To protest Alexander Radulov’s defection to the KHL, ESPN’s Scott Burnside is calling on the NHL to pull out of the upcoming Victoria Cup, set to be played between the Rangers and European champions Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Bern on October 1st. “If we were Gary Bettman and/or NHL Players’ Association executive director Paul Kelly, we would be on the red phone to Moscow and make it very clear that unless Alexander Radulov is back in a Nashville Predators jersey by the end of next week, the Russians and the IIHF can kiss the Victoria Cup goodbye” Burnside writes. He concludes his rant with this gem: “The Predators can’t afford to lose a talented young player whom they drafted in the first round.”
So let me get this straight: Metallurg could afford to lose their leading scorer and future star Evgeni Malkin two years ago. Dynamo Moscow could afford to lose budding superstar Alexander Ovechkin the year before that. The teams who saw Ilya Zubov, Alexander Nikulin, Artem Anisimov, Nikolai Lemtyugov and Pavel Valentenko all leave for North America last summer, only to spend the majority of their seasons in the AHL, felt no hardship when the players they’d spent the previous 5+ years developing jumped ship. And CSKA Moscow should merrily wave farewell to Nikita Filatov when he boards a plane for Columbus later this summer. But Nashville can’t afford to lose a first round draft pick. Hmm.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not condoning Radulov’s actions. He signed a contract and he should honor it. But the righteous indignation over the KHL’s “poaching” of NHL players that’s suddenly flowing forth from North American quarters reeks of hypocrisy when you think about the number of European players who’ve been “recruited” to play in the NHL over the years.
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