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Habs begin to rebuild, send Kostitsyn to Preds

Monday, 02.27.2012 / 10:23 PM / 2012 Trade Deadline

By Lonnie Herman - NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA, Fla. – The Montreal Canadiens were one of the few clear sellers for Monday's NHL Trade Deadline, and general manager Pierre Gauthier had some pieces for sale.

Andrei Kostitsyn
Left Wing - NSH
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 12 | PTS: 24
SOG: 93 | +/-: -8
But ultimately, Gauthier was only able to unload disgruntled forward Andrei Kostitsyn to the Nashville Predators, and even that represented a challenge.

"It wasn't easy to trade Andrei Kostitsyn," Gauthier said Monday at the team's hotel in Tampa. "When we get to these times we usually evaluate how we are going to go forward, and we thought that going forward he was not going to be part of it. That was our decision and that's why we made the trade."

Kotstitsyn, an impending unrestricted free agent, was sent to the Predators for a second-round draft pick in 2013 and the conditional fifth-round draft pick Montreal had originally sent to Nashville in the trade for defenseman Hal Gill. Gauthier also picked up rugged forward Brad Staubitz off re-entry waivers from the Minnesota Wild.

Gauthier called Kostitsyn a "streaky player" and added that he was "respectful" and proud of having played for the Canadiens, but that it was time to look forward.

Kotsitsyn, a three-time 20-goal scorer, saw his production fall to 12 goals and 12 assists this season and he had fallen out of favor with new head coach Randy Cunneyworth. Kostitsyn was often benched for long stretches of games under Cunneyworth, including Sunday night’s 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers when he did not see the ice for the final 12 minutes of the game in spite of the Canadiens trailing.

TRADE DEADLINE 2012

Kostitsyns reunited in Nashville

By John Manasso - NHL.com Correspondent
The Predators and Canadiens made the first big deal of the day, sending Andrei Kostitsyn to Nashville and reuniting him with his brother, Sergei. READ MORE ›
Gauthier said Kostitsyn's departure will give other players on the roster a chance to shine, including some of the team's younger players. To that end, the Canadiens called up prospect Blake Geoffrion, who was acquired from the Predators in the Gill deal.

"I think with Kotsitsyn gone, it will be an opportunity for people to grow into the role he was playing," Gauthier said. "We look at it from a team perspective. The people that are here can all contribute and it's how you play as a team and how people perform to the best of their ability that will determine that. It's never about only one player.

"We wanted to make sure the team is as competitive as possible, we have to get this team rolling again and get their confidence back again. When we looked at our roster we felt it was important that we felt comfortable with that."

Gauthier had other unrestricted free agents on the roster that may have interested other clubs, but he was unable to find any takers. Defenseman Chris Campoli was thought to be a piece that could be moved, but he remains with the Canadiens for now. Two other veterans, Travis Moen and Mathieu Darche, could have provided some grit to other clubs but both are currently injured and there is a strong belief the Canadiens would like to bring both players back next season.

What Gauthier did accomplish was to add another high draft pick to the Canadiens' stable. Since trading Michael Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames on Jan. 12, Gauthier has added the Flames' second-round pick in 2013 and the Predators' second-round picks in 2012 and 2013, in addition to repatriating Montreal's own fifth-round pick in 2012 from Nashville. Also, prospects Geoffrion, Jon Slaney and Patrick Holland came over in the Gill and Cammalleri deals.

The picks are significant because the Canadiens, and Gauthier in particular, had made a habit of trading away second draft picks in recent years. The result was that the Canadiens have not selected a player in the second round of the draft since 2008, and the past two years Montreal did not make its second selection in the draft until Round 4.

Furthermore, the last time the Canadiens made a pick in both the first and second rounds of the draft was 2007 when they chose New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, current Montreal leading scorer Max Pacioretty and top defenseman P.K. Subban in the first two rounds.

"Our goal is to relaunch this team, starting tonight," Gauthier said. "We've all seen certain signs of frustration and insecurity on our team, and I think with the trade deadline now behind us we can get on with our goal of getting this team back on the right track. Our goal for the final quarter of the season is to get this team playing well and to get each player to play to his potential."

"We wanted to make sure the team is as competitive as possible, we have to get this team rolling again and get their confidence back again. When we looked at our roster we felt it was important that we felt comfortable with that" -- Habs' GM Pierre Gauthier
Gauthier said he was hopeful that Moen and Darche will be back in the lineup soon, and he reiterated the team's intention to play defenseman Andrei Markov as soon as he's fully recovered from a right knee injury that has cost him all but seven games the past two seasons.

Despite the overriding belief in Montreal that the Canadiens will require a long-term rebuild to get back to the playoffs, Gauthier feels that is not the case.

"These days, you're able to rebuild on the fly," Gauthier said. "I've heard people bring that up, but ever since we've been working under a salary cap, that's not really how it works. We've been talking a lot about how we can rebound off a difficult season, and we're not at the end of the season yet, so it's not really the appropriate time to be talking about this. But it's something we feel can happen very quickly."

I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.

— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the OT winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round