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Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Weber on board with Radulov arrival

By Pierre LeBrun

About three weeks ago, Nashville Predators GM David Poile reached out to his captain, Shea Weber, to feel him and the team out regarding Alexander Radulov.

"He wanted to make sure that we were OK with it,’’ Weber told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "He didn’t want to bring a guy over that we’re going to be shunning and not welcoming into our room. He’s the kind of player that we know what he’s about, we played with him, he’s a good kid, we’re excited to get it going here.’’

Poile needed to ensure that he had his players’ backing.

"It’s one thing for me to make a hockey decision knowing that Radulov had matured as a person and as a player and the fact he’s possibly the best player playing outside the NHL, but having said that I wanted to make sure on a personal note he didn’t burn any bridges with our current players when he left,’’ Poile told ESPN.com on Wednesday after the news conference that reintroduced Radulov in Nashville. "What I found out is that Shea had talked to Radulov over the years, and so had Martin Erat."

Indeed, Weber himself had let it be known to Radulov directly in conversations at the 2009 world hockey championships in Switzerland and at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver that the Preds would welcome Radulov back with open arms.

"Oh yeah, we made sure he knew that,’’ Weber said. "He knew that we would welcome him and that it wouldn’t be a problem. It was pretty straightforward.’’

And the feeling Weber got in those conversations was that Radulov wanted to return.

"Every time I talked to him he was talking about coming back,” Weber said. "He wanted to play in the NHL. He wanted to be one of the best players in the game. Obviously, it just took a while with contractual stuff. But now that he’s back, we know it’s for real.’’

Some people have wondered whether the players on the Predators might be sour on Radulov for the way he bolted on his NHL contract and his team in the summer of 2008. Instead, Weber and the leadership group on Nashville were fully supportive of bringing him back. All they saw was a chance to add an important piece to a club that was already a Cup contender.

"Yeah, exactly,” Weber said. "That’s in the past, what happened. It was his decision to leave and he was young. But we’re just excited at the fact he’s decided to come back and he wants to win a Stanley Cup. He obviously feels that we’re close. We feel he can help us out and hopefully give us that depth and make us that much harder to play against.’’

Added Poile: "As Shea told me, he had never seen a game where Rad never tried 100 percent. This guy is one of the most passionate players we’ve ever dealt with in terms of wanting to be on the ice and wanting to play. He has great enthusiasm and wants to win. That’s the message Shea came back to me with."

The key now is to see what kind of adjustment period Radulov will need before feeling comfortable after four years away from the NHL.

"It’s a great player to be able to add at this time of the season," Weber said. "I mean, we’re going to try and make the transition as easy as we can for him to fit in. He knows some guys that were here in the past when he was here. So it’s going to be pretty fluid as far as that goes.’’

But what exactly are they getting now in Radulov? Considered by some the best player in the world not in the NHL, others however contend he’s been hurt by playing in a lesser league.

"Playing with him when he was young, you could see how much talent he had and what he could do with the puck and how dynamic he was,’’ Weber said. "We’re excited because obviously he’s that much older now. He had to have improved and only got better, and that’s exciting to think about.’’