Alexander Medvedev says a major hurdle stands in the way of Alex Radulov's rumoured return to the Nashville Predators—the year remaining on his contract in Russia.
The KHL president acknowledges having heard speculation that the talented forward is pondering a jump back to the NHL once his season with Salavat Yulaev wraps up, but he doesn't believe it will happen.
"He's under contract for another year," Medvedev told The Canadian Press on Friday. "I'm not aware about the clause that he could leave next year."
The irony of that statement won't be lost on fans of the Predators. Radulov was fresh off a 26-goal, 58-point sophomore season in 2008 when he decided to bolt for Russia even though he had one year left on his entry-level contract in Nashville.
The NHL balked at the move, as did the Predators, but it made little difference. Radulov was gone.
It was a story that generated headlines on both sides of the ocean because the new Russian league had just been formed. Since then, similar cases have been few and far between—a result of "much better" relations between the NHL and KHL, according to Medvedev.
"Our arrangements for respecting each other's contracts work both ways," he said. "Though we've had some questionable issues, they didn't go to conflict and it was settled in the court with agreements in place. (It) allows some boys to change leagues but without conflict."
The Predators have left the door open for Radulov's return. Under NHL rules, the 25-year-old would be forced to honour the final year of his entry-level contract—at a modest US$980,000—in Nashville if he decided to return to North America.
However, it's not something general manager David Poile is counting on.
"It would totally be a bonus if he came back to play," Poile told ESPN.com earlier this week. "With Rad, there's always a possibility."
Some KHL teams have made side agreements with players that allows them out of contracts early—an option rumoured to be open to Radulov. For example, Metallurg let defenceman Dmitri Orlov join the Washington Capitals last year.
Medvedev had lunch with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in New York on Friday. The two men typically meet two or three times a year and have vowed to try and increase the frequency of their get-togethers, according to Medvedev.
"We had a very good meeting in a very positive, constructive atmosphere," he said. "We exchanged opinions on all major issues, problems of mutual relations, our internal and their internal problems. It was good that way—not just speaking but we discussed possibility of co-operation.
"I'm rather sure the time will come when we'll start to not just speak, but to do something together."
The two could be become allies on a couple fronts in the coming years. Medvedev says the NHL has expressed an interest in holding a regular-season game in Russia and he's shown similar interest in having a KHL match in North America.
They will also be part of important negotiations with the International Olympic Committee about the Sochi Games in 2014. Bettman has previously expressed an interest in having more control over the event in exchange for allowing NHL players to participate.
Even though an agreement has yet to been signed, Medvedev expects the NHLers to return to the Olympics when they come to his homeland in two years.
"I'm rather sure that it's possible to find a solution," he said. "When you're optimistic, you (can) positively influence the development of events. So I'm optimistic."
Radulov will be there—one way or another.
He is a two-time MVP in the KHL and led the league in scoring last season, leaving little doubt that he's the best player currently outside of the NHL. Medvedev expects him to remain in Russia next season.
"There's a lot of rumours about (Radulov leaving), but our preference is that he will stay in KHL because he is one of the heroes," said Medvedev.