BOCA RATON, Fla. -- NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed Tuesday that forward Alexander Radulov is eligible to return to the Nashville Predators at any time with no limitations.
Radulov, who left the Predators in 2008 with one year remaining on his entry-level contract to go play in the Kontinental Hockey League, has been rumored to be looking at a return to the NHL this season. Tuesday afternoon, Nashville GM David Poile confirmed that he has had discussions on the topic with Radulov's Russian-based agent.
There appear to be no roadblocks for a potential reunion this season between player and franchise.
Daly said Tuesday that Radulov, who was placed on the suspended list after walking away from the Nashville contract, will not be subject to the waiver process and can return immediately to the Predators and be eligible for the rest of the regular season and postseason if he chooses to return to his team.
If Radulov does return this season, he would be fulfilling the final year of eligibility on his entry-level contract and therefore could become a restricted free agent July 1. Nashville GM David Poile said he believes the time is right for Radulov to return and he's hoping to have him in Nashville soon.
"In my gut, if there is going to be a time, it should be now," Poile said after the GM meetings broke for the day Tuesday. "All the things are aligned. His playoffs are over. The hurdles are cleared. He can burn off a year (of his contract) and get himself to free agency. But more importantly than that, I have always felt he was going to come back.
"From the day he left, I always felt he was going to come back. He's a guy who wants to play against the best players in the League. He always discusses the (Alexander) Ovechkins and the (Evgeni) Malkins in the highest order. He wants to be like that and play against them. I never fully understood why he went (to the KHL) in the first place. I've been convinced whether it was this year, next year or three years from now that he was coming back to the NHL."
Radulov had 95 points (44 goals, 51 assists) in 145 games with the Predators from 2006-08. He left to sign what Daly called an "unlawful contract" with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL in the summer of 2008 and has played the last four seasons there, dominating the KHL.
"He's a player under contract," Daly said. "He has contractual obligations to Nashville and it would be unfair, I think, to the club who has the benefit and right to his contractual obligations not to be able to bring him back."
Poile obviously shares that viewpoint.
"He's just a suspended player," Poile said. "We never recognized that contract. We have the contract with the player."
Daly said the League had to get the approval from the National Hockey League Players' Association to allow Radulov to return without having to go through the waiver process because Rule 13.23 in the Collective Bargaining Agreement technically would require Radulov to clear waivers in order to play in the NHL this season.
Daly added that the League and PA have agreed to waive Rule 13.23 "six or seven times," but the only player that has actually returned to the NHL as a result was Alexei Semenov.
"On its face it would require the application of waivers, but we have worked with the Players' Association in the past to create a waiver of the application of 13.23 in these types of situations," Daly said. "It's been black and white to us. We have consistently taken that position with any player that has gone AWOL on his obligations."
Daly added that theoretically Radulov could hold off on his return until the playoffs, but he hopes that doesn't wind up being the case.
"I don't view this really any different than a player under contract who has been injured," Daly said. "Even if he has been injured for three years, if he's healthy Day 1 of the Stanley Cup Final he should be able to play."
There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.
— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury