David Poile still feels that Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League owes him from what happened five years ago with Alexander Radulov.
Even so, the Nashville Predators general manager has decided to entertain the notion of a loan to arguably the world’s second-best professional hockey league.
Poile confirmed Tuesday that Kostitsyn has explored his options in regard to playing in the KHL in 2013-14 and beyond even though the 26-year-old left wing has one year remaining on the two-year, $6 million contract he signed last offseason.
“There’s only one player that’s ever been able to get out of an NHL contract and that’s been Radulov,” Poile said. “Ever since then we’ve respected each other’s contracts. So Sergei can’t go unless we give him permission. … So we’d have to loan him.”
Such a move would require the Predators to accept a lesser salary cap hit and, therefore, would free up funds to help try and sign free agents or re-sign current members of the roster. His remaining contract year with Nashville would remain valid if he ever decided to return to the NHL.
The free agent signing period begins July 5.
“He has explored some options over in the KHL,” Poile said. “There’s nothing that’s been done or finalized. I’m talking to his agent. So I’m not exactly sure how that’s going to play out, but I know he’s had some overtures from there and we will work this out with Sergei if it’s appropriate.”
Kostitsyn was the Predators’ leader in goals in 2010-11 with 23 and had 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) the next season.
In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 he had just three goals and 12 assists in 46 games despite the fact that he played primarily on the top line and was fourth among all of the team’s forwards in average ice time.
“Three goals on the first line was not acceptable,” Poile said. “… There were other underperforming players, statistically. Maybe it’s time to have a little bit of an identity, culture change. We need to make a little bit of a change in our club.”
Radulov had one year remaining on his entry level contract in 2008, when he signed on to play in the KHL’s inaugural season.
Nashville retained his rights through four full seasons before he satisfied that final year when he played nine games at the end of 2011-12.
“We supposedly have an agreement — I don’t know if it’s in writing — with Russia that we respect each other’s contracts,” Poile said. “This is the after-the-Radulov-situation memo. … If that’s what we and [Kostitsyn] decided it certainly would impact us and give us an opportunity to go in a different direction. I’d like to get that done before July 5.”
• Center Nick Spaling, a restricted free agent, has received a qualifying offer from the team but has opted not to sign it thus far.
He has until July 20 to do so, but if he declines Nashville still retains his rights. He also may elect arbitration, or the sides could explore a long-term deal.
“It’s a negotiation,” Poile said. “It’s the usual. … I hope that we get it done but we just haven’t clicked on it yet.”
The 2007 second-round pick had nine goals last season, one short of his career-high set in 2011-12 despite the fact that he played 30 fewer games. He earned $1.1 million last season in the second year of a two-year deal.
• Two other restricted free agents, defenseman Jonathon Blum and right wing Matt Halischuk, have not been tendered qualifying offers. Poile said the team plans to move on from those two unless something happens before the start of free agency that directly affects the roster and requires the team to reconsider its position.
“Bottom line, we’d like to make a few changes with our roster,” Poile said. “Blum and [Halischuk], at different times, have been really good for us, but I’d probably like to make some changes. … I’m trying to keep all my options open right now.”