Andrei Kostitsyn not wanted in NHL, returns to KHL

Despite a public campaign to return to the National Hockey League, complete with the support of reporters and misguided Montreal Canadiens fans, forward Andrei Kostitsyn will not be leaving the Kontinental Hockey League.

Kostitsyn, 30, hasn’t played in the NHL since 2011-12. A 10th overall pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2003, Kostitsyn spent the bulk of his NHL career in a good position. After some time in the American Hockey League where fans frothed at the mouth to see what the first pick of the Bob Gainey/Trevor Timmins regime could do, he played his first full season in 2007-08 with the Habs on the top line with Tomas Plekanec and Alex Kovalev. Kovalev was going through a career resurgence and the Canadiens were built entirely on the powerplay. Kostitsyn scored 26 goals and 53 points. He would never score 26 goals again. Kostitsyn did follow the season up with 23 goals in 2008-09, playing alongside Plekanec and his younger brother Sergei Kostitsyn. His next season was cut down to 59 games, only scoring 15 goals in the process. Kostitsyn did play a full season in 2010-11 but in 81 games could only muster 20 goals and 45 points, showing he wasn’t developing into being a better player than what he showed in his rookie year.

Still, Kostitsyn had his supporters. He could be a bull in a China shop with the puck and had a laser wrist shot, using every bit of his six feet, 200+lb body to perform body checks when needed. This was enough for many to ignore his complete lack of hockey IQ, how often he’d cause offsides for the Canadiens by not paying attention to his linemates and how so much of his scoring depended on the powerplay. The early argument about Kostitsyn was the Canadiens were not playing him on the right side and instead made him a left winger. As he was moved to the right wing, his numbers dropped.

In 2011-12, the Montreal Canadiens had a disasterous season including a coach firing, major players traded and the team being the worst in the Eastern Conference. Along with Hal Gill in a separate deal, Andrei Kostitsyn was traded at the deadline to the Nashville Predators for a second round pick in 2013 (which the Canadiens used to select current forward Jacob De La Rose) and a fifth round pick in the 2013 draft (later traded to the Los Angeles Kings for David Drewiske, which they used to select Patrik Bartosak). Kostitsyn quickly gelled with Alexander Radulov, who had just returned to the Predators from the KHL. It was with Radulov that Kostitsyn missed a curfew in the 2012 NHL Playoffs, causing a two game in-team suspension. Radulov would quickly return to the KHL, and Andrei Kostitsyn would follow, as the only interest he received was a training camp invite from the Florida Panthers.

Since then, Kostitsyn played for Chelyabinsk Traktor. After two seasons, Kostitsyn had a weak start to the season in 2014-15 with only four points in 13 games. Traktor traded Kostitsyn to Sochi HC, where he exploded with the club. Kostitsyn scored 31 points in 37 games, only to disappear in a four game sweep. It was here that speculation mounted on a potential return to the National Hockey League.

With the problems in the KHL for financing, several former KHL players jumped to the National Hockey League, including Artem Panarin, Viktor Tikhonov, Sergei Plotnikov and potential Kiril Petrov of the New York Islanders. Despite some tire pumping by Belarus IIHF World Championship coach Dave Lewis, Kostitsyn was once again only being offered a training camp invite. This despite the people who still feel he is a top nine NHL forward and was in some way treated wrong when he was in the NHL.

Despite a solid week of speculation and fans asking, “Why not offer him a deal?”, Kostitsyn decided to end his bid for returning to the NHL for at least two years, with a new deal with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. It should be noted his brother Sergei Kostitsyn signed there as well, re-uniting the much maligned brothers.

We will be sure to likely have to write on the brothers trying to return to the NHL in 2017, when they look for that one last deal. I’m sure even then the 26 goals Andrei scored close to a decade prior will surely be brought up as to why he deserves a training camp invite.