Tom Kostopoulos stood in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton locker room and admitted he has moved on from the Game 6 loss to St. John’s that ended the Penguins season.
It’s no surprise, considering that Kostopoulos has a lot to look forward to.
While players spent Thursday cleaning out their lockers and leaving town, Kostopoulos, 35, signed a one-year AHL contract to come back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next season.
It will mark Kostopolous’ seventh season with the Penguins organization in a pro career that has spanned 15 years.
It may also be his last.
“There’s a good chance of that. For this season I kind of wanted to play it like it was going to be my last season,” Kostopoulos said. “That was definitely in the back of my mind and my wife and I talked about it every day. We’ll probably talk about it every day next season.”
While Kostopoulos acknowledged it would be nice to retire with the team that launched his pro career in 1999, he has something bigger to accomplish first.
“I’m thinking about next year and how we can do things differently to go all the way,” Kostopoulos said. “That’s the one thing I want to give back to this city.”
Kostopoulos led the team this past season in goals (22) and points (47). He also ranked third on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 25 assists in 71 games. He is the organization’s all-time leader in games played (406), goals (122), assists (178) and points (300). He is also atop of the Penguins’ postseason lists with 48 points (15G-33A) and 68 games played.
Those accomplishments are only part of the reason why he said it was an easy decision to re-sign with the team. At age 35 Kostopoulos admitted that there likely wouldn’t be a ton of teams knocking on his door when free agents begin signing on July 1.
But more importantly, Kostopoulos considered his family when it came time to decide to come back.
“We all enjoyed it here this year, that was the biggest thing,” he said. “The last few summers have been stressful when you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing. Now, we can get our kids enrolled in school, know where we’re going to live and know where we’re going to be in the fall.”
While head coach John Hynes bid farewell to his players on Thursday, he was happy to know that his captain will be back next season.
“It’s great to have a player of his presence, experience and leadership be able to continue on here in Wilkes-Barre,” Hynes said. “Tom has been great for the young players in this organization and he’s a great person on and off the ice.”
For now, Kostopoulos said he’ll take a week or two to rest and heal and enjoy a summer with his family.
Next season, he may be ready to write the final chapter in a long career that began 15 years ago in Wilkes-Barre.
“With how good this city is and the people are here, and the front office, it’s kind of a neat story to come back and probably finish out my career here,” Kostopoulos said.