Kostitsyn's troubles a mystery to Gagner

 

Oilers centre Sam Gagner can't believe his old London Knights junior linemate Sergei Kostitsyn's NHL career is in the toilet right now.

 
 
 
 
 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Kostitsyn's troubles a mystery to Gagner

Oilers centre Sam Gagner can't believe his old London Knights junior linemate Sergei Kostitsyn's NHL career is in the toilet right now.

Gagner says the enigmatic Habs winger, who was sent to Hamilton for lacklustre play, then bolted the AHL club this week until being convinced to return, didn't take a back seat to anybody in junior -on the skill or work scale. He probably has to play on a team's top two lines in the NHL, but he's got the talent and the aggression to do it. He's dying to get traded. "One night in junior he ran over (feisty) Steve Downie," said Gagner. "He can play the power play and he can kill penalties. He would play the whole five minutes (London) if the other team got a major penalty, then if we got an infraction right after, he'd play defence."

Halak's stock on rise in Montreal

A goalie controversy is a GM's best friend. Like in Montreal where backup Jaroslav Halak, again, is pushing Carey Price, the nominal starter. Habs coach Jacques Martin may not know whom to play and when, but GM Bob Gainey must be licking his chops. Gainey can get something nice for Halak, who is only 24, and the likely Slovakian Olympic starter. He's in a much better place than, say, GM Bob Murray in Anaheim who has the much cheaper Jonas Hiller outplaying the $6-million J.S. Giguere. Tough trading guys making that kind of dough.

Del Zotto makes waves in New York

John Tavares and Victor Hedman got all the hype on draft day -who was going No. 1?-but the best rookie in the first month might be Rangers defenceman Michael Del Zotto, who is quarterbacking the power play in New York and playing 15-1/2 minutes a night. Del Zotto, who turned 19 in June, was the 20th player picked in 2008. He dropped back from being a top-10 choice; the knock was he was a little risky as a junior, but he's got big-time talent and good size (six-foot-one, 200 pounds).

"When I was in New York last year (in camp), I told our guys this kid would play the next season. He's a great passer, great scope to his game, and he's got some bite. He's not afraid to step into people and battle," said former Rangers coach Tom Renney. "This is a kid who's not going to the minors." Del Zotto wasn't invited to Canada's junior camp in the summer, long before he started starring with the Rangers.


This 'n' that

The Sens haven't had high-end goaltending for years but Pascal Leclaire is doing a bang-up job and they are over the moon for their second-round draft in June, Swede Robin Lehner, who was terrific in camp and is playing in Sault Ste. Marie. Lehner is so good, they might deal young Brian Elliott next summer... Rob Schremp was a healthy scratch this week for the first time since getting picked up on waivers by the Islanders, but got a reprieve in Montreal on Thursday when Doug Weight was sick and he got back into the lineup. Schremp only played 6:15

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Hall had more sense than dollars

When I hear players today grousing about losing 13 per cent of their paycheques into escrow, I think of Glenn Hall, one of the greatest goalies and maybe one of the 20 best players of all time.

"One day I was over at Glenn's house and he had written out in pencil how much he had made every year. It added up to $461,000. His whole career," said Carolina's head of pro scouting Marshall Johnston, the former general manager of the Ottawa Senators.

The minimum salary in today's NHL is $500,000 a season.

Plenty of interest in enigmatic Frolov

If the Los Angeles Kings are lukewarm to unrestricted free-agent winger Alex Frolov, about 20 other teams will gladly take him off their hands.

Big forwards, even ones who may be a little enigmatic, are hard to find.

The Nashville Predators are dying for Frolov but they only have defence-men (like Dan Hamhuis, maybe) to deal, and the Kings have solid top-four blue-liners with Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, Rob Scuderi and Jack Johnson. The Kings are looking for a 50-point No. 2 centre behind Kopitar. I think they see Jarret Stoll and Michal Handzus as both being very good No. 3 guys.

I also know the Edmonton Oilers were sniffing around Frolov last trading deadline but were rebuffed.

I don't see the Kings moving him until closer to the deadline this season.

Blackhawks have goaltending issues

The Chicago Blackhawks are close to a juggernaut except in goal; Cristobal Huet has management gnashing their teeth. If he keeps struggling mightily, they may put him on waivers and send him to Rockford of the American Hockey League, eat the $16 million left on his contract and deal for somebody cheaper. There's a list of possibilities.

Kari Lehtonen of the Atlanta Thrashers would be worthwhile at $3 million if the pain in his legs goes away after surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.

Chicago could also try for Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens, or one of Martin Biron or Dwayne Roloson when Rick DiPietro rejoins the New York Islanders.

Huet, who is no spring chicken at 34, was a bad signing, some would say, a signing pushed by team president John McDonough, who wanted to make a splash in 2008.

"You can win a Stanley Cup with a good goalie, not a great one, but you'll never win one with an average goalie," said one longtime NHL executive.

against the Habs.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Hall had more sense than dollars

When I hear players today grousing about losing 13 per cent of their paycheques into escrow, I think of Glenn Hall, one of the greatest goalies and maybe one of the 20 best players of all time.

"One day I was over at Glenn's house and he had written out in pencil how much he had made every year. It added up to $461,000. His whole career," said Carolina's head of pro scouting Marshall Johnston, the former general manager of the Ottawa Senators.

The minimum salary in today's NHL is $500,000 a season.

Plenty of interest in enigmatic Frolov

If the Los Angeles Kings are lukewarm to unrestricted free-agent winger Alex Frolov, about 20 other teams will gladly take him off their hands.

Big forwards, even ones who may be a little enigmatic, are hard to find.

The Nashville Predators are dying for Frolov but they only have defence-men (like Dan Hamhuis, maybe) to deal, and the Kings have solid top-four blue-liners with Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, Rob Scuderi and Jack Johnson. The Kings are looking for a 50-point No. 2 centre behind Kopitar. I think they see Jarret Stoll and Michal Handzus as both being very good No. 3 guys.

I also know the Edmonton Oilers were sniffing around Frolov last trading deadline but were rebuffed.

I don't see the Kings moving him until closer to the deadline this season.

Blackhawks have goaltending issues

The Chicago Blackhawks are close to a juggernaut except in goal; Cristobal Huet has management gnashing their teeth. If he keeps struggling mightily, they may put him on waivers and send him to Rockford of the American Hockey League, eat the $16 million left on his contract and deal for somebody cheaper. There's a list of possibilities.

Kari Lehtonen of the Atlanta Thrashers would be worthwhile at $3 million if the pain in his legs goes away after surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.

Chicago could also try for Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens, or one of Martin Biron or Dwayne Roloson when Rick DiPietro rejoins the New York Islanders.

Huet, who is no spring chicken at 34, was a bad signing, some would say, a signing pushed by team president John McDonough, who wanted to make a splash in 2008.

"You can win a Stanley Cup with a good goalie, not a great one, but you'll never win one with an average goalie," said one longtime NHL executive.

 
 
 
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