Qualifying Offers, Draftees & KHL, Oh My!

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Predators GM, David Poile spoke with the media yesterday regarding a few topics, including the upcoming draft and qualifying offers for currently players. The Preds organization is chomping at the bit for a top draft pick, and with the names that are in the hat, this high draft pick could be history-changing for the young team. Though, as much as the draft intrigues us, we have to admit it was more interesting to hear Poile’s take on some more familiar names and where they’d be for the 2013-14 season: Matt Halischuk, Jonathon Blum, Nick Spaling, and Sergei Kostitsyn.

David Poile stated that he did, in fact, extend a qualifying offer to Nick Spaling, which make no sense if he didn’t. Spaling wasn’t a powerhouse by any means this past season, but he knew when to make his presence count. With nine goals and four assists in the shortened 2012-13 season, Spals kept himself well on Barry Trotz’s good side. But two players Poile said he is “keeping his options open” with are Matt Halischuk and Jonathon Blum, two low radar players who have teetered on the fence between the Preds and their farm team, the Milwaukee Admirals. As much as we personally like Hally and Blummer, it might be wise for Poile to use them as leverage to swing a possible mid-to-late-round pick this weekend.

So with Nick Spaling pursued and Blum and Halischuk headed towards the door, that leaves Mr. Belarus himself. In a previous post, we relayed the information that SK74 had been offered a contract from the GM of Avangard-Omsk of the KHL. David Poile addressed this topic yesterday, confirming that there has been talks of “loaning” Sergei to the KHL, if he chooses to accept Avangard’s proposal. Due to a clause in the CBA, the Preds wouldn’t have to pay Kostitsyn’s salary or take his cap hit if he were to jump ship to Russia. Poile also stated that he would not risk a compliance buyout on SK74 and wants the issue resolved by July 5th.

Although Poile said that he’d ideally like to get a Top 6 forward, a Top 4 defenseman, and a backup goalie for Pekka Rinne, we are being skeptical and will wait to see his moves during this draft this weekend. We are hoping he does go in this order, however, as that is the magic combination for the Predators if they want to contend this upcoming season.

SK74 headed to KHL for Good?

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Well, we all saw this coming… even the most diehard SK74 fans. It began even more clear during the lockout, when Sergei Kostitsyn, everyone’s favorite Belorussian, made a name for himself with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk. At the time, it was inspiring to Preds fans watching the struggling talent shine so brightly amongst the KHL; so much so that we all hoped he would bring that momentum back with him when the lockout ended… He didn’t.

SK74 managed to score 27 points in 28 games with Avangard, but only 15 in 46 when the NHL season resumed. Ouch.
Sergei was a force to be reckoned with when he was picked up from the Montreal Canadiens before the 2010-11 season, scoring 23 goals and picking up 27 assists in that season alone. But after that season, everything seemed to fall apart for the young Kostitsyn, with the 2011-12 season producing a lesser, but still good, 17 goals and 26 assists. This past season? An embarrassing three goals and twelve assists. Ouch again.

During the 2011-12 season, the Preds tried to bolster SK74’s momentum by bringing his older brother, Andrei on board, picking him up before the trade deadline from Montreal. Unfortunately, the plan backfired and trouble between the Kostitsyn brothers and Alexander Radulov resulted in Andrei and Radulov’s dismissal from the team. Understandably, that left a bad taste in Sergei’s mouth.

And again, when he went to the KHL during the lockout this past season, it was another sign that SK74 felt more comfortable amongst more common fellows. It couldn’t have been more clear as to how truly comfortable he was with Avangard and, for the Predators, that wasn’t a good sign for the future of SK74 with Nashville.

The GM of Avangard Omsk offered Sergei Kostitsyn a contract this past week, wishing him to return to the Alexander Frolov and Dmitry Semin line that worked so well together. Apparently, by the stats, it worked 10 times better than the SK74-Fisher-Erat line. Preds GM David Poile has been quoted has saying he would have “no objection” for allowing SK74 to return to the KHL.

The question in the coming day is, will David Poile risk one of two Compliance Buyouts to keep the struggling Belarussian or will he let Sergei go after this year? Also, there is the possibility that SK74 pulls an Alexander Radulov and runs off before his contract ends.

The truly sad thing is, even though he is given a lot of grief for his terrible performances and his huge mistakes (A.K.A. the infamous “quit” moment), Sergei Kostitsyn has a ton of talent that, for some reason or another, cannot be displayed. And that goes for any NHL team, not just the Predators. He struggled with behavioral and accountability issues while with Montreal and he would do it again with any other NHL team that gave him a chance.

Could it be he is more like Radulov in the sense that, in the KHL, rules are different and life is a little bit less strict for a player? I believe it is a mixture of that and the comfort level he feels being back in a more familiar role, surrounded by people who all speak the same language and there really isn’t a barrier for him to get stuck behind. Unlike his fellow non-American teammates, like Pekka Rinne and Patric Hornqvist, SK74 has not clung to English very well and is not comfortable with ten mics thrown in his face. However, interviews seem to come naturally to him when they are in Belarussian or Russian, two languages he is comfortable relaying information in.

You can’t hate the kid for wanting to return to something familiar and somewhere he excels. He’s given the NHL his best shot and, unfortunately for the few SK74 fans other there, it wasn’t his best. As long as he doesn’t jump ship like Radulov, we won’t turn our backs on SK. We’d like him give it all he’s got this last season because, even if Nashville offers him an extension, I believe this is our last season with Sergei Kostitsyn in the Predators gold.

Kevin Klein joins Herlev Eagles

Kevin Klein joins a few other Preds in Europe during the Lockout

We missed this news last week, but it looks like Kevin Klein has made the move to Europe as the lockout continues to chip away at the 2012-13 season.

Nashville’s defenseman will be teaming up with the Herlev Eagles, a team in Demark, part of the AL-Bank Ligaen (the highest league in Denmark). Klein will now be the sixth Predators to head overseas, with Craig Smith returning to the U.S. not too long ago.

Klein recently signed a contract extension with the Preds worth $14.5 million for five years. With a career high of 21 points last season, the Predators were more than happy to re-sign the 27-year-old defenseman.

As a reminder, here are the current Predators skating it up in Europe:

Pekka Rinne is with Dinamo Minsk
Sergei Kostitsyn is with Avangard Omsk
Patric Hörnqvist is with HC Red Ice
Roman Josi is with SC Bern
Craig Smith was with SM-Liiga

This picture makes us sad.

Sergei Kostitsyn joins Avangard Omsk

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After much debate as to where he would sign, Sergei Kostitsyn as chosen to join up with Avangard Omsk of the KHL. SK74 has been vocal about signing with the KHL, but he seemed to take his time selecting which team he’d settle with. As we mentioned in a previous post, the Predators forward has been pretty open about sticking with the KHL, even if the lockout comes to an end before the NHL season can be completely wiped.

Of course, contract-wise, SK74 cannot technically do that, but with big names like Ovechkin and Semin claiming to do the same, it’s no surprise the younger Kostitsyn would jump on board with the bandwagon. Plus, with a league that jumps to a lockout with a drop of the hat, we’d probably do the same.

As you remember, older brother Andrei Kostitsyn signed with Traktor Chelyabinsk in September after being dismissed from the Nashville Predators due to a late night stint during the 2012 playoffs with Russian rebel, Alexander Radoluv. Though most would think SK74 would join up with AK46 again, he chose to go at it alone, with Chelyabinsk a good 12 hours West of Omsk.

Sergei is now the fifth Nashville Predator to ship off to Europe, with Pekka Rinne teaming up with Dinamo Minsk, Roman Josi joining his former team SC Bern, Patric Hörnqvist signing with HC Red Ice, and Craig Smith joining Finland’s SM-Liiga.