Off the Top of My Head: Klim Kostin to Detroit, Connor Brown lands in Edmonton, and Jesse Puljujarvi

Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
9 months ago
As odd as it might sound, I see the loss of RFA Klim Kostin, the big winger with the big personality, being more significant to the Edmonton Oilers than that of Kailer Yamamoto, the other player sent to the Detroit Red Wings for future considerations — otherwise known as cap space — by GM Ken Holland Thursday.
Anybody paying attention has known for a long time Yamamoto was the likeliest bet to be moved along because Holland needed cap space and the willing but diminutive five-foot-eight, 155-pound forward wasn’t productive enough to justify a contract that was paying him a salary of $3.1 million for one more year.
After scoring 20-21-41 in 2021-22, Yamamoto got into just 58 games last season, producing 10-15-25. Simply put, he couldn’t stay healthy. I’m not convinced that will change. The kid has a big heart in a small body. Wear and tear on guys like him can add up fast – especially if concussions are involved. I’ve seen it happen a time or two. I consider it a win by Holland he managed to free up cap space without having to throw in a sweetener.


Dec 30, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Klim Kostin (21) punches Seattle Kraken forward Brandon Tanev (13) during the third period at Climate Pledge Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
Kostin, 24, earned a big raise on the $750,000 he was making by adding plenty of edge to the 11-10-21 he scored in 57 games after coming over from St. Louis. It’s not a deal Holland could afford with more ink to get done for Evan Bouchard and Ryan McLeod. Kostin had the KHL as leverage, and that came into play.
“I talked to Klim Kostin’s agent multiple times,” Holland told reporters. “I really was negotiating against the KHL. I knew we weren’t going to be able to find a way to keep him, so I obviously had to trade the player. Steve Yzerman was really interested in Klim Kostin . . . obviously, $3 million for Yamo, I had to get some money off the cap.”
His offensive production aside — bumped by a 19.6 shooting percentage — Kostin’s willingness to impose his physical will on opponents is what made him valuable because the Oilers are a bit light on that dimension against big, robust teams. Kostin, who got two years with an AAV of $2 million from Detroit Saturday, can be replaced, but he was a pleasant surprise and a good fit.


Sending Yamamoto and Kostin to Motown adds to a connection between the Oilers and Red Wings that goes well beyond the four seasons Holland has spent calling the shots as GM in Edmonton. Most of those connections we know. 
I noticed another Wednesday when former Oilers’ defenceman Greg Hawgood took the stage with the Red Wings contingent after the selection of Nate Danielson with the ninth pick. I’d lost track of Hawgood, an amateur scout, after so many years.
Hawgood, 54, only played 55 of his 474 NHL games with the Oilers, but I met him when he was playing for Ken Hitchcock with the Kamloops Blazers in 1985-86. Hawgood, from Edmonton, was an offensive dynamo — he had consecutive seasons of 119, 123 and 133 points with the Blazers. The 133 points still ranks fifth-highest for a single season among WHL defencemen.
Anyway, it was good to see Hawgood on stage (fourth from the right) with former Oiler captain Shawn Horcoff, now an assistant GM under Steve Yzerman. Daniel Cleary is the director of player development in Detroit.


Lukas Dragicevic, who has a local pedigree, was available when the Oilers opted to take Beau Akey 56th from the Barrie Colts. Lukas went to the Seattle Kraken one pick later.
Dragicevic’s dad Milan was a defenceman who made stops with five different WHL teams 1986-90. Before he went to the Dub, he spent 1985-86 with Sherwood Park Crusaders in the AJHL. Milan was a tough player, but he was never drafted.
When his playing days were done, Dragicevic went on to coach the Drayton Valley Thunder of the AJHL and he was named first coach of the Vancouver Giants in 2000. He spent 2002-2014 coaching the UBC Thunderbirds. 


Oct 5, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Capitals right wing Connor Brown (28) on ice prior to the Capitals’ game against the Detroit Red Wings at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Count me among those who didn’t think Holland had any chance of signing Connor Brown, who spent three seasons as a teammate of Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters, but he pulled it off with a one-year deal with a base salary of $775,000 bolstered by another $3.25 million in potential bonuses. It helped that McDavid sold the move and played a part in getting him here.
Even coming off knee surgery (ACL) that limited him to four games with Washington last season, Brown is a great bet at that price – he made $3.6 million last season – to add some pop to the right side on one of the top two lines. Big win for Holland.

AND . . . 

I’ve opined a time or two Jesse Puljujarvi would be out of the NHL and playing back home by next season, but the news on Thursday he’s had double-hip surgery for the second time and wouldn’t be qualified by Carolina is just brutal.
Puljujarvi, selected fourth overall by the Oilers in the 2016 Entry Draft, just turned 25 in May, Here’s hoping for a full recovery and a chance to get back on the blades again.

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