The enigmatic elder Kostitsyn brother has pretty well worn out his welcome in Quebec. He was one of a cohort of talented players drafted by the Canadiens from 2000 to 2004. Generally that group hasn't lived up to their potential or has moved on from Montreal—or both.
Mikhail Grabovski, Mark Streit, Kyle Chipchura, Maxim Lapierre, Ryan O'Byrne, Jaroslav Halak, Chris Higgins, Mike Komisarek, Alexei Yemelin, Alexander Perezhogin, Tomas Plekanec, Ron Hainsey, Marcel Hossa and Andrei Kostitsyn were the best of that group. Of them all, only Plekanec, Kostitsyn and Yemelin remain.
Kostitsyn, taken 10th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, was the second earliest of these draft picks, with only Komisarek taken higher (seventh in 2001).
Andrei Kostitsyn had his best NHL season as a 22-year-old in 2007/08, when he scored 26 goals and 53 points in 78 games. He parlayed that into a three-year $3.5 million a year contract. The Canadiens made the winger a qualifying offer at $3.25 million for this year, and he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
Kostitsyn has been that rare finisher on a Canadiens team that lacks scorers. Still 41, 33 and 45 points in the last three seasons has not put him at the top of anyone's offensive prospect list. Like younger brother Sergei before him, he has pretty well underperformed and complained his way out of town.
The Canadiens dealt young Sergei last year after he refused a demotion to the AHL. They got checker Dustin Boyd and the rights, since lapsed, to goalie Dan Ellis in return. Sergei got ice time in Nashville and translated that and his skills into a reasonable 23-goal, 50-point season. Given a similar chance, Andrei would be expected to produce even better numbers than this.
Now, Andrei Kostitsyn has been quoted on a Belarusian website as complaining about coach Jacques Martin and also expressing the fear—well grounded, I would guess—that he might not get top-six ice time with the Canadiens this season.
The rumour is that the Canadiens are now actively shopping Andrei. His skills and price tag may generate some interest, especially from teams who need to add salary.
The Boston Bruins have shown a penchant for picking up ex-Canadiens from the reject pile. Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder are two notable recent examples. Benoit Pouliot is the latest disgruntled ex-Habitant to be added to the team.
The Bruins do have cap space and the tiny, quick sniper Kostitsyn does have offensive skills and would have a chip on his shoulder when it came to facing the Canadiens this season. Is that worth $3.25 million in cap space and whatever they might have to give up for him? It doesn't seem likely, but I also didn't think anyone would pay Michael Ryder more than $4 million a season or pick up Benoit Pouliot.
The Nashville Predators took a chance on Sergei Kostitsyn last season. He tied for the team lead in points and led the team in goals scored. Nashville seems like an organization willing to take a chance on his older (better?) brother Andrei.
The Predators might be willing to give up the most for Andrei Kostitsyn of any NHL team. Though really, they're unlikely to give up more than a checking forward or depth defenseman. Maybe the Canadiens could pry a second-round pick away from Nashville for Andrei Kostitsyn? Maybe Niclas Bergfors could go the other way?
Andrei Kostitsyn could certainly expect to play a role on Nashville's top two lines.
The Islanders have added some salary to get them above the cap floor. They still could use some help on the wing. Kostitsyn adds some reasonably skilled offense to a team in need. At the end of the year, he can go his own way.
The Colorado Avalanche can certainly afford to add Kostitsyn, who only turns 27 this February. Kostitsyn would have to work to earn a spot among Colorado's top six forward. If he did, he could possibly be a 25-30-goal and 60-point player on a young, talented Avalanche team.
Colorado is still looking to replace the offense they gave up when they traded Chris Stewart.
Again, I can't imagine anyone is giving up too much to pick up Andrei Kostitsyn, but Colorado has a few veteran parts they could move at little or no cost to themselves.
The Minnesota Wild have already added Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in an attempt to get the offense rolling. Andrei Kostitsyn could be a relatively cheap pick up. He would also be a better quicker sixth forward than another former Hab, Guillaume Latendresse.
There is a lack of offensive depth on the Wild that a player like Kostitsyn would help fill. The Wild do still have plenty of cap space, and Kostitsyn is really a no-risk proposition. He is under contract for this year before becoming a UFA next summer.
The Coyotes are another team with cap space to burn who could use an additional offensive talent. Coupled with the incomprehensible Kyle Turris holdout, this could allow them to fill out their NHL roster without having to worry about whether Turris signs or not.
The Habs would love to trade Kostitsyn to Phoenix for the 22-year-old Turris, who is another young talent yet to prove himself at the NHL level. It's unlikely though that the Coyotes are as fed up with Turris as Montreal is with Kostitsyn.
Kostitsyn could be useful in Phoenix.
The Canadiens have had plenty of experience with disgruntled Russian players making off-season announcements criticizing the team. Alexei Kovalev played for over four seasons in Montreal. They probably could just ride out this Kostitsyn upset.
Kostitsyn, however, doesn't have the talent of a Kovalev. The temptation has to be to move him. If he does go, though, there's a four-year period of drafting where the Canadiens have produced only one quality NHL player still on their roster; Tomas Plekanec. That certainly would represent some sort of condemnation of the Canadiens' drafting and development over that interval of time.
Kostitsyn does have skills. He's got a good shot that he can get off in tight quarters. He's quick and can be strong on the puck. A consistent, motivated Andrei Kostitsyn with enough ice and power play time looks like he should be a 30-goal, 60-point player. Maybe he could be on another team with the opportunity to concentrate more on offense.
There should be some trade value in Andrei Kostitsyn, though a trouble making under-performer scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year only has so much value.
Still, there are teams he can help.
The best match still seems to be with his brother in Nashville. That looks like the best opportunity for him to put up good numbers and also the best opportunity for the Canadiens to get a player or even a reasonable draft pick in return.