The Dallas Stars signed former Montreal Canadiens forward Alexander Radulov to a five-year, $31.25 million contract on Monday. It's the biggest contract given to an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Radulov, 30, said during a conference call that the Canadiens matched the Stars' offer, but only after he had accepted the Dallas deal, and he would not go back on his word.
"I said I already agreed with Dallas," Radulov said. "I said it wouldn't be fair, it wouldn't be right. If you take it you take it, there's no way back, right?"
"I really want five years at least on my deal," said Radulov, who will count $6.25 million against the salary cap through 2021-22. "I wanted to play and not worry about it, just play hard and not worry about it. ... I got a long-term deal and I am happy."
After a disappointing season, the Stars and new coach Ken Hitchcock have been busy. Among their moves, they have traded for goalie Ben Bishop, signed center Martin Hanzal and traded for defenseman Marc Methot.
"Alexander is a dynamic playmaker with top-end speed and skill," Stars general manager Jim Nill said in a statement. "To add a forward of this stature to our lineup makes our top-six as deep and talented as any group in this league."
In a series of tweets, Radulov thanked Montreal.
...Thank you for making me feel like I was at home and welcome. I will never forget my time in this beautiful city. Je t'aime Montréal (2/2)— ALEXANDER RADULOV (@RADUL22) July 3, 2017
Radulov's departure makes it possible that veteran defenseman Andrei Markov re-signs with Montreal, which has $15 million in cap space and must still work out a new contract for restricted free-agent forward Alex Galchenyuk.
Radulov and Ales Hemsky traded places on day three of free agency as the 33-year-old winger signed a $1 million, one-year deal with Montreal.
Hemsky could be a bargain move for the Canadiens as they attempt to replace Radulov's production of 18 goals and 36 assists. Hemsky missed a majority of last season after injuring his hip at the World Cup of Hockey and undergoing surgery, something that contributed to the Stars missing the playoffs.
"We're going to miss Ales, but unfortunately you have to make decisions in this game," Nill said. "Montreal's getting a very good player and getting a very good person. He's going to be a very good player for Montreal. He's going to add a lot of speed to the lineup."
Radulov has had a controversial NHL career. After being selected in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Predators, he played the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons in Nashville, scoring 37 and 58 points, respectively.
But at the end of his second season, Radulov told the Predators that he wanted to return to his native Russia to play. The Predators demanded that he fulfill the final year of his contract, but Radulov signed a three-year deal with a KHL team. Nashville suspended him for the 2008-09 season.
In March 2012, he returned to the Predators, had his suspension lifted and finished out the season. However, before Game 2 of their second-round playoff series, Radulov and a teammate were spotted at a nightclub at 5 a.m. The players were suspended, and the Predators elected not to renew Radulov's contract.
Radulov left to play in Russia, but this past offseason he returned to the NHL, signing a one-year, $5.75 million contract with the Canadiens. His previous baggage was a source of discussion around the league, but Radulov was lauded as a great teammate. He helped the Habs win the Atlantic Division with 103 points.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.