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The One That Got Away

April 22, 2019, 2:33 PM ET [787 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Amongst the former Habs who are still active this playoffs season, Alex Radulov is probably the one who is the most important to his team. When Radulov left Nashville for the second time after some late night partying with the Kostitsyn brothers in the playoffs, most though he'd never return to the NHL. However, after playing for 2 stints of 4 years with the Ufa Salavat Yulayev and the CSKA Moscow in the KHL, the big winger let it be known that he wanted to come back to North America and compete to win the Stanley Cup. Many GMs thought Radulov was and always would be trouble but two teams were very interested; the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings.

After doing his due diligence and receiving some grade-A endorsement for Radulov from Shea Weber, Marc Bergevin managed to sign him to a one year contract worth 5.75 millions. The big Russian seemed genuinely thrilled to be coming back to the province of Québec (he had played for the Quebec City Remparts for two season in the QJMHL) and one of the first thing he did was come down to Québec City for a free autograph session with his former fans. What was immediately apparent was that Radulov loved the limelight and playing in a big hockey market was not a problem for him. Much like Max Domi this season, he quickly became one of the fans' favorite. Intense, tenacious and energetic, his passion and effort on the ice helped ease the loss of P.K. Subban which had happened just a couple of days prior to his signing.

In his one and only season with the Canadiens, Radulov was the team's first right winger and racked up 54 points in 76 games. The experiment was so conclusive that both fans and the media alike started to push for re-signing Radulov before he became a free agent but unfortunately, that wasn't to be. According to Marc Bergevin, when the Habs approached his agent about a new contract, he was adamant that Radulov would not sign for less than 8 years, a commitment which the Habs' GM felt was much too long given the player's age. At the end of the season and after the Habs were ousted from the playoffs in the first round by the Rangers in 6 games (in which Radulov got 7 points) he became an unrestricted free agent and tested the market.

In the end, Radulov wasn't able to find a 7 years contract and settled for 5 years at 6.25 million per year in Dallas. According to the Canadiens' GM, that was exactly the same offer he had submitted to Radulov but he had chosen Dallas to pay less taxes. That's not Radulov's version who says that Montreal only offered that once he had committed to Dallas and it was too late. Whoever you chose to believe, the result is the same. Radulov is now playing for the Stars and he's an intricate part of their attack. In his 2 seasons in Texas, playing alongside Tyler Seguin and Jaime Benn most of the time, he gathered 144 points (72 per season), 14 power play goals and 11 game-winning ones. Some believed Radulov would get back to his party life once he signed a big contract but turns out he's still keeping it together and performing at the highest level.

In 5 games this post season, he's got 5 points (2 of his goals came during the Stars' 5-3 win over the Preds in game five) and he'll be trying to help the Stars book their ticket to round 2 tonight when they take on the Preds in Dallas. Although that ship had sailed, many Habs fans are missing Radulov and chances are he would have been most useful this season on the power play. It's also interesting to wonder what would have been should he have stayed... Would Marc Bergevin have felt the need to trade for Jonathan Drouin if he could have counted on Radulov's contribution? If he did get Drouin even though he still had Radu, would the very vocal Russian have been able to light a fire under number 92 and make him up his commitment level? We'll never know but it doesn't hurt to dream as it's all we've got until next season...

Best of luck tonight Radu and I bet plenty of Habs fans hope you kick the Preds (and P.K. Subban) out of the running for Lord Stanley's mug...

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