Fantasy Hockey Friday: Should Radulov be allowed to play?

The NHL and the NHL Players Association may not have any issues with Alexander Radulov returning to the Nashville Predators for the final two weeks of the season to fulfill the remaining year of his entry-level contract with the Predators, but his return may raise some eyebrows in Fantasy Hockey leagues.

Radulov, widely regarded as the best player in the world not currently playing in the NHL, ditched the Predators before the final year of his three-year entry level contract to sign with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL. The 25-year-old was named the most valuable player of the KHL during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.

While the NHL and the Nashville Predators may be willing to welcome Radulov back with open arms, his reemergence in North America creates an interesting problem for Fantasy Hockey owners. Namely, should he be considered a legitimate free agent in Fantasy Hockey leagues that is free for the taking?

Radulov scored at better than a point-per-game pace during his four years in the KHL. Granted, the KHL is considered a lower-quality league talent-wise when compared to the NHL, but still, here is a player coming back in mid-season form and coming off of a 25-goal, 38-assists season in 50 games abroad. That’s an average of 1.26 points per game this season in the KHL. In his first two years in the NHL, Radulov posted an average of .66 points per game, leaving a career average of a little less than a point per game pace. That puts him on par with guys like Patrick Sharp, Martin St. Louis, Jonathan Toews and Pavel Datsyuk, who are all scoring at slightly less than a point per game clip this season.

How would you feel if someone from your league could just dropped one of their worst players and picked up Pavel Datsyuk from the free agent pool? Statistically, that’s what they could be getting.

But, again, remember that two-thirds of Radulov’s career stats come from his time in the KHL. If we look strictly at his NHL career stats, he aligns more closely to the kind of points that players like Rick Nash, David Backes, Dustin Brown and Alexandre Burrows are putting up this season. Still not bad company, though.

With most leagues starting their playoffs this week or last, the notion that someone looking for a depth addition could pick up Radulov from the free agent wire is sure an enticing option – especially given the numbers listed above. He could easily be an impact player for your Fantasy team.

Another thing to consider is how Radulov will readjust to the NHL game. At the same time, he will also have to adjust to playing with new linemates and the Predators’ style of play as well. Most good players adapt more easily than others, but it’s still uncertain what Radulov can or will become in the NHL. He showed vast improvements from his first to his second season in the NHL, but then he decided to bolt for the KHL where the talent isn’t as high as the NHL.

Considering all of the above information, should Radulov be allowed to be picked up as a free agent in Fantasy Hockey leagues? Well, that’s up to you and the requirements and settings for your league. Personally, as the commissioner of the Hockey World Blog friends and family league, I allowed him to be picked up. Radulov was picked up in favor of Kris Versteeg, who has amassed 49 points in 62 games this season. That puts him at about a .79 points-per-game pace – above Radulov’s NHL pace but way below his career pace. Versteeg also has the ability to be plugged in at either wing, making him a versatile asset.

For Fantasy Hockey managers, Radulov is a high risk, high reward this season. He could come out of the gate and produce at better than a point-per-game pace like he did this season in the KHL, making him a hot commodity and a huge pickup for whoever nabs him from the free agent pool, or he could produce more closely to his NHL career pace, giving him roughly five points in his nine games with Nashville before the regular season comes to an end.

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