The Montreal Canadiens have traded problematic forward Sergei Kostitsyn to the Nashville Predators.
The deal is simply an exchange of pending free agents, as Montreal received center Dustin Boyd (RFA) and goaltender Dan Ellis (UFA) in return. Future Considerations are involved for both teams, presumably if any of the players end up signing or not.
The relationship between the Canadiens and Sergei Kostitsyn was always shaky. The troubled forward has consistently made headlines since his arrival in Montreal, for better or for worse, but mostly for worse. Whether it was calling out Canadiens GM last week over the Jaroslav Halak trade, not paying his dues at practice or just plain sucking, Sergei Kostitsyn has been a thorn in the Canadiens’s side for years.
Despite being drafted in the 7th round in the 2005 draft (200th overall), Sergei was quick to exceed the expectations of many, posting 40 goals and 131 points with the London Knights a year after he was drafted, and showing commitment to the game of hockey and to playing in the NHL by making the move to North America, despite not speaking much English or playing the style of hockey that a lot of us have become used to. The next season, he made an impact in both Hamilton and Montreal, posting 22 points in 22 games with the Bulldogs and then 27 points in 52 games with the Canadiens, endearing himself to both the organization and to fans.
But things quickly went south from there. Maybe it was the fact that he had become a fan favorite, maybe it was the fame, maybe it was the bright lights of Montreal, but to say that things degenerated quickly might be an understatement. Feuds with fellow players, a drop in production, and an overall bad relationship with the team, the city, and especially its fans.
The rumors surrounding Sergei’s personal life and his attitude were rampant and serious. From his lack of commitment to the team, to his ego and selfishness, Sergei quickly became a pest and a player other Habs did not want to be around. Moreover, rumors were running rampant that Sergei feigned an inability to understand English to avoid the media, and even that he, along with his brother Andrei, had connections with a known Mobster in Montreal.
Things finally came to ahead this year, when splitting time between Montreal and Hamilton, Sergei gave then-GM Bob Gainey an ultimatum: Play me or trade me. Gainey responded by doing neither, by letting him sit at home until he was ready to earn his ice time in Hamilton. Eventually, he made it back to the Canadiens’ line-up, thanks to injuries, but failed to keep his spot, playing only 5 games in the Canadiens’ playoff run and putting up no points in the playoffs. Eventually, the Canadiens told him to stay away from the team because of his negative effect on his teammates.
Sergei leaves his brother Andrei in Montreal, who has also fallen out of favor with the fans. What remains in Andrei’s future is a mystery, but if I had to take a guess, I would say that Andrei will remain with Montreal to start the season, in the final year of his contract. An environment where he doesn’t have to worry about his brother may benefit the 25-year-old sniper.
Interestingly enough, the deal could have been for nothing. In exchange for Sergei’s rights, the Canadiens receive Dustin Boyd and Dan Ellis. While Boyd, a 6 foot 200 lbs center, is likely to sign with the Canadiens in a 3rd line role, Pierre Gauthier has but a day and a half to sign Dan Ellis.
The 30 year old goaltender from Orangeville, Ontario, had a good season as the back up for the Preds, putting up 15 wins in 31 games, a GAA of 2.69 and an SVP of .909. His best season came in 2008-08, where he had 23 wins in 44 games and won the Roger Crozier award for best save percentage with a .924. He could very well test the market, but Habs fans can hold out hope that he’ll sign with the Canadiens to back-up young Carey Price next season. Ellis made $2 million in 2009-10.
Nonetheless, Ellis sent a message through twitter in reply to the trade, stating that he was “Very excited about the trade! It’s an honor to be part of a team with such great tradition and passion! Hope we can figure something out!” , giving Canadiens fans hope that the team will be able to get a deal done with the netminder.
As for Dustin Boyd, the native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, has good size, hits, and can be flexible in a checking line role. At 23-years old, he already has 200+ games of NHL experience. He put up 11 goals and 13 assists last year in 78 games, with a +6 rating, and only took 19 penalty minutes. I can’t say much more about the young forward at this point, but Canadiens fans will likely see a lot of him next season.
Overall, this trade is indicative of the attitude that has become this organization over the last season: If you’re a problem, you’re out. GM Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey have molded this team into a North American group of players consisting mostly of hard workers and leaders that find ways to win, and that is definitely true with the two new players that will hopefully be arriving in Montreal next fall.
Is Pierre Gauthier done? If the last two weeks are any indication, odds are that he isn’t.
Stay tuned, there will be plenty more to come!
About the Author: George Prax, born and raised in Montreal, offers a unique point of view when it comes to blogging. A devout Montrealer, Quebequois and Canadian, Prax is and always be a die hard Habs fan, one who feels it necessary to offer his view on the Canadiens, the NHL, and hockey happenings in general. Expect many articles on the Canadiens, some from the point of view of a fan, some from the point of view of a blogger and some more distant, but expect them often, and expect them full of passion. Prax, who has somewhat of an infamous reputation around the online hockey community, also has interests in music, movies, television, as well as politics, and they are nearly as deeply rooted as his love for hockey. Prax is the senior content editor at The Checking Line, a website devoted to offering the best hockey discussion around the net, one that features bloggers from all over the league, and one that's constantly growing. Visit www.thecheckingline.com for more of Prax's work.