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Author: Pat Hickey (The Montreal Gazette)Date: 08/11/2004
Habs sign one Special K: No, not Kovalev. Gainey has praise for top-pick Kostitsyn

August 11, 2004
CREDIT: MARCOS TOWNSEND, THE GAZETTE
Bob Gainey says he's satisfied medication will keep No. 1 draft pick Andrei Kostitsyn's epilepsy problems under control this season.
Bob Gainey has kept a low profile this summer, but the Canadiens general manager has been busy preparing for what he hopes will be the 2004-05 National Hockey League season.

"I don't know if we'll start training camp on schedule next month, but I'm doing everything I can to make this team competitive," Gainey said during an al fresco scrum in the Windsor Court outside the Bell Centre.

Earlier, the Canadiens announced the signing of Andrei Kostitsyn, the club's No. 1 draft choice in 2003 to a three-year contract.

Kostitsyn is not Alex Kovalev, who remains on the Montreal wish list, but Gainey described him as a skilled player with great potential.

Bringing Kostitsyn to North America was a priority for the Canadiens. The team wants him to make the adjustment to a new culture and a new style of hockey as quickly as possible and they also want to monitor his medical condition.

There was a cloud hanging over Kostitsyn last spring because he had a history of epileptic seizures. The Canadiens selected him 10th overall and the feeling was that he was still available because of his health problems.

"He had some seizures when he was here last month for our development camp," Gainey said. "He spent two nights in hospital and he was diagnosed with frontal temporal epilepsy. They put him on a new medication and (team physician David Mulder) believes this will bring his condition under control."

Kostitsyn was a dominant player for the Moscow-based

CKSA junior team, but played sparingly for the main Red Army team. That was because of his health problems, coach Viktor Tikhonov's reluctance to place much faith in his younger players and Kostitsyn's absence to help Belarus win the B pool at the world championship and the world junior championship.

Age won't be a problem for the 19-year-old Kostitsyn in Montreal, where the Canadiens have been stressing youth. While Gainey preached patience, Kostitsyn will be given a chance to make the NHL club, although the likely scenario will have him start in Hamilton if there's a lockout in the NHL.

Kostitsyn had two years remaining on his Red Army deal, but Gainey said he had no trouble securing the player's release.

"They had three or four older players coming back that they had to make room for and they changed the rules so that Kostitsyn would have had to play as a foreign player."

In other news from the Canadiens front:

S Gainey continues to have "light conversations" with Kovalev and his agent. The odds are against Kovalev returning to Montreal and he probably won't sign until there's a sense of what will be in a new collective agreement.

S Alexander Perezhogin, who has been suspended for a year by the American Hockey League, will attend the Canadiens' training camp, although his legal status is still up in the air. Gainey said if the NHL is the only viable alternative for Perezhogin, "we'll make room for him."

S Gainey is confident that he'll work out a new contract, possibly a longterm deal, with defenceman Sheldon Souray. The only other unsigned player is forward Michael Ryder.

Those signings should push the Canadiens' payroll over the $40-million (U.S.) mark. Gainey said he didn't know what effect a possible salary cap would have on the payroll.

"We've been operating on the principle that we're doing what is best for this organization and its fans," Gainey said.

phickey@thegazette.canwest.com

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