Even though Alexander Radulov took 48 hours into NHL free agency to find a home, it was very much worth the wait.
Radulov on Monday became the richest player in a restrained market by signing a $31.25 million, five-year deal with the Dallas Stars. The 30-year-old Russian winger left the Canadiens for a contract that's worth almost $5 million more than Kevin Shattenkirk's with the New York Rangers and ties Karl Alzner's with Montreal for the longest signed by an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
"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."
Radulov and Ales Hemsky traded places on Day 3 of free agency as the 33-year-old winger signed a $1 million, one-year deal with Montreal. The Canadiens made a last-ditch attempt to match the Stars' offer to Radulov, who decided not to renege on his verbal agreement.
"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?"
Radulov wanted to go back to the Canadiens, and franchise goaltender Carey Price said Sunday he'd hate to lose the Russian winger or veteran defenseman Andrei Markov. Radulov's departure makes it possible that 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.
The Stars completed their offseason shopping list by getting Radulov, who was considered the top free agent forward available. They previously got a goaltender in Ben Bishop, defenseman via trade in Marc Methot and center in Martin Hanzal, though Radulov has the kind of talent that doesn't come cheap.
"We're adding an elite player to our lineup," Dallas general manager Jim Nill said. "He's high-end skill. You're always looking to add skill to your lineup, and he adds that. He's a strong skater. ... He's a strong man down low, can hold on to the puck, can make plays."
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."
With the hockey world shifting down a gear from the initial free agent frenzy, the Washington Capitals made a depth move Monday amid their retooling process by signing former Devils winger Devante Smith-Pelly to a one-year, two-way contract worth a league-minimum $650,000. Bought out by New Jersey and now on his fourth team, the 25-year-old will be given the chance to earn a roster spot.
"I think there's some untapped potential," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. "We see him as a project, and we might be able to turn him into a player that we can use on the NHL roster."
Detroit on Monday re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Xavier Ouellet to a two-year deal. The Red Wings bolstered their blue line Saturday by signing two-time Stanley Cup winner Trevor Daley to a $9.5 million, three-year contract.