The four major North American sports leagues represent football, baseball, basketball, and hockey, all of which are fundamentally different sports, but although the leagues are very different, they do share some similarities. One of those similarities is free agency, which is a period of time following the regular season in which teams are able to go out and sign players who are looking for new contracts. In regards to the National Hockey League, free agency begins on July 1st, and for the past decade especially, the first day is genuinely when the top free agents are signed to relatively long contracts worth a lot of money.
This year, free agent frenzy will focus around several players, including Joe Thornton, Ben Bishop, Kevin Shattenkirk, and T.J. Oshie; and thanks to his performance this past season, Alexander Radulov will be in for a payday as well. Radulov has been playing professional hockey since 2004, where he has spent parts of four seasons playing in the NHL and eight in Russia's KHL, where he has proven to be a skilled offensive player. Based on his numbers, Radulov will probably be looking for either $5 or $6 million a year, which he will likely get, but money does not mean everything, as he will probably not want to sign with certain teams that he believes cannot win a championship anytime soon; and the purpose of this article is to identify the eight teams Radulov may want to play for next season, and seven he will not want to play for.
15 Might: Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens are hands-down the greatest franchise in the entire NHL, and when they signed Radulov on July 1st of last year to a one-year deal, they were hoping that their gamble would pay off, and he would help them to win a 25th Stanley Cup. Over the course of 76 games, Radulov scored 18 goals and 54 points, and in Montreal's playoff run, he had 2 goals and 7 points in 6 games. It is because of his numbers that Montreal will want to re-sign him, seeing as the team has problems scoring goals. As much as Montreal might want him back, Radulov may want to stay with the Canadiens too, as the team is poised to win now, with players like Shea Weber, Max Pacioretty, and Carey Price will all still be on the roster next season.
14 Won't: Colorado Avalanche
Despite having the likes of Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog on their roster, the Colorado Avalanche were absolutely abysmal this past season, as they finished with a 22-56-4 record, which was good for the worst record in the NHL. Colorado was a complete mess, as the team had trouble scoring, while their defensemen and goalies could not stop the other teams' offenses, which is why they will likely use free agency to fill their biggest needs this offseason. Since Radulov is a playmaker, it makes sense for Colorado to go after him, but he will likely turn down any offer from them simply because he has no interest in playing for a team like the Avalanche who may need to enter into a new rebuild.
13 Might: Buffalo Sabres
2010 marked the last time that the Buffalo Sabres qualified for the playoffs, and since then, the team has seemingly been in a stagnant rebuilding phase, but thanks to their very recent draft picks and player acquisitions, they are becoming far more competitive. It is true that the Sabres still need a goalie, but they also need more help up front in terms of a skilled winger, which Radulov happens to be, to help out the other young forwards on the roster. Buffalo has a very wealthy and invested owner, who will have no problem giving Radulov the money he wants, and based on the good young players Buffalo does have, Radulov may not mind spending the next five years with a team that has a lot of potential upside going into the near future.
12 Won't: New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils were once regarded as one of the best teams in all of hockey, winning three Cups in an eight-year span, but lately, the team has done close to nothing since their Stanley Cup Final appearance in the 2011-12 season. The Devils have failed to make the playoffs the past five seasons, and have finished fairly low in the standings each of those years, as they too are currently a team in the middle of a long term rebuild, one which Radulov will not want to be a part of. Also, Radulov is known for being a primarily offensive player, while the Devils are known for playing a defensive style of game, so even if they offer him a contract, Radulov would likely turn it down, so that he would not have to change the way he plays the game.
11 Might: Florida Panthers
After a couple of seasons of true improvement, the Florida Panthers ended up missing the playoffs this season, primarily because of one of their best players being injured for about half the year, and because of the major shake-up regarding the coaching staff and front office personnel. After so many years of failure, the Panthers now have an incredibly gifted core group of young and talented players, who can put up good numbers, and the veterans on the team are not bad either. Radulov would fit well in Florida, who can do with another option on the wing, and although they may not be able to pay him as much as he wants, he may be willing to take a slight discount to play with a team that will be competitive to some degree for several years.
10 Won't: Detroit Red Wings
For the better part of 25 years, the Detroit Red Wings were the most successful franchise in the NHL, with 25 straight postseason appearances and four Stanley Cup wins in that time, but this past season, that success finally came to an end as Detroit missed the playoffs and finished uncharacteristically low in the overall standings. The Red Wings are now in a position where they have no choice but to undergo a mini-rebuild, which will likely see them out of the playoffs for several more years, which is an unappealing situation for most free agents who are over the age of 30, and who have not won a championship yet. If this current Detroit team still had fellow Russian Pavel Datsyuk on its roster, than Radulov would maybe give them a look, but with Datsyuk gone, the lack of offense and the need to overhaul the defense, are issues too glaring to overlook.
9 Might: Calgary Flames
After failing to make the playoffs the previous year, the Calgary Flames qualified this year, where they were swept by the Anaheim Ducks in four games, but despite their quick exit, this proved to be a successful year for the Flames who performed better than people thought they would. Calgary has more or less been a middle-of-the-pack team since their Cup Final appearance back in 2004, but fortunately for them, they were able to get extremely lucky on both the draft and trade fronts. The Flames proved one thing this season: that their core group of players have what it takes to be competitive in the NHL. But like other teams with youth, they would be improved with a veteran presence, which is why they could go after Radulov, who might sign with them considering the skill of both the Flames' young forwards, and their fairly solid defense.
8 Won't: Carolina Hurricanes
In 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes won their first and only Stanley Cup, but instead of capitalizing on that success, the team regressed to an unprecedented degree, to the point that they made the playoffs only once in a now 10-year span. The Hurricanes had to deal with some players retiring, and others leaving through free agency, while many of the players who remained, either under performed or suffered numerous injuries, which has left the team near the bottom of the standings for most of the past decade. With the team being in a seemingly constant rebuilding phase, it is no wonder that they cannot attract many high-end free agents, and although they are slowly getting better, it will still take far too long for them to be truly competitive, which is why a player like Radulov will likely steer clear of the franchise.
7 Might: Washington Capitals
This year, the Washington Capitals once again had an incredible regular season, one which made the team a heavy favorite to win the Stanley Cup this year, but based on their difficulty getting past Toronto in the 1st round, and the fact that they face Pittsburgh in the 2nd round, this year may be another playoff disappointment. The Capitals are in a tough spot though, because once their season is over, they will have to let a lot of players go due to the salary cap, which will force them to put together a relatively new roster next season. Radulov would be a welcome addition to the team, and he would probably enjoy playing alongside offensively gifted forwards like Nicklas Backstrom, fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin, and a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie like Braden Holtby.
6 Won't: Vancouver Canucks
Ever since they made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, the Vancouver Canucks have been in a downward spiral, as their core group of players have either left the team altogether or have simply gotten too old, while their young players having mostly under performed. After several years of trying to remain competitive with the Sedin twins, Vancouver has finally decided that it is time to stop and look towards the future, which is why they have made it clear that they are now entering into a rebuilding phase. Things are so bad in Vancouver however, that it will likely take close to five years to get a good enough team together, maybe even longer, and it is because of that non playoff future that Radulov will surely avoid playing for the Canucks next season.
5 Might: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been sort of a running joke over the past two decades due to their lack of success in the regular season and their lack of playoff appearances, but if this season proved anything, it is that Toronto will soon be a powerhouse in the NHL. Yes, the Leafs got eliminated in the 1st round this year, but the team was not even expected to make the playoffs this season because of all the youth and inexperience on their roster, and while in the playoffs, they played extremely well against a veteran and staked Capitals team. Toronto is going to be a very good team for a long time, as their young core led by Auston Matthews is incredibly talented, and with Mike Babcock behind the bench, it gives the team a highly disciplined aspect as well. Radulov played against Toronto several times last season, so he saw first hand how good the roster is, which is why he may jump at the chance to sign with them if given the opportunity.
4 Won't: Arizona Coyotes
Whether it is the NHL, MLB, NBA, or NFL, each league has a number of franchises who can more or less be considered dumpster teams, teams who no matter what they do, continue to find themselves at the bottom of their respective leagues. In the NHL, the Arizona Coyotes are probably the biggest dumpster team in the league, as the team loses millions of dollars every year, and is basically on its third rebuild in the last 20 years. Although they are now finally getting good young players, the team has barely improved where the standings are concerned. The Coyotes actually have quite a bit of cap space available, so they can indeed make an offer to Radulov, whose offense would become a great addition to the team. However, Radulov is not stupid, he knows that the Coyotes are nowhere close to being a real contender, and he will not want to waste his time next year playing for a team with no chance of winning a Cup.
3 Might: Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers are one of only a few franchises that have managed to win at least five Stanley Cups in their history, and in 2006, they almost won their sixth. But since that last Finals appearance, the Oilers found themselves at the bottom of the standings for many years. It is true that Edmonton acquired four 1st-overall draft picks over a decade, but it was not until 2015 when they won the right to draft superstar Connor McDavid that the team has finally managed to emerge as a good team. Based on their performance during this year's regular season and playoffs, the Oilers have shown that they will become a powerhouse in the Western Conference for years to come, something which is very appealing to a free agent like Radulov, who would not mind playing alongside an immensely talented team like the Oilers, who will be contending for a Cup again fairly soon.
2 Won't: Nashville Predators
For years, the Nashville Predators have been a middle-of-the-pack team in the NHL, who have performed well in the regular season, but who have failed to make any real advancements when the playoffs are concerned. This year though, Nashville has proven that they are ready to take the next step forward, and they will likely go on to be one of the top teams in the West again next year too, but they will do so without the aid of Radulov. It was actually the Predators who drafted Radulov back in 2004, and despite being an important part of their offense, his time with Nashville did not end well, as after playing with the team for two seasons, he decided to leave in 2008 to go play in Russia. In 2012, he decided to come back to the NHL, and since Nashville still held his rights, he returned to the team to help them in that year's playoff push. Still, after playing in just 17 combined games, he decided to leave for Russia once again. Even if Nashville wanted Radulov back, it is fair to say that he has a bitter taste for the franchise, which is why he will never wear their jersey for a third time.
1 Might: Las Vegas Golden Knights
Starting next season, the NHL will be comprised of 31 teams, with the Las Vegas Golden Knights being the newest addition to the league, and if Radulov is smart, he will sign with the expansion team this offseason. Everyone within the hockey world knows that Las Vegas is not going to be that good of a team next season, but that will not deter the team from pursuing any of this year's top free agents, and seeing as they need to get to the salary cap's floor, it means that they will definitely be overpaying for certain players. Yes, Radulov may want a chance at winning a Cup, but in Vegas' case, the money they may be willing to spend may be too much for him to turn down. Additionally, being the first big star to willingly sign with a team located in Vegas can earn him A LOT of extra cash in local sponsorship, enough money in fact, that even his grandchildren would be set for life.
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