Andrei Kostitsyn had 15 goals and 33 points in 59 games for Montreal last season. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
No matter how well they get along during the course of their lives, invariably, there are moments when brothers need to be apart.
Sometimes just a brief separation is all that’s required for both parties to restore proper perspective with regard to the perils of things like flinging food across the dinner table or having the living room couch double as the top rope in a wrestling ring.
Other issues require a more divisive wedge.
If Sergei Kostitsyn had his way, 2010-11 would be the second season he and brother Andrei played apart. After being sent to the American League to start last season, Sergei asked the Montreal Canadiens to trade him and most assumed the organization would be only too happy to oblige.
But, to the surprise of those same people, Sergei ultimately reported to the Hamilton Bulldogs and was up with the big club after 16 games. He showed glimpses of genuine desire while playing in Montreal, but also battled injuries and by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was back in his familiar K-9 quarters, taking in all but five of Montreal’s 19 post-season games as a scratch.
A relationship that was destined to be severed got its necessary slice when Sergei was traded to Nashville in late June for the rights to UFA goalie Dan Ellis and RFA Dustin Boyd. (Ellis bolted for Tampa, Boyd will likely play on Montreal’s third line this year.)
Now we’ll find out if a little distance can help both Kostitsyns. An SI.com reader asked Allan Muir if obtaining Sergei could be a potential coup for cash-strapped Nashville. Muir aptly pointed out the 23-year-old has 60-point talent buried somewhere under a butt-punting attitude. He also noted Predatorville isn’t populated with passengers thanks to the no-nonsense approach employed by coach Barry Trotz.
Basically, Muir surmised it’s a risk worth taking for a budget-conscious team that’s short on skill, but that nobody would be surprised if another NHL team is citing the same reasons for signing a 24-year-old Sergei next summer after the Preds decide the one-year, $550,000 contract they gave him this off-season was enough of a sample size to cut ties.
In Montreal, 25-year-old Andrei is entering the final year of a deal that pays $3.25 million annually, leaving him eligible for restricted free agency next July. It’s hard to know how much his brother’s antics impacted him over the years, but one can only assume he could have done without the extra attention.
Andrei has it in him to make 25- to 30-goal seasons his standard. His wicked shot, which he still doesn’t use enough, assures that.
And don’t be fooled by their fun little ride to the East final; the Canadiens, who finished tied with Toronto for 25th in the league with 2.56 goals-per-game last year, are in desperate need of more offense. Right now, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri are the only Montreal players anybody would dub a top-six forward. That leaves them two wingers short of being a two-line team.
Andrei fills one of those slots on the nights he plays to his potential. If he doesn’t do that consistently this year, he may have the option of re-uniting with his brother in the event they’re both looking for new homes next July.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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