Sergei Kostitsyn tries to turn his career around with the Nashville Predators

subbancomfortssergkostitsyn.jpgOne of the lessons people can take away from professional sports such as hockey is that raw skill alone doesn’t make someone successful. The game’s greatest players are often highly driven, courageous, hard-working and consistent.

If all that mattered was his blinding speed and impressive puck skills, Sergei Kostitsyn would at least be a useful NHL player (if not a star). Unfortunately, things didn’t work out in Montreal, as scandal and coach Jacques Martin’s distaste tainted the younger Kostitsyn brother’s years with the Canadiens.

His former OHL teammate Patrick Kane is surprised that things haven’t worked out for the talented Belarussian, according to a story in the Tennessean.

“There were a lot of times I remember coming off the ice, there would always be something Sergei would say or do during the game,” Kane said. “I remember telling my parents and they would laugh about it for about 15 minutes.”

This is the side of Kostitsyn that has not been heard over the past three years, the one that took the OHL by storm in 2006-07 when he was one of the best players on a team that featured Kane and fellow first-round draft pick Sam Gagner. Instead, after he joined the Montreal Canadiens in 2007-08, the news about Kostitsyn mostly involved suspensions and benchings.

“It is kind of mind-boggling to me,” Kane said. “I know what a great player he is and what a great talent he can be, and I thought back in the OHL he was probably the best player in our league at the time.”

Rather than going for bigger bucks (and the comforts of being closer to home/perhaps playing in a less structured league), Sergei Kostitsyn opted for a cheap one year deal with the Nashville Predators. You can look at the situation in at least two ways. Optimists will predict that Kostitsyn will be a lot like Maxim Afinogenov in Atlanta; a wayward player who produced nice offense on a frugal deal. (Although, yes, Afinogenov failed to get another NHL deal so it’s not all roses in that scenario.) Naysayers will point out the fact that Predators coach Barry Trotz runs a tight, defensive-minded system that won’t translate well to Kostitsyn’s puck philosophy.

As is normally the case with these types of situations, my guess is that the answer will be somewhere in between. The Predators aren’t loaded with high-end forwards so Kostitsyn will get plenty of opportunities to rack up powerplay minutes and the points that come with it.

Being that he’s only 23 years old, it seems a little strange to say this might be a do-or-die season for Kostitsyn, but it’s been a rocky ride and Kostitsyn must prove that he’s willing to put in the work to be a full-time NHL player. His story should be an interesting one to watch this season.

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    Leafs avoid arbitration again, sign Corrado to one year, $600K deal

    VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 13: Frank Corrado #20 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shoots the puck in NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks on February, 13, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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    Over the weekend, reports suggested that Toronto and RFA blueliner Frank Corrado were close to agreeing to a new contract.

    On Monday, the two sides sealed the deal.

    The Leafs announced they signed Corrado to a one-year contract, with Sportsnet reporting it to be a $600,00 pact, of the one-way variety.

    Corrado, 23, was scheduled to go to arbitration tomorrow. His ask was $900,000, while the Leafs countered with a $625,000 figure on a two-way deal, and $575,000 on a one-way.

    So Toronto was nearly spot-on with its valuation.

    The former Canucks draftee took a while to make his Leafs debut last season — he sat 28 games after they claimed him off waivers — but when he did get into the lineup, he fared reasonably well. Corrado finished with a goal and six points in 39 games, averaging 14:27 TOI per game.

    This marks the second player Toronto avoided going to arbitration with. Prior to signing Corrado, the Leafs inked center Peter Holland to a one-year, $1.3 million deal.

    Flyers need Schenn to build on career year

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Brayden Schenn #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal in the second period against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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    The Philadelphia Flyers are hoping Brayden Schenn hasn’t finished improving. The former fifth overall draft pick signed a four-year, $20.5 million contract today, after posting career highs in goals (26) and assists (33) in 2015-16.

    It took a few years for Schenn, 24, to start justifying his draft position. John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, and Evander Kane were selected with the first four picks that year. Oliver Ekman-Larsson was taken sixth overall.

    So there was pressure.

    “I think sometimes when you draft a player top five you tend to think he’s going to develop a little quicker than other guys,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall said Monday, per Flyzette. “When you look at Brayden, has he been a fast developer? I would say probably no. Has he been a slow developer? I would say probably no. He’s probably been average.

    “The good thing is he’s gotten better every year and he’s a hard worker. He’s starting to figure out the intricacies of the game. He obviously had his best year to this point so hopefully he continues to build on that.”

    Hextall reportedly danced around a question about Schenn being part of the “core” group, so there’s still some proving to be done. The Flyers have already committed long-term to forwards Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Couturier. Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl have three years left on their deals, and Dale Weise signed a four-year agreement on July 1.

    As for Schenn, he knows he needs to justify the Flyers’ trust in his ongoing development.

    “I feel like I keep getting better and better,” he said. “I expect nothing else next year.”

    Report: If the Sabres can sign Vesey, they could be more willing to trade Kane

    MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 03:  Evander Kane #9 of the Buffalo Sabres speaks with referee Kevin Pollock #33 during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on February 3, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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    If the Buffalo Sabres can sign Jimmy Vesey, they may be more willing to trade winger Evander Kane.

    That’s what TSN 1040 (Vancouver) radio host Matt Sekeres has been hearing, and what he’s hearing does make a lot of sense.

    Kane, whose off-ice issues are once again making headlines, has two years left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. He plays the same position as Vesey, 23, who’s currently Buffalo property but can sign with any team he chooses on Aug. 15.

    Even if the Sabres can’t convince Vesey to join them, Kane could still be traded. GM Tim Murray has already conceded that his patience is wearing thin with the 24-year-old that he acquired from Winnipeg not long ago. Alex Nylander, drafted eighth overall in June, plays the same position as Kane, and Murray has said it’s possible the teenager could make the jump to the NHL next season.

    Buffalo, Boston and Toronto have generally been considered the favorites to land Vesey. Chicago and Pittsburgh have also been mentioned.

    Related: Cue the Kane-to-Vancouver speculation

    Leafs avoid arbitration with Peter Holland

    TORONTO, ON - APRIL 11: Peter Holland #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates up the ice during NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre April 11, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
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    The Toronto Maple Leafs won’t require arbitration with forward Peter Holland. They’ve signed the 25-year-old to a one-year deal worth a reported $1.3 million.

    Holland had a hearing scheduled for today. Last week, the Leafs sent a message by putting him on waivers, which he cleared.

    Holland had nine goals and 18 assists in 65 games last season. With him signed, the Leafs have only defensemen Frank Corrado and Martin Marincin as restricted free agents. Corrado has an arbitration hearing scheduled for tomorrow; Marincin’s is next Tuesday.

    Related: Corrado and Leafs aren’t that far apart