, rather than Alex Sulzer, is his two-way contract.  DP was likely not keen on the idea of paying Sulzer 650K to ride the bus in Milwaukee again.  Sulzer is likely on his last opportunity to do something to earn his NHL contract.  He is a free agent at the end of this year.

See everyone at the meet the team party!

KHL and NHL sign transfer agreement(Finally)

There's an old saying about locking the henhouse door after the fox has already gotten in.

According to Dan Rosen's Twitter , the NHL and KHL may have finally put a padlock on the chicken coop.  While this does little to salve the still-festering wounds left when the Red Fox absconded with Preds' beloved golden chicken Alexander Radulov, it does provide a modicum of hope.  What will be key, and hopefully there is clarification soon, is how\if any "grandfathering" is applied.  There's been speculation on both sides of the pond about the way things will shake out when Radulov's final year of his three-year contract with Salavaet Ufa expires, this summer.  We've heard loose assurances from David Poile that the chain of communication has been constant, and a contrite Radulov has seen the error of his ways.  Conversely, we've heard that a patriotic Radulov is enjoying his national-hero status in mother Russia, and will continue to thumb his nose at the soon-to-be-inferior NHL.  The wildcard in all of this will-he\won't-he has been the lack of a formal transfer agreement between the two countries.  While there has been a loose "gentlemen's agreement" between the two leagues for some time, it's always felt like a Mafia arrangement.  Maybe they'll come through -- maybe they won't.

Radulov currently lealds the KHL in scoring with 3g, 14a in 19 gp

With this new agreement, there's some hope that a binding order will see Radulov delivered back to Nashville.  The key item to interpret will be whether Radulov will somehow be excluded from this arrangement, perhaps using semantics to allow Ufa to re-sign him.  It wouldn't be surprising to see the KHL claim that they meant "from now on," or that there's a difference in signing a NEW contract versus renewing an EXISTING contract.  For all the ivory-white smiling the KHL is doing now, it's hard to believe there isn't a forked tongue hiding behind the teeth, somewhere. I'd be surprised if the KHL was ready to easily relinquish their reigning MVP and biggest star.  The real leverage will exist when there's an IIHF transfer agreement, subjecting the Russian national team to potential disciplinary action in the event that there's a breach.  Currently, Russia is the only major national entity without a formal transfer agreement, and has been without one since 2006.

Of course, suppose Radulov is ready to return?  Are the fans ready to have him back?  Are his teammates?  There's been a fair amount of rumbling that Radulov was not popular in the Arnott-helmed Predators dressing room.  On the other hand, there's been a fair amount of rumbling that ARNOTT was not popular in the Arnott-helmed dressing room, either.  I would have to think that Radulov would likely have some explaining to do, but an offensively-starved Nashville squad would be foolish to turn their noses up at what could be an enormous boost to their scoring arsenal.  With much of the "old guard" moved on, Radulov should be in a position to make a fresh start, and I would have to believe that much of the ill will would evaporate the first time he lit the lamp and treated us to his trademark stick-twirling celebration.

Let the Van Halen-inspired theme song blare from the Bridgestone Arena loudspeakers once more.