Some early free agent updates … then some time off

Spent much of the past two days talking to as many players as possible as they had year-end physicals and exit interviews. I think I gathered enough information to keep posting  blogs through the playoffs, at least. I did about 24 interviews. That will keep some hockey talk going.

There were a couple of updates I wanted to bring you right away. The Thrashers have nine unrestricted free agents and it appears that Maxim Afinogenov, Pavel Kubina and Colby Armstrong may be the first players they target. GM Don Waddell said Sunday that Afinogenov and Kubina have both expressed an interest in returning. They told me the same thing Monday.

Here is some of what Afinogenov told me: “I really like it here. The whole organization was very good to me. I feel comfortable. I feel like it’s home. I really enjoyed this year here.

“It was a tough situation for me [last offseason]. I know how I can play and what I can do. It was a tough situation in Buffalo (the last two seasons). I never got a chance to show what I can do. I was sitting on the bench all the time. Here they gave me a chance to play all the time and a chance to show what I can do. The one tough thing is we didn’t make the playoffs. That’s kind of tough. I think we deserve to be in the playoffs. We’ve got a good team, a good young team. There is a good future for this team.

“I like it here a lot. We’ll see what they are going to do, but I really like it here. That’s what I told [ Waddell].”

Here is some of what Kubina told me:

“We talked me and Don. I think this team improved a lot from last season. I watched a lot of their games when I played for Toronto. I think this is a totally different team, much better. I like the young players – Bogosian, Little, Enstrom, Kane, Pavelec in the net – you have so many young skilled players. It just takes time. They going to have more experience next season. I would like to come back. I just want a fair deal for myself. It’s part of the business, but I’d like to be back and be a part of this team.”

Also, Armstong said that he was told by associate general manager Rick Dudley to expect a call in the near future.

“I don’t really know what to expect [being an unrestricted free agent],” Armstrong said. ” I’ve never really been in this situation before. I spoke with Dudley the other day. He pretty much said he’d been in touch with us and talking with us. I guess that’s as far as it goes right now. I just wait around and see what happens. They gave me an indication that they were going to get a hold of my agent, so I’ll let my agent handle all that.”

It looks like a couple of Thrashers may be competing in the World Championships – Ondrej Pavelec has left for training camp with the Czech Republic. Afinogenov leaves later this month to join Russia’s camp. Evander Kane will go to camp with Canada. A couple Thrashers declined invitations following the Olympics and/or to heal from injury, including Kubina and Zach Bogosian.

Kubina told me that the Olympics were his last international competition with the Czech Republic.

Don’t forget the NHL draft lottery is tonight at 8 p.m. We’ll see where the first of the Thrashers’ two first-round picks will be.

Also, you should know I have an interview tentatively scheduled with one the Spirit owners, Bruce Levenson, when he returns to Atlanta for the Hawks playoff run.

I’m going to finish up a couple of stories about the roster headed into the summer today and then take a few days off to catch my breath, do some lawn work, wash the pollen off my car, etc., etc., etc.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who reads and posts to the blog. We’ve had some interesting discussions and comments this season. I appreciate your interest in this blog as I jumped into a new chapter of my career and tried to grasp an element of journalism that wasn’t even close to existing when I got into this business. I tried to make the blog informative, passing along information as your eyes and ears at Thrashers practices and games. I hope I did a good job. I think I can do better and that will be my goal next season.

I’m sure there is some reporting on Braves baseball in my future after a get some (note to editors, much needed) time off. However, I will be keeping track of Thrashers news – especially contract situations – over the summer. We’ll see what happens. There could be a lot of change – or perhaps not. I will send out updates on Twitter and notices when I post new blogs – or just check back here.

Thanks again.

60 comments Add your comment

Telfo

April 13th, 2010
9:36 am

nice to see we will have the same writer for more than one season finally!

Joe Friday

April 13th, 2010
9:37 am

I like Kubina’s comments about wanting a “fair” deal. I think he’s going to be re-signed and that’s key.

Joe Friday

April 13th, 2010
9:43 am

“Also, you should know I have an interview tentatively scheduled with one the Spirit owners, Bruce Levenson, when he returns to Atlanta for the Hawks playoff run.”

Chris, please ask Bruce if he knows that his fanbase desperately wants the team the succeed and that the vast majority of us are now “former” season ticket holders because we know hockey and we know that his GM, Don Waddell, is incapable of building a successful team. Please ask him this, you can tell him it came to you as a question to pose from the fans, but please explain to him that we care, we really really care and we really want to support the team financially and to see them succeed. But that our financial support have been withheld from him in an effort to help them see the light that they have to go out and get a real hockey guy to run this club.

It is do-able, hockey can be a smashing success here. They can sell out every night. But the first step must be made to bring in someone from the outside that is experienced and can run a hockey club.

Build it and we will come (back).

Also, Chris, you do a great job this year on the blog and in your reporting. I know you started out slowly not knowing hockey as well and getting back into reporting, but you really did a good job and look forward to reading more of your stuff next year.

RazorCatchPrey

April 13th, 2010
9:45 am

Chris- you did a great job this season, and we should all thank you for it.

Interesting comments from those three. The team needs to make a decision one way or the other about who is going to be managing this team so that whoever it is can get to work on those negotiations. Though the fact that Dudley is the one who spoke to Army makes it sound more and more like he will be the man soon.

foncused

April 13th, 2010
9:47 am

Anyone else reading into the fact that Dudley said they would be contacting Army’s agent and not Don?

Please let there be a change at the top . . . no need to have 2 GM’s on payroll.

Here to some luck in the lottery!

J(Z)

April 13th, 2010
9:47 am

Thanks for all your writing this season C-Viv!!!!! Looking forward to hearing big things in the next few days!!!! I like that Army has been hearing from Dudley and not Waddell. Kinda surprised to hear that Max is interested in staying…glad to hear it. Hopefully it’s not just talk.

Smoothie

April 13th, 2010
9:52 am

Kubes and Max – thanks for your play and hard work this season. And thanks for recognizing the potential of this young team and wanting to be a part of it going forward. But please make it clear to your agents that you are okay with FMV and don’t expect an over-inflated contract simply because you would like to say in ATL.

As for Colby, thanks for your time here and being such a good teammate in the “room”. But its fairly obvious to us fans that you don’t really want to be in ATL. You didn’t ask to be here and we can’t begrudge you for wanting to chart your own path. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors and please refrain from talking too much smack about the Thrashers and their clown and monkey show of an organization.

Stevo

April 13th, 2010
10:01 am

I don’t know why everyone is happy that Don Waddell might possibly be moving to another role in the organization. Even if he moves to the team President role he is still going to have a lot of control on what goes on. I dare say nothing would actually change besides Waddell and Dudley’s titles. I think the same complaints people have now about DW would be heard once changes are made, if any actually are. Don’t make a big deal out of 1) something that hasn’t happened and 2) a situation which may not actually improve how this team is run.

Stevo

April 13th, 2010
10:03 am

One last point I forgot to include, thank you Chris for all your hard work this year. I thought you did a great job of keeping the fans, and other media, updated on what was happening with the team. Enjoy some much needed time off.

Zoomo

April 13th, 2010
10:06 am

Chris, thanks for a great job covering the team. A great upgrade over last year’s coverage. I hope you are back on the beat next year.

Midfield

April 13th, 2010
10:11 am

Chris, could you ask Levenson if Sydel managed to find a Russian investor he was looking for on the SovSport domain? And while at it, whose idea that had been in the first place? As far as I’m concerned, it was the most intriguing, bold and creative move of this ownership in a few years. Too bad that nobody got around to write about in the local media. But thanks anyway.

alex

April 13th, 2010
10:16 am

chris, can you suggest to mr. levenson to take backwith him in d.c. our current gm because he did his job here nicely, is’t capitals gm position open?

Hip Czech

April 13th, 2010
10:23 am

Glad to see Kubina indicating that he wants to stay…sign him!

Mad Max would be an OK signing, at a reasonable price…Armstrong doesn’t seem quite as enthusiastic about staying, I bet if he gets a decent offer from another team he’s gone.

Any chance Little and/or Kane would move to center, depending on whether Slater is re-signed or not? The UFA pool is not overly impressive this year (at least the mid-tier ones which the Thrashers might be able to sign). I think any improvement is going to have to come from within…seems we have some wingers who might be able to step up.

Badger

April 13th, 2010
10:31 am

It is funny that Afinegenov, Kubina and Army all enjoyed their year and see a bright future with this organization. What a change of tune from the rubbish that spewed from Kozlov. I hope all three get a deal done, coaches continue to meld the team together, and the 3.8 million savings from letting Kozlov go are spent on perhaps Ruslan Fedotenko. Better yet, spend half of that money, sign Derek Boogaard, and everyone grows 6 inches. The punch heard around hockey a few days ago will be delivered nightly if required and believe me, the fans will come and so will the wins.

ex-STH

April 13th, 2010
11:00 am

Army didn’t say anything about wanting to comeback. Good ridence to the cheap shot player. He never wanted to be here since day one. Very glad to see Max’s comments about “wanting to come back”. Just hope they are not just words like his fellow Ruskie kept saying all last season before being traded on Feb 4. I think the new coach needs to keep Maxy and Antro on the same line.

East Point Bob

April 13th, 2010
11:00 am

Joe Friday hit it, ask the owner when he is firing Waddell, and if not why ?

chief of smoke

April 13th, 2010
11:27 am

The reallity is Kubina, Max and Armstrong our all good Hockey players that could play on any team in this league. Frankly most of our other UFA’s could not I believe it is real possibility that all of the others including Hedberg and Slater may be gone. I would rather keep Slater than White but White has a contract and Slater does not. We need to get better therefore I support signing all 3 before July 1st.

Hollywould

April 13th, 2010
11:28 am

Chris, Thanks for the info this year.

Jennifer

April 13th, 2010
11:33 am

Chris,
Thanks for all of your hard work this year! It was great to have you on board and we all look foward to having you back next year. Hope to see you at prospect camp.

MB

April 13th, 2010
11:40 am

Badger, I’d pass on Fedotenko. I’ve watched a fair number of Pens games over the past several years (wife’s from Pittsburgh), and to me he’s a poor man’s version of Max. Lots of skill, but he doesn’t seem to do much with it. Doesn’t seem to finish well, fair number of turnovers, and doesn’t win too many puck battles.

I’ll be interested to see which (if any) of these three FAs re-sign with the Thrashers. That would be a really good sign if they see enough here to commit to staying, especially after Kozzy’s comments and our rather inglorious track record of retaining players not named Slater.

TableHockey

April 13th, 2010
11:41 am

ex-STH – I caught the same vibe. I think Armstrong is looking for other options.

I’m stoked that Kubina is interested in resigning – possibly the best blue liner the franchise has ever had. Get it done Dudley!

I would also like to see Max resigned at the right price.

Thanks for all your hard work Chris – I know I saw you every time I went to Duluth. You definitely covered your beat well!

Badger

April 13th, 2010
12:16 pm

MB – like the input but dont you think if he got more pp time and moved up a line he would contribute. I think he will light it up this playoff and his stock will go up which could get stupid. You don’t like the Boogie man theory??

bill

April 13th, 2010
12:20 pm

Chris — Thanks for your coverage this season. Between you and Rawhide, there’s always something interesting to look forward to. Enjoy your time off. Let’s hope for a lucky bounce from the ping pong balls tonight.

GaVaHokie

April 13th, 2010
12:22 pm

Great job this year Chris! Look forward to summer discussions!

It’ll be interesting to see what Max wants… hopefully something reasonable around Kozlov’s salary. I would be okay with resigning Kubina at his current salary with a 10% raise.

I will be completely shocked and floored if Army decides to stay. I just don’t feel it.

Resign Slater, Arty and Popovic to reasonable salaries.

Go after Patrick Marleau aggressively this summer.

MB

April 13th, 2010
12:40 pm

I don’t know, Badger. I’ve been waiting for him to turn it up for years and he just never seems to be able to. I keep thinking that with so much attention being paid to Crosby and Malkin he should be able to flourish, but I haven’t seen it. I’d also be concerned that he’d have more trouble producing here where there would be more pressure on him to do so, but then again he might thrive in that situation. I tend to doubt it, though. Maybe you’re right and he gets going in the playoffs.

As for Boogard, he’s a beast, and he’d probably be something of a draw here. With all due respect to Boulton, not too many teams/players fear him. Same can’t be said of Boogey. He’d be a “nice to have,” but I’m more worried about where our scoring is going to come from next season.

Lot of question marks there…can Antro and Max (if he returns) replicate their career bests from this season…can Little regain last year’s form, or is this season his “norm”…can the D contribute like it did at the beginning of this season, or was that an aberration…and the kids…can Bogo rebound and can Kane and Bergfors avoid the sophomore jinx?

Thank goodness we have Donny Wadds to figure it all out (sorry…I deserve a Kane right cross for that one).

Nate

April 13th, 2010
12:48 pm

Chris –

Can you post me a link to the article you wrote a few months back about the “art of the face-off” please? Thanks!

GaVaHokie

April 13th, 2010
12:55 pm

I’m sure Smoothie would be okay with this Mock Draft… I’d be perfectly happy myself if this were the outcome. Especially based on the other Mock Draft links at the top of the same page.

http://www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=61666

Badger

April 13th, 2010
1:18 pm

Nice MB – maybe it should be called a “Kaneing”!!!! I think the space “grows” out there for Little, Maxi, Peverley,White etc when the Boogie man runs the wing. The D’s contribution will be there if the front end scores just as much as when the fowards help out in the defensive end the goals against will go down. Until the shots per game/goals against go down this trend will continue. Two teams are in the playoffs this year with a minus on goals for/against differential and 12 of the 14 teams that didn’t make it are minus. If you score 500 goals but give up 600 . . . you are golfing early. I agree that Fedotenko would have more pressure in Atlanta. His whole NHL career he has never been in the spotlight . . . Recchi,Leclair, Primeau, Gagne in Philly and Richards,Lecavalier, St. Louis, Modin etc in Tampa Bay and now Pittsburg. I just think he has never been on the front page. I was in Calgary on business when the Thrashers played the Flames. Calgary scored to make it 2-0 and the fourth lines came out. McGratton followed Boulton up and down the ice the whole shift . . . sorry pal thats your time in the program to dance . . . and nothing happened. Boulton’s 600,000 salary could go towards Boogaard. I wonder if Kozlov would have called out his teammates if Boogaard was on that line???? I doubt it.

BG33Brown

April 13th, 2010
1:20 pm

Hokie, thanks for the link however, we will be picking 8th, not 9th as indicated in the link.

GaVaHokie

April 13th, 2010
1:40 pm

Brown… eh, close enough to get an idea of what’s out there. Not sure when they put the mocks together, might have been before final standings… but if you click on Roarke, Kimelman and the other guys on that page, you’ll see everyone has something different.

GaVaHokie

April 13th, 2010
1:41 pm

… looks like they though we’d finish ahead of the Rangers… so that’s the discrepancy.

ChippersLoveChild

April 13th, 2010
1:55 pm

Thanks for the reporting Chris… Now please hit Levenson with some tough questions. Accountability is key as the Thrashers move forward!

Spud Webb

April 13th, 2010
2:05 pm

Love the players comments but I’m not falling for any of this crap!!! I doubt any of the 3 will sign here. Sad. I’ll be happy with Kubina coming back if theres any truth to that!

MakQ

April 13th, 2010
2:21 pm

Thanks, Chris, for everything. Very nicely done. Personally, I am so happy to read that Maxim wants to come back next year. I really hope that we can get the deal done with both him and Pavel, this organization will benefit from having these guys on the roster. Army, I have to agree with everyone else who says he really doesn’t seem like he wants to be here. I hope he lands well but I’d be rather surprised if it is in a Thrasher uniform. I also wonder the same thing about Jimmy Slater, part of me thinks he’ll take a walk, too. Got my fingers crossed.

Tom Lysiak

April 13th, 2010
2:36 pm

Chris, thanks for all the information. Great job.

Interesting to hear Kubes and Max want to return. I guess they didn’t see as big a problem with the system as Kovy and Kozzy did. You would think those two vets, in the twilight of their careers, would be running for the hills if they thought this was a sinking ship. I take that as a sign that they think better things are coming soon. Who knows if that means new GM, new coaches, or some better players? Something makes them want to stay here and it can’t be just money. They will both get that wherever they sign. I hope they will both be signed here soon.

As for Colby, he really seemed to have lost interest this year. It came in spurts, but there was no consistency from him. He makes a lot of money that might be better spent elsewhere, for more production.

Not Blind

April 13th, 2010
2:42 pm

Cooke got KlANEged :)

[...] Atlanta Journal-Constitution [...]

drajax

April 13th, 2010
3:04 pm

Slater was an important part of the team the last half of the season. I appreciated his effort, passing and willingness to go into the corners and take on guys bigger than he was. Could you check on whether the team plans to resign Slater, or whether he wants to go somewhere else?

Ask the question?

April 13th, 2010
3:13 pm

Resign Slater! That kid has heart and is a hard worker. He knows his roll and plays it well. Bring him back.

Ask the question?

April 13th, 2010
3:13 pm

FormerIslesFan

April 13th, 2010
3:14 pm

Chris,

Like everyone else, thank you for all you did this season; and better yet for wanting to come back next year and put up with all of us again! (Any chance we see you at RH’s draft party when it gets set?).

One contract question: Any indication from anyone in the front office as to whether they are even considering buying out White (in the event that a bag of pucks is not available for a trade)?

Brendan

April 13th, 2010
3:15 pm

Great job this year, Chris. Glad to have you, periodically, through the Summer months. I hope maybe to even get updates from you on the Thrashers ownership situation. Tonight at 8PM, on Versus, is the draft.

May the Hockey Gods be kind to Atlanta!!

Smoothie

April 13th, 2010
3:26 pm

For the folks who are questioning whether Jimmy Slater has a burning desire to stay here in Atlanta, please read this very good interview / article write-up featuring Slippin’ Slates himself! Kudos to our very own Feu Rouge for this sit-down with Jimmah!

http://www.sportssoutheast.com/index.php/red-light-report/59-nhl/201-slater-hopes-for-continuity

da 'boomer

April 13th, 2010
4:13 pm

GaVaHokie

April 13th, 2010
4:16 pm

Smoothie… great read, thanks!

GaVaHokie

April 13th, 2010
4:17 pm

Kari Lehtonen, acquired from Atlanta in February, will go into next season as the team’s top goaltender.

Good luck Dallas!

urm...

April 13th, 2010
4:31 pm

Sign Max and Kubina, oh and also Slater.

Flagstaff

April 13th, 2010
4:55 pm

Maybe Antropov could to to Ponikarovsky what Kovalchuk did to him… call him up and tell him to play here.

joedaiceman

April 13th, 2010
4:55 pm

The Thrashers have talent and they have cap room to build a competitve team next year – all the way into the playoffs beyond being red meat in the first round. What we need is coaching/general management that builds a system and discipline that leverages the talent. That we do not have.

I love Jimmy Slater, but he is a role player and he needs to match up with the right line to be effective. He has to step up his game beyond some of the great promise he showed this year, Better finish on his shots, a little crisper passing and for gosh sakes, stay out of fights with Hartnell.

Joe Friday

April 13th, 2010
5:08 pm

“Good luck Dallas!”

No kidding. I watched a game a few weeks ago with Kari in goal and he looked really fat and slow.

That said, watch Dallas develop him and turn him into the goalie we all expected and saw (all too brief) glimpses of.