The 35-year-old Russian, arguably the most attractive forward left on the free-agent market, signed an US$11-million, three-year deal to stay with the Atlanta Thrashers after apparently getting a look from Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
“I appreciated the offers from the Canadian teams, but I wasn’t looking to move to Canada,” Kozlov told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.
His son is a prodigious tennis player so Atlanta is a much better fit in that regard than the Great White North. Kozlov also loves playing for Thrashers head coach Bob Hartley.
“Atlanta was always at the top spot on my list,” said Kozlov, who also drew interest from the Dallas Stars. “I know there was crazy money in this market this year, I got a few offers, but I was always looking to come back to Atlanta. I’m very excited, it’s a great organization, I have a lot of respect for both Bob and (GM) Don (Waddell).
“I’m very happy it worked out.”
Day 4 of NHL free agency also saw the Calgary Flames, as expected, lock up two of their core players a year before they could have tested unrestricted free agency. Captain Jarome Iginla signed a $35-million, seven-year extension while top defenceman Robyn Regehr signed for $20 million over five years. Both are signed through the 2012-13 season.
And both could have arguably signed for more money next summer on the open market, but they’re happy right where they are.
“It’s a big decision for a player and his family, but I think if a player has a good situation and they’re happy, the grass isn’t always greener,” Iginla said on a conference call. “You talk to some guys that have moved, some of them wished they hadn’t moved.”
Regehr wanted to remain part of what he believes is a Cup contender.
“I think we’re very capable of winning it all here,” he said, later adding: “I don’t think there would be any other place to go.”
Vesa Toskala also didn’t feel like moving going into his first season in Toronto, so he signed an $8-million, two-year extension with the Maple Leafs on Wednesday that will kick in after his first season with the team. Like Iginla and Regehr, he would have been unrestricted after next season.
“I think it’s a great chance for me here,” Toskala said. “That’s why it was good to get this done soon so now I can turn my full focus to getting in the best possible shape and be ready when the season starts.”
Toskala, who will earn $1.375 million next season, was acquired from San Jose on June 22 along with forward Mark Bell from San Jose for a package of draft picks.
In Buffalo, the Sabres re-signed unrestricted free-agent defenceman Teppo Numminen to a $2.6-million, one-year deal. The 39-year-old had 29 points (2-27) and a plus-17 rating in 79 regular-season games last season while providing a steadying influence on and off the ice for the young Sabres.
In other moves Wednesday:
-The New York Islanders signed unrestricted free-agent winger Ruslan Fedotenko to a $2.9-million, one-year deal. The 28-year-old had 32 points (12-20) in 80 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season.
-The Montreal Canadiens signed checking forward Tom Kostopoulos to a $1.8-million, two-year deal. Kostopoulos had seven goals and 15 assists in 76 games last season with the Los Angeles Kings.
-The Edmonton Oilers re-signed defenceman Matt Greene, 24, to a two-year deal. The six-foot-three, 223-pound American had 10 points (1-9) in 78 games last season while also leading the team in penalty minutes (109).
-The Tampa Bay Lightning acquired defenceman Bryce Lampman from the New York Rangers in exchange for winger Mitch Fritz.
-The Flames also signed unrestricted free-agent forward Grant Stevenson to a $475,000, one-year contract. The native of Spruce Grove, Alta., had 39 points (14-25) in 59 games with Worcester, San Jose’s AHL affiliate, last season.
But the biggest name to leave the market Wednesday was Kozlov, who recorded a career-high 80 points (28-52) in 81 games with the Thrashers last season, his fourth with the team.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Kozlov said. “It was a big year last year making the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. And I believe it’s a great group of players in the locker-room. It’s also a great city with great fans. So I decided to finish my career there.”
Senators GM Bryan Murray confirmed his team was interested in Kozlov’s services but fell out of the bidding fairly early.
“The money was too high for me to compete with,” Murray told CP.