There was a time not too long ago when Sergei Kostitsyn was little more than the younger, less talented bother. He irritated coaches, and was part of a group linked to the Montreal mafia. Those were fun times.
So of course Kostitsyn was also one of the five restricted free agents on Nashville’s roster that received bungled qualifying offers from general manager David Poile prior to the beginning of free agency. The first step to correct those problems was taken yesterday when Poile signed four of those RFAs (Matt Halischuk, Nick Spaling, Chris Mueller, and Cal O’Reilly).
The most important step of signing Kostitsyn still remained, a step that was taken care of today to the tune of a one-year, $2.5 million contract.
As first reported by CBC’s Tim Wharnsby, the deal means that Kostitsyn will avoid arbitration. The fee and cap hit for Kostitsyn’s services is nominal and fair for a 24-year-old player who led his team in scoring with 23 goals. The fee looks even more impressive when Kostitsyn’s youth is combined with the original price paid for the disgruntled former Hab.
After languishing on the bench in Montreal and being banished from any meaningful role by Canadiens coach Jacques Martin, Kostitsyn was set to become a restricted free agent last summer. Wanting both his attitude and inconsistent play shipped out of town, the Habs traded Kostitsyn’s rights to Nashville in exchange for the rights to goalie Dan Ellis, forward Dustin Boyd, and future considerations. Ellis’ rights were then promptly dealt by Montreal to Tampa Bay, and Boyd was placed on waivers in November.
In extremely limited minutes over three seasons in Montreal Kostitsyn scored just 24 goals over three seasons, a total he nearly eclipsed this year in just 77 games. So the net result saw the Habs trade a player who moved on to lead another team in scoring for, well, nothing.
While the signing of Kostitsyn was a clear priority for Poile, there’s a hill still to climb despite the franchise’s first ever playoff series victory this past spring. Kostitsyn showed flash and promise, but relying on a previously inconsistent forward to repeat his one year boom is a risky game of roulette at best. Martin Erat is still consistent and reliable veteran, but Kostitsyn and Erat–Nashville’s two leading scorers–combined for just 100 points.
Nashville ranked 22nd in scoring, and lost Joel Ward and his seven playoff goals in free agency along with Marcel Goc. Scoring on the back end also departed in the form of Cody Franson, and the Predators are left with Kostitsyn and Patric Hornqvist as their only 20-goal scorers. A lack of scoring punch is sustainable for a team that ranked third in goals against and prided itself on defence and the superb goaltending of Pekka Rinne. But if the Predators want to avoid being stagnant and continue the process and momentum built this year, Poile needs to work some wizardry to acquire more secondary scoring.
The Predators are also still $10 million below the $48.3 million cap floor, a number that will seem a lot closer once restricted free agent Shea Weber is signed.