“Of course, I want to come back here.”
Sergei Kostitsyn, a restricted free agent come July 1st, was adamant about his desire to return to Smashville next season, preferably with a contract that is for more than one season.
In a time when the KHL tries to lure Eastern European players away from the NHL, Kostitsyn not only wants to return to the Predators in the fall, but he wants to solidify the relationship for the long-term.
For the past two seasons, Kostitsyn has been signed to one-year deals with the Predators.
“My agent is going to talk to [General Manager David Poile] and [Barry] Trotz. We will see what is going to happen in the summer. I would like to stay here more than one year. We are going to talk about more than one year.”
Kostitsyn, a 7th round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2005, never seemed to fit in with the Habs. He wanted more playing time, ran into behavioral problems by missing a bus to a pre-season game in 2009, and was suspended by the team when he refused to report to the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs.
During Kostitsyn’s troubled stint in Montreal, it was speculated that he had even received an offer from the KHL. But the forward’s fortune changed upon being traded to Nashville during the 2010 off-season for Dan Ellis and Dustin Boyd.
“Sergei really grew,” Trotz said. “He was close to being out of the organization. He came from Montreal and didn’t bring much game. You saw the skill level. Slowly, but surely, we got him to stay on the puck longer. He never had the puck long enough, because of the secondary efforts you need to get the puck. Once you have it, the skill level would come out. He started to play the way we asked him to. He got more confidence, and we gave him a bigger role. He has been pretty productive. He has had 93 points in the last couple of years.”
The lack of work ethic on the part of Kostitsyn was something he was criticized for in Montreal. During the playoffs in 2009, he even got into a heated exchange with goaltender Carey Price. Price called Kostitsyn out for not working hard during a team practice.
Those days are gone.
Kostitsyn found himself on Nashville’s top line this season along with Martin Erat and Mike Fisher – a trio that seemed to carry the Predators offense many nights throughout the season.
“It was [two seasons] ago when I came here, and I didn’t play a lot the first couple of games. Trotz started to believe in me and put me on the top line. Since then, I’ve been playing good. It’s good,” Kostitsyn said.
“He has really good intelligence. He knows how to play the game. Obviously, we want him to shoot more. He also has good defensive intelligence. I can use him late in games. I can use him on the penalty kill. He is more fit as a player. He has grown a little bit. He has a good window for his career to take the next step,” Trotz explained.
In three years with Montreal, Kostitsyn had 24 goals and 44 assists for 68 points in 155 games. In 152 games for the Predators, Kostitsyn has scored 40 goals and picked up 53 assists for 93 points over the past two regular seasons.
While Kostitsyn had a strong regular season, his lack of productivity in the playoffs did not go unnoticed.
“He had a pretty good regular season. He has been playing high in our lineup,” Poile said. “We debated a long time about bringing in his brother, whether it would be positive or negative. [Sergei] had a big goal for us in the Detroit series, but he couldn’t produce anywhere else. It was a disappointing ending for him where he ends up on the fourth line in the last game. [It was] not a good way for him to end.”
The deadline to tender qualifying offers to restricted free agents is June 29th.
Negotiations have yet to begin between Kostitsyn’s agent and the Predators. While it is unclear the direction the Predators are headed in regard to Kostitsyn’s future with the club, one thing remains certain. Sergei Kostitsyn wants to be at 501 Broadway when the puck drops on the 2012-13 regular season.