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Complications cloud Radulov's return to Nashville

by Slava Malamud
It is no secret what Alexander Radulov wants. The question is, whether it will happen anytime soon.

The 25-year-old right wing, currently on the roster of the Kontinental Hockey League's Salavat Yulayev Ufa, would like nothing more than to finish this season with the Nashville Predators, where he still has one season left on his entry-level contract.

This week, Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, opened the door for that to happen, announcing at the League's General Managers' meeting that Radulov can return to the Predators at any time this year without having to pass through waivers. At that same meeting, Nashville GM David Poile said the club would unconditionally welcome Radulov's return.

Radulov, who left the Predators in July of 2008 to sign with Ufa, has been on the NHL's suspended list since September of that year.

"Of course, [losing Radulov's rights] is not in the club's interest. This is the reason for the current pause." -- Yuri Nikolayev, Radulov's Russian agent

Now, if he returns to the NHL, he will burn the final year of his entry-level deal despite likely playing fewer than 10 regular-season games as Nashville has just 13 games remaining in the regular season.

If Radulov rejoins the Predators this season, he will become a restricted free agent July 1.

So, the move makes perfect sense both for Radulov and for the Predators, who would love to add the Russian forward's goal-scoring prowess for their push to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Radulov has 254 points in 210 KHL games and scored 95 points in his 145 games with Nashville.

The problem, however, is Radulov's contractual obligations to Salavat Yulayev.

Even though his team was knocked out of the KHL playoffs in the first round, players in the KHL are bound by their contracts until April 30, the official end of the KHL season.

By then, the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be in the second round. The Predators would obviously want Radulov to join them much sooner.

In the KHL, players can unilaterally terminate their contracts, but, according to the league's rules, a forfeiture of two-thirds of the player's salary is required to make it happen.

The only way for Radulov to free himself up before April 30 without incurring such a steep financial hit would be to acquire a go-ahead from the club. At the moment, it seems unlikely that will happen as Salavat would relinquish the KHL rights to Radulov in the process.

Radulov's current deal in Ufa runs through the 2012-13 season, but it contains an “out clause” to allow him to return to North America. That clause can be triggered beginning April 30. By following that protocol, Salavat would retain Radulov's negotiation rights in the future.

"Of course, [losing Radulov's rights] is not in the club's interest," Yuri Nikolayev, Radulov's Russian agent, told Russian paper Sport-Express. "This is the reason for the current pause."

Radulov and his agent are currently in talks with Salavat Yulayev and the KHL's brass in order to figure out a solution to satisfy all parties.

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