(Note: As the Predators enter the most important offseason in franchise history (to date), we at 24/7 will take a look at some of the key storylines.)
Aside from the likes of Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Alexander Radulov, the Nashville Predators have a handful of second-tier players without contracts for the 2012-13 season as well. Brothers Sergei (restricted free agent) and Andrei Kostitsyn (unrestricted) are among them.
GM David Poile reunited the brothers at the trade deadline when he surrendered a second-round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for Andrei’s services. The trade worked out for the Predators – at times. Andrei had six points in his first five games with the Predators and scored three goals in eight playoff games.
There were times where it didn’t work out, too.
Andrei hit a dry spell in March, scoring just one goal in the last 14 games of the regular season. He also helped cause a locker room distraction in the Western Conference Semifinals.
At the time Poile acquired Andrei, he was hoping to be getting another top-six forward. With Andrei, you could see his potential on some nights when he proved to be a difference-maker. He also has a deceptively big body that is useful in front of the net. Other nights he didn’t seem to have mesh with his linemates.
Is Andrei worth re-signing?
Is there some baggage there that we saw firsthand in the second round when he and Radulov broke curfew the night before Game Two in Phoenix?
Is he a distraction to Sergei? It’s a fair question, considering Sergei’s production fell off drastically after Andrei arrived. Including the playoffs, Sergei had 9 points in 28 games with Andrei on the team and 36 points in 57 games without him.
Those are questions that Poile will have to ponder when it comes to Andrei.
Whether Sergei, 25 years old, and Andrei, 27, are a package deal is an unknown. But even if they aren’t, Poile has to think twice about bringing back Andrei’s younger brother.
No matter what happens with Sergei – whether he re-signs long term or short term, is traded away, succeeds or fails – the Predators have already received more than what they bargained for when they acquired/signed Sergei back in June 2010.
Poile parted with the negotiating rights to Dan Ellis and Dustin Boyd to pry Sergei (an RFA when the trade was made) out of Montreal. The Predators then capitalized on Sergei’s rock-bottom market value and signed him to a one-year, $550,000 contract following the trade.
Fast forward two years and Sergei turned out to be a godsend to the Predators’ lineup. He accumulated 93 points in 152 regular season games with the Predators – much more than what he did with Montreal in the three previous seasons. Unlike in Montreal under Jacques Martin and Guy Carbonneau, Nashville head coach Barry Trotz got the most out of Sergei.
To pick up Sergei for basically nothing and get that kind of production from him was a risk well worth taken by Poile and company. Yet this may be the right time for Poile to walk away from the table leading, rather than taking another gamble on Sergei repeating his performance from the last two seasons.
In an interview with Inside Smashville three weeks ago, Sergei mentioned that he wants a multi-year contract:
“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.”
In each of his first two seasons, Sergei signed a one-year deal and had a chip on his shoulder in both instances. As a result, the only Sergei the Predators have seen is a motivated individual.
Rewarding Sergei with a two- or three-year deal would be a risky proposition for Poile. Could he give Sergei some level of comfort where he’s not playing for a contract and expect the same production?
Another factor in this would be the kind of money Sergei is looking for. He earned $2.5 million this past season and saw a seven-point decline from his 50-point campaign in 2010-11. (He was also a non-factor in each of the last two postseasons, recording seven points in a total of 22 playoff games.)
His 2011-12 season wouldn’t justify a raise, but Sergei and his agent, Don Meehan, could use some league-wide examples as a reason why he should get one:
- Buffalo’s Drew Stafford received a contract worth $16 million over four years when he was a 25-year-old RFA last offseason. He had a total of 86 points in the two previous seasons (he was also coming off a 30-goal campaign).
- Montreal’s Rene Bourque, 30, with a troubled past before finding a home in Calgary (like Sergei in Nashville), received a six-year, $20 million extension with the Flames prior to the 2010-11 season. He had 98 points in the two previous seasons.
- Islanders forward Matt Moulson, 30, who has had to continuously prove doubters wrong, received a three-year, $9.4 million extension last summer after racking up 101 points in the two previous seasons.
- Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky, 26, signed a four-year, $16.8 million extension prior to 2011-12. Dubinsky had 98 points in the two previous seasons.
- Another example could be Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski. In the middle of this past season and at the age of 28, he was rewarded a five-year, $27.5 million extension. Many would consider Grabovski a better player and maybe more valuable to the Maple Leafs, but he isn’t too far ahead of Sergei. Grabovski put up 109 points in each of the last two seasons. If nothing else, Grabovski’s contract helped earn Sergei a few more dollars.
These are all rough examples, yet comparables for what Sergei could be looking for when it comes to his next contract.
Will he, should he get that next contract with the Predators? It may ultimately come down to the negotiations between Poile and Sergei’s camp. Poile would really have to be careful giving Sergei what he wants in terms of a long-term deal.
Since Sergei is a RFA, Poile could trade his rights and get something in return if he so chooses. The deadline to tender qualifying offers to RFA’s is June 29th. If an offer is not tendered to Sergei (or any other RFA), he would become a UFA.