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With the Stanley Cup completed, what is sure to be an active offseason is now underway. The Devils will have a large amount of cap space to work with on July 1st to help address some of their needs heading into next season. Of the most importance for Ray Shero will be fixing a blue line that desperately needs improvement. Even with defense taking top priority, the Devils were one of the lowest scoring teams in the league last season and will also need to improve their offense.
There aren’t a ton of enticing forwards that’ll provide the extra offense the Devils need, but there are a couple that should garner Ray Shero’s attention. One of those names could be Alexander Radulov, who had 56 points in 76 games for the Montreal Canadiens in his first NHL season since spending the better part of eight years in the KHL. Radulov had a major impact 5-on-5 for the Canadiens, and helped add offense to a team that frequently had trouble finding the back of the net.
To demonstrate Radulov’s impact, the following table shows the Montreal Canadiens 5-on-5 regular season performance with him on the ice compared to when he was off the ice:
|Corsi For per 60 minutes||62.3||57.5|
|Corsi Against per 60 minutes||52.6||53.2|
|Goals For per 60 minutes||2.80||2.08|
|Goals Against per 60 minutes||1.94||1.91|
|Scoring Chances For%||54.8%||51.5%|
|High Danger Chances For%||56.9%||52.2%|
Although Montreal was a solid 5-on-5 team with Radulov off the ice, their numbers still showed a solid uptick with him on the ice. They were a 54.1% possession team with him on the ice, compared to 51.9% with him off the ice. They also generated 62.3 shot attempts per 60 minutes, which was one of the twenty best marks for a forward with 1000+ minutes on the season, as opposed to 57.5 shot attempts when he was off the ice.
Radulov may not be known for his defense, but Montreal’s numbers were just about the same when he was on and off the ice. They averaged 52.6 shot attempts against per 60 minutes when Radulov was on the ice compared to 53.2 when off. They also averaged 1.94 goals against per 60 minutes when he was on the ice as opposed 1.91 goals against per 60 minutes when off the ice. The difference is so minor that it’s essentially null-and-void. The main point is that he didn’t have a negative impact on the defense and shows he’s a solid two-way player, which has always been a staple of forwards in New Jersey.
The biggest impact Radulov had for Montreal was on offense. When he was on the ice, the Canadiens averaged 2.80 goals per 60 minutes as opposed to 2.08 when he played. Montreal’s scoring chances and higher danger chances also saw a nice increase when Radulov was on the ice, as shown in the table above. As far as his individual performance, his 1.67 points per 60 minutes were the third-best mark on Montreal, only behind Max Pacioretty and Phillip Danault. Radulov’s points per 60 minutes were also almost identical to Kyle Palmieri’s and a shade better than Taylor Hall’s in 2016-17.
Radulov’s season doesn’t seem to be a one-off, either. One stat that helps predict whether a player will regress or progress is individual point percentage (IPP), which takes into account how often a player receives a point when he’s on the ice for a goal for. The league average is around 68% and Radulov was at 59.6% for this season. It’s safe to say that for next season, at the very minimum, it’s probably a good bet that he can at least duplicate or build on what he did in Montreal this past season. He is only 30 years old, so he has at least a few good years left.
Radulov was an impact player for Montreal in his first season back in the NHL, especially in offensive situations. While they were a good team with him off the ice, they were borderline dominant with him on the ice at 5-on-5. After a great first season back in the NHL, where he posted 56 points, he’s going to be looking to cash in. Radulov, himself, confirmed last year he was in talks with the Devils. Could there be interest again if Montreal fails to re-sign him before July 1st?
If there’s a forward worth taking a risk on in this free agent class, it would be Radulov. After proving he’s still capable of being a very effective NHLer, he’s going to be looking for a top dollar, long-term deal. Ray Shero has gone on record saying they aren’t looking to give long-term deals to players over 30-years old until they’re ready to contend. Could he change his mind for Radulov? He’d immediately slot into New Jersey’s top six, even their top line. He would have an immediate positive impact on New Jersey’s offense and their offensive output would see substantial improvement. He may not solve their offensive woes, but he would be a significant step in the right direction for a team desperate for more offense if the price is right.
Advanced stats are from Hockey Analysis except where noted