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.