On July 1st, NHL teams scramble in an effort to improve as they try enticing and signing big-name free agents. Teams address dire needs in preparation for the seasons to come. This past July, the Montreal Canadiens surprised many in the hockey world by successfully targeting Kontinental Hockey League star, Alexander Radulov. With the hockey world intrigued and curious, the Canadiens announced that Radulov’s contract would be a one-year deal worth $5.75 million. The low-risk move has reaped high-rewards through just over 30 regular season games. Radulov is finding his place in Montreal very nicely.
The Perfect Blend
The Russian winger shows his value by using his diverse skill set to be effective offensively. The 6’2″, 200-pound forward is able to do things on the ice that no Canadiens forward has been able to do for some time. His mix of skill and strength have shown to be extremely effective through the first third of the season, as he has 23 points through 29 games.
Some fans were skeptical when the Habs brought in the winger after the team’s brief experiment with fellow countryman, Alex Semin, last season. The concern quickly shifted to excitement upon seeing Radulov play. For such a skilled player, he battles hard, never quits and plays a style that puts constant pressure on opposing teams. This one player has helped make the Canadiens a much more fearsome team in the eyes of their foes.
The 30-year-old is also proving to be an excellent complement to many of the Canadiens’ forwards. Whether he’s playing with Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, or really anyone else (e.g. Paul Byron), the Russian uses his quick hands, playmaking ability, strength when battling for pucks and high hockey I.Q. to make those around him better.
The Canadiens truly hit the jackpot with Radulov, as he brings what the team has desperately lacked over the last few seasons.
The ‘X’ Factor
In addition to his skill and strength, Radulov brings to the table an element that cannot be taught: intensity. As a true competitor, the winger is always invested, intense and ready to battle for his club. He shows that skill does not replace effort and heart. These are qualities that Canadiens’ management are surely glad to have. Radulov’s contributions can’t only be counted in points; he is also becoming a leader on the team and a true role model to younger scorers. Montreal is seeing exactly why the winger captained his former team, CSKA Moscow back in the KHL.
Along with all of this, the winger has become a fan favourite in Montreal. His clear passion and excitement for the game helps him connect with the hockey-crazed Montreal market. Radulov has become so beloved among Habs fans, that many are already calling for a contract extension.
Alex Radulov forever pic.twitter.com/FBvY7Zr2iz
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 13, 2016
Well Done, Marc
Though it may be early, Radulov has no sign of slowing down for the Canadiens and that makes this deal a success. Signing the skilled forward with such low risk was an excellent move by the Habs’ management team. Bringing in Radulov has made the Canadiens a much better hockey team that’s slowly inching closer to being seriously competitive. Even if the winger doesn’t stay with the Habs long term, his influence and passion are sure to leave a mark on a fairly young, impressionable team. Keep it up, Radu.
I’m a Montreal Canadiens columnist and lifelong Habs fan. Follow me on Twitter (@gregkatz19) for all kinds of hockey talk, and to be up to date on my newest articles. I previously wrote for Too Many Men on the Site, a part of Fansided NHL.