Tracking the Storm

Kostopoulos Brings Character, Grit

Wednesday, 07.15.2009 / 11:41 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Paul Branecky
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Kostopoulos Brings Character, Grit
When Hurricanes management said that it wanted the team to add some size and toughness over the summer, it wasn’t kidding.

Paul Branecky
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What started at the draft and was followed by a few depth additions last week continued with the signing of former Montreal Canadiens winger Tom Kostopoulos on Tuesday. Kostopoulos’ 106 penalty minutes in 2008-09 were 27 more than any Hurricanes player recorded last season and also marked the third time he’s broken triple digits in that category in five full NHL seasons.

Kostopoulos is a guy that we’ve liked for a long time,” said Jason Karmanos, the Hurricanes’ vice president and assistant general manager. “Our scouts have tracked his career, and he’s definitely a character guy and a versatile guy. He’s the type of guy you need on any winning team, and we’re excited to have him.”

“I’m a good defensive player who can chip in every now and then offensively, and I know they’re going to ask me to bring that physical play as well,” said Kostopoulos.

Besides the physical element, Kostopoulos, 30, was known in Montreal for his outstanding work ethic and willingness to drive to the net. 

“I try to base my game on hard work,” he said. “I don’t do anything flashy. I play hard along the boards and do whatever is asked of me to help the team win.”

That attitude earned him the nickname “Nonstopoulos” from his coach in junior hockey – a moniker that has occasionally popped up throughout his career, including his time with a typically unforgiving fan base in Montreal.

“They usually get on the superstars a little more, so a hard-working guy like myself was usually OK,” he said with a laugh. “It was a really fun place to play.”

Kostopoulos said he was drawn to the Carolina organization for its league-wide reputation for fielding a tenacious team on the ice and for how well it treats its players. He also had encouraging conversations with former Los Angeles teammates Joe Corvo and Tim Gleason, as well as former Hurricane Jeff O’Neill.

“Even before that you always heard things around the league about how well they treat their players,” he said. “I’ve never heard a bad word about the city or the organization.”

Kostopoulos was also pleased with the Hurricanes’ clear desire to add him to the fold, saying that his agent received a call from Carolina in the infant stages of the unrestricted free agency period.

“One of the big points for me is that they called around 12:01 on July 1,” he said. “It’s not always a money thing. Sometimes it’s about who shows the most interest right away.”

For now, Kostopoulos seems set to take over the roster spot held by Ryan Bayda last season, marking the only change among the team’s top 12 forwards thus far. Bayda remains an unrestricted free agent, with a two-way contract from the Hurricanes still available if he chooses to accept it.

He bounces between the third and fourth line and kills penalties,” said Karmanos of Kostopoulos. “He’s a guy that at times can play a larger role and can take on more minutes. He can play in that checking line role as an agitator who gets in on the forecheck, and the good thing is that he’s got the ability to bump up in the lines at times when we need him to.”

The Kostopoulos signing would seem to increase the team’s depth at forward from a season ago, which makes the move a little surprising when considering the more pressing needs on defense following the departures of Anton Babchuk and Dennis Seidenberg.

Filling those holes remains the top priority, as negotiations with a few remaining free agents, including Seidenberg, are ongoing.

“We’ve got a couple of players that we’re talking to now, and if those came through we pretty much feel that would fill out our defense,” said Karmanos.

SCHEDULE

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 77 23 31 -13 54
J. Faulk 82 15 34 -19 49
E. Lindholm 81 17 22 -23 39
V. Rask 80 11 22 -14 33
J. Skinner 77 18 13 -24 31
N. Gerbe 78 10 18 -14 28
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
J. Staal 46 6 18 -6 24
J. Liles 57 2 20 -9 22
J. McClement 82 7 14 -7 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Ward 22 24 5 .910 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 17 6 .900 2.72