Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 07/14/09 at 08:52 PM ET
On Tuesday, the Hurricanes made a surprise announcement that I don’t think anyone in the world saw coming. They have agreed to terms with 30-year old right wing Tom Kostopoulos. The three-year deal will pay the veteran a total of 2.75M. He’ll start with $700k in 2009-10, then $950k in 10-11, and he’ll make $1.1M in the final year of the contract. I’ll go on record as saying that while I don’t know much about Kostopoulos, what I do know is good. Sight unseen, I like this acquisition.
While few will say that this is a bad signing, I think it might have ramifications for Tuomo Ruutu, or more likely, for Patrick Eaves. The Hurricanes haven’t been making much progress in the efforts to get Ruutu re-signed, and he’s scheduled for a July 30 arbitration hearing. Does this mean the Canes have given up on that and they’re planning on “walking away” from the arbitration hearing? Probably not. I think the more likely scenario is that they’re going to give up on Patty Eaves. Perhaps neither of the above.
As of this moment, the team has Tim Conboy penciled in as the fourth line right wing, This scenario hasn’t folded Kostopoulos into the mix and it also assumes that Ruutu will be re-signed. The crowd has gotten a good kick out of Tim Conboy because he’s feisty and a fierce warrior. However, the prospect of seeing him as an NHL regular frightens me. His skill level isn’t quite there, and he’s liable to end up in jail for one dumb thing or another. To tell the truth, he’s a lousy fighter, and that’s supposed to be one of his best assets.
Anyway, back on point… I don’t think the Kostopoulos signing says anything about Toumo Ruutu. It might, though about Patty Eaves. The Hurricanes have been patiently waiting for Eaves to break out. To become a scoring threat. To become a top six kind of player. He made $1.1M in 2008-09, and he’s scheduled to make $1.4M in 2009-10, then $1.7M the following year. This is too much money, and he’s never really found his way here. He came over in 2007-08 in the Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman to Ottawa for Joe Corvo and Patty Eaves trade. Ever since then, we’ve been waiting for Eaves to make good on the enormous potential he has. This was supposed to be the season, but he disappointed us all with a meager 14 (6/8) points in the regular season and three (1/2) in the playoffs. I think, though, it isn’t a statement about Patrick Eaves. The Canes just don’t know what to do with him. Remember the failed Anson Carter experiment? There just wasn’t a role for him to fill either. The Canes might be looking to offer Eaves as part of a package for a veteran defensive defenseman. I hope that Frantisek Kaberle is part of this hypothetical package, but I don’t know who would want to take on both of these overpaid guys.
Kostopoulos has played in 376 NHL games over seven seasons and has scored 105 (40/65) points. Last season, he matched his career high of 22 points by potting eight goals and adding 14 assists. He threw 167 hits, which was second best on Les Habitants, and is an efficient penalty killer. He scored three shorthanded goals in 2007-08 and one in 2008-09. It’s these kinds of things that drew the Canes to him.
Even after coming off a career best-matching season, this signing constitutes a pay cut for Kostopoulos in the first season. He made $900k in each of the last two seasons playing for Montréal. Almost everything I’ve read about him, I’ve seen things like “big heart”, “outstanding work ethic”, “leader”, “excellent teammate”. While this acquisition has its share of detractors, I’m pretty happy with it. We’ll wait until the middle of November before we know for sure, but I think we’ll all be happy with this one when the dust settles.
And if it means the end of Patty Eaves’ time in Carolina, so be it. Nothing against Patty, but he might have a better opportunity somewhere else.
For the record, Kostopoulos wore number six with the Habs. This number belongs to Tim Gleason (unless he decides to change his number for the fourth time already). Previously, Kostopoulos wore number 29 with the Kings and the numbers 36 and 37 for the Pens.
And if I were Chad LaRose or Ray Whitney, I would watch my back. Kostopoulos has a reputation for being a prankster in the locker room. His favorite is to tape a guy’s keys to the inside of his pants pocket.
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David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.