New Jersey Devils: A Rad KHL Star to New Jersey?


Remember when Ilya Kovalchuk retired from the New Jersey Devils? Remember how he went home to Russia leaving millions of dollars and broken hearts? Good times.

It is no secret that Kovalchuk’s departure from the New Jersey Devils set the franchise back. It is also no secret that it has made general managers iffy about investing so much and centering the future of their franchises around Russian superstars.

As fans, we also have that same suspicion about signing Russian players. They have long been stereotyped as selfish and lazy, and because of the Kovalchuk debacle, disloyal. Too much of a gamble perhaps.

With all of that being said, let’s shift back to the present where the New Jersey Devils are one of the NHL’s feel good stories. Although they have a chance at the playoffs, their lack of scoring talent will likely inhibit them from going anywhere.

This upcoming summer is going to be a big one for Devils GM Ray Shero. There will be plenty of attractive names on both the trade and free agent markets. With a good amount of cap space to play with, Shero should be able to upgrade this roster significantly.

This free agent class possesses some star caliber forwards such as Steven Stamkos and Kyle Okposo, along with other forwards who could provide the New Jersey Devils with a scoring boost. However, one potential free agent in particular resides in the KHL and could turn the Devils fortunes around. And no, his name is not Ilya Kovalchuk.

Remember Alexander Radulov? You mean the guy that was immature and lazy that got kicked off the Predators and bailed to the KHL? Yeah, that guy. That is the guy the Devils should be targeting and before you call him Ilya Kovalchuk 2.0, just hear me out first.

Last summer, Radulov, 30 in July, expressed interest in returning to the NHL when his current contract in the KHL expires. Given his troubled past, it might be a challenge for the Russian superstar to find a home in the NHL, but there is no denying his talent.

Radulov is one of KHL’s all-time scoring leaders, averaging over a point per game overseas. His small body of work for the Nashville Predators was impressive as well. He has all the skills and intangibles to be a top line forward wherever he plays. The kind of top line forward that the New Jersey Devils need.

Let me ask you, when Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby step onto the ice, you probably get a little worried right? You should be because they are both huge scoring threats whenever they have the puck. Now let me ask you, do the Devils have any threat like that? No, absolutely not.

While Michael Cammalleri has been good when healthy, the Devils have lacked a true offensive threat on the ice since the departure of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Alexander Radulov is that type of player who would be a scoring threat whenever he touches the puck.

A highly skilled winger like Radulov also has the ability to make those around him better. Just imagine what he could do for young players like Joseph Blandisi, Reid Boucher, and most importantly, the potential future top-line center Pavel Zacha.

More from Pucks and Pitchforks

His checkered past is something to be mindful of, but keep in mind that was years ago, when Radulov was an immature kid. He is now a mature married man with much more responsibilities in his life. There is more to life than partying, and it does not seem like Radulov would throw that away for one irresponsible night.

However, given his past, it will be tough for a team to commit a long-term deal to him, despite his talent. Radulov may have to settle for a short-term “show me” deal to prove that his talent can translate to the NHL and that his maturity issues are a thing of the past.

Ever since the Kovalchuk incident, fans alike believe that it would be crazy to go after a Russian forward, but what do they have to lose? Better yet, how do we know if Ray Shero would have the same mindset as Lou Lamoriello?

Remember, Ilya Kovalchuk left for more money and to play in his home country. He also left due to the concerns of the Devils folding and having to sell and relocate. It was not because he hated New Jersey or the team he was on. It was merely a combination of greed, homesickness, and concern.

With a stable ownership group in place now, money to spend, and a team on the rise, the New Jersey Devils are now a more appealing destination spot for free agents. Alexander Radulov could be one of those free agents if the money is right and if he believes he could win there.

Alexander Radulov may not return to the NHL at all and stay over in Russia. Until that happens, he will become a more hot name as free agency draws closer. The Devils could break the bank on a guy like Stamkos, or they could make a risk/reward signing with Radulov that could pay off huge dividends.

Signing Radulov comes with a risk, but then again, doesn’t every signing? How many times have we seen NHL veterans earn huge contracts and not live up to them? In any sport, sometimes you have to take chances to achieve your ultimate goal.

Next: New Jersey Devils Prospects: How 'Bout Them Apples?

What do you think about the possibility of signing Alexander Radulov? Do you think the Devils should make a run at him if he hits the market in July, or would you prefer to stay away from the Russian superstars? Please give your thoughts in the comments section below.