BROSSARD – After doing his homework on Alexander Radulov, general manager Marc Bergevin was willing to give him another shot at plying his trade in North America.
Shortly after inking goaltender Al Montoya on Friday afternoon, the Canadiens announced that they’d come to terms on a one-year contract with the now 29-year-old Russian sniper who hasn’t played an NHL game in over four years.
Since then, the former 15th overall selection of the Nashville Predators in 2004 has been lighting up the KHL back home, donning the colors of CSKA Moscow where he played in 53 regular season games this past season and led the team with 23 goals, while ranking second in the league with 42 assists, 65 points and a plus-28 differential. Then, he helped to pace CSKA to the Gagarin Cup Finals with 16 more points in 20 playoff outings.
With those statistics in mind – along with multiple scouting reports, a face-to-face meeting with Radulov, and some words of support from Shea Weber and Hall-of-Famer Sergei Fedorov, too – Bergevin elected to secure the forward’s services for the 2016-17 campaign as the free-agent signing period opened at 12 p.m. EST.
“We’re taking a gamble by going out and getting Radulov. I met him in person and I spoke to a lot of people about him like Shea Weber, who he played with in Nashville, and Sergei Fedorov, who named him the captain of his KHL team in Russia. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens, but at the end of the day it’s still a gamble,” admitted Bergevin, who met with Radulov in New York shortly after the most recent KHL season came to a close to gauge his interest in joining the Canadiens come July 1st.
Radulov’s somewhat tumultuous past during both of his stints with the Predators is well documented, but Bergevin believes he isn’t the same player – or person, for that matter – he was all those years ago. Both Weber and Fedorov offered up endorsements of the former QMJHL standout, who dominated the league in the mid-2000’s by putting up 93 goals and 227 points with the Quebec Remparts in 127 career games, and claimed a Memorial Cup title.
“Shea talked to me about the time he spent with Alexander in Nashville. He explained to me that it wasn’t a question of character, but rather maturity. He was young. He was 22 or 23 years old. Sergei Fedorov talked to me about Alexander as a leader, a captain. He wanted to come back to the NHL. My scouts watched him this year and he was one of the hardest workers out there. We’re taking a risk, and we’re hoping that it’s worth it,” explained Bergevin, who went on to label the winger as the most talented player outside of the NHL ranks before he signed on the dotted line with the CH.
Speaking to the media via a conference call from Italy, Radulov insisted that his overall mindset and outlook on life has changed since he arrived on the scene in the Music City as a youngster. Now a family man with a wife and son of his own, the newly minted No. 47 is eager for a fresh start.
“Life goes on, and what happened in the past happened in the past. Obviously, I’m in a good place with my age and I feel good,” shared Radulov, who will turn 30 on July 5. “I really want to come back and play in the best league against the best players and try to win the Stanley Cup. I know Montreal has a good group of guys, good goaltending, good defense and good forwards. I think it’s a good team. In Nashville, what happened, happened. It’s in the past. I’m looking forward. I have a whole different vision of my life. I’m living for my child right now. I’ve got to set the example.”
Radulov is adamant that he’s out to prove to himself – and to the people of Montreal – that he can be a difference-maker at the NHL level once again. He did just that in 2007-08, putting up 26 goals and 58 points in 81 games while still in a Predators uniform. Soon to be surrounded by a few of his countrymen in the Canadiens’ locker room and the likes of Weber as well, Radulov is excited at the prospect of trying to put up similar numbers in a Top 6 role come October.
“I can play good, fast and aggressive hockey. I’m going to give everything I’ve got and try to help the team win games and get to the playoffs. Then, I’ll give everything I’ve got in the playoffs. Whatever the coach tells me to do, I’ll do it. I’m going to play who I play with. It doesn’t really matter. That’s the coach’s decision. Wherever they put me, I’ll do my best and just try to make the team better,” said Radulov, who says the opportunity to return to Quebec also played an important part in his decision to accept the Canadiens’ offer.
In addition to bringing both Montoya and Radulov on board on one-year deals on Friday, Bergevin also signed 27-year-old defenseman Zach Redmond to a two-year contract, before agreeing to terms with 2016 first-rounder Mikhail Sergachev on a three-year, entry-level deal and young gun Daniel Carr on a two-year contract, too.
“It’s probably the most aggressive I’ve been on July 1st,” concluded Bergevin, who left the window open for the Canadiens to possibly make more roster moves in the days and weeks to come. “We’re really happy with what we did, but I’m still going to keep the door open for something to happen in the days to come. There’s always room to improve. If there’s something to get at a good price, that could interest us.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Canadiens agree to terms on a one-year contract with free agent Alexander Radulov
Canadiens agree to terms on a one-year contract with free agent Al Montoya
Canadiens agree to terms on a two-year contract with free agent Zach Redmond
Canadiens agree to terms on a three-year, entry-level contract with Mikhail Sergachev
Canadiens agree to terms on a two-year contract with Daniel Carr