Thrashers’ Mid-Summer Progress Report

Ah yes…early July. And with it comes the heat and humidity that we’ve all come to know and love during this time of year. But what this part of the summer also mean is that we’ve officially reached the mid-point of the Thrashers’ offseason.

Yup, three months ago they closed out the 2008-09 season by spanking the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 and three months from now the puck will drop on the tenth season of Atlanta Thrashers hockey.

Another item that comes with this time of year is that teams are shaping and forming their rosters via UFA signings and player trades. To that measure, Don Waddell has been a busy little camper lately in his role as Thrashers’ GM. So let’s take a quick moment to recap what has happened so far…and speculate on what may be in store for us between now and the start of training camp.

First off, back on June 8, the team announced that it had re-signed Marty Reasoner to a 2-year deal that would pay him $1.2 million this season and $1.1 the next…and the news was greeted with a great deal of approval.

Sure…it was almost a given that Waddell was going to be able to get the solid, hardworking and popular center back in Atlanta for another tour of duty given the fact that Marty had made his desire to return clear last spring. However, I do give Don props for the type of deal that was worked out. The length of the contract is about right…though some might say three years would have been better…but the price was right too. I was guessing Reasoner would go from $1 mil in salary to about one and a half per season. That’s not a big difference mind you, but every little bit of savings in today’s day and age is always a good thing.

Also inked to a deal was young blueliner Anssi Salmela…acquired last March from New Jersey for veteran defender Nic Havelid. In the few games he played here, he showed some very nice flashes of the type of play we could see from this kid in the coming years.

Oh, and remember that goal he scored against the Caps…sa-WEET!

Just a few weeks back came the surprising news that Waddell and the Thrashers had gotten Rick Dudley to come to Thrasherville as the new Associate General Manager. This, of course, was met with the speculation that maybe…just maybe…Dudley’s future here would see him drop the “Associate” from in front of “GM” and Don Waddell would drop the “GM” from his title and focus full-time on the “Executive Vice President” title.

If that will indeed happen, only time will tell.

Then came the draft of June 26…and the selection of Evander Kane with the fourth overall pick. This too was a very popular move with the Thrasher faithful. However, the entire draft was a very successful one in my opinion. It seems as though some pretty good talent was injected into the system.

And the fact that not one of them registers even an inch below six feet tall doesn’t hurt matters either.

But before the hype and chatter regarding the draft could even simmer down for a moment, UFA signing season was upon us…and the first two days of July brought with them even more good news from the Thrashers front.

On Wednesday, there was the trade that sent Garnet Exelby to Toronto in exchange for Kubina…a veteran defender but not too old. And even though a lot of fans were sad to see such a favorite of the Thrashers’ community leave…it was a move that improved the team. And, to that matter, it was a good move for Toronto as well seeing that they got a serviceable defender in return and they were able to take the money saved to bring in Michael Komisarek.

So this was one of those deals in which both teams should benefit from.

And while we were still wide-eyed and had jaws agape about that deal…just the very next day we learned that Nik Antropov had agreed to a 4-year, $16 million deal to play in Atlanta. And, much like with Reasoner, Waddell was able to procure the forward for less than some might have thought it would take to do so given that Antropov reportedly was asking the Rangers for a 5-year contract that paid in excess of $5 million per season.

Personally the $5 mil price tag would be more than I would have paid for him, but the general consensus in these parts is that Waddell would have to “overpay” for any decent talent to sign here. But 4-years at $4 mil per really isn’t really “overpaying”…is it.

So, given all that, what would I have to say about how this offseason has shaped up so far?

Nice…very nice indeed!

But there is still remains some work to do over the course of the next several weeks. To begin with, Colby Armstrong and Kari Lehtonen are still in need of contracts. But I look for these to happen sooner rather than later.

*EDIT: Shortly after posting this I learned that Army had elected to file for arbitration.

Oh…and let’s not forget this Ilya Kovalchuk character that is slated to be a UFA in twelve months. Obviously, this is the big task on Don’s “To-Do” list, and will remain so until it has been taken care of…whether this summer or during the course of the season.

So…what comes next?

Does Don tap into the goalie depth to bring in another top-line player to round out the squad?

And what about the buzz regarding Atlanta’s interest in Alex Tanguay and Alex Kovalev? Does Don have another surprise in store for us?

Well…I guess we’ve got the second half of the offseason to find out.

76 comments Add your comment

Alan

July 6th, 2009
11:29 am

At RW Maxim Afinogenov

I’m sorry, I had to stop reading here.

Max would make our team weaker, I think. One could argue that he had an off year and has injury problems, but he’s also softer than a pillow display at Bed Bath and Beyond.

I’ll pass. If Kovalev is too expensive to acquire, then I think our team is about as good as it will get in the off-season, and we should start looking forward to camp and pre-season.

ranallo10 (in AT)

July 6th, 2009
11:36 am

That’s 5 games for Mr. Buzilla in CT…

from Toronto, with Love.

July 6th, 2009
11:43 am

Good Luck w/ Kubina and Antropov.
Kubina in Toronto has been less than stellar. At 6+ feet he’s a big lad, but doesn’t really throw his weight around all that much…as for Antropov, I for one, am glad to see him gone from the Leafs. 10 years of inconsistency, injuries and not really a backbone to speak of, for someone 6′6…
Evander Kane = excellent pickup in the draft…I was immensely impressed by his grit during the World Juniors.
Marty Reasoner = bit of a Pylon…but for 1.2 mil a season, can’t be any worse than Antropov.
Kari Let-it-in = let him go…he’s proven he doesn’t have what it takes to compete consistently in the NHL. Sell him to Charles Wang for 5 BILLION dollars.

Brendan

July 6th, 2009
11:57 am

If Pavelec wants out, (but I don’t really know that’s the case,) then I think Atlanta should accommodate him*. The asterisk reflects a provision. The provision is as follows. We don’t GIVE HIM AWAY. Need I remind anyone that Atlanta passed on Setoguchi, Staal, and Kopitar to get Pavelec. Allright then. I don’t think players the caliber of Setoguchi, Staal, and Kopitar can be found in the exchange for Pavelec, unfortunately. As Rannallo (in AT) might say, “The market for goaltenders isn’t very high right now.” If Pavelec is set free, it can’t be for a song. We’ve got to get something of VALUE back for him.

Personnally, I wouldn’t trade Pavelec. I’d continue to develop him, giving him 30 starts this season. More if Lehtonen gets hurt. And if Pavelec wins the starting job, I’d try to lock him up with a proactive contract in January or February of 2010. If Pavelec came to me, privately, and requested a trade, I’d try to find something that makes sense for Atlanta. If Pavelec went running to the media, Dany Heatley style, I don’t know that a GM can find the best possible deal for him. If Lehtonen came to me and requested a trade, I’d also try to move him. But again, I’m not giving him away. He’s a former 2nd overall pick. I’ve got to get a top prospect or a proven player, whose rights I’d control for a number of years.

Who’s the backup goalie in Chicago, behind Huet? (Khabibulin re-signed in Edmonton.) If they don’t have one, or they do, but Moose is an upgrade to that goalie, then Chicago is a place I’d try to shop Hedberg. And if their tender offers controversy persists, I’d definitely try to package Moose. Though, they’d ask for Pavelec. Would Cam Barker for Pavelec be an acceptable tradeoff for the Blackhawks?? Pavelec and Huet could be a nice combination for the Blackhawks moving forward.

Buzilla in CT

July 6th, 2009
11:57 am

ranallo10 what am I getting 5 games for?

Spud Webb

July 6th, 2009
12:16 pm

Alan, agreed, please don’t sign Max. I’ve written it a few times, he is the human turnover, can’t finish a think, holds the puck, looks pretty, skates it around, then turns it over.

ranallo10 (in AT)

July 6th, 2009
12:19 pm

You said “sloppy”, that’s three games minimum.

Buzilla in CT

July 6th, 2009
12:21 pm

I bet it’s like throwing a hot dog down a hallway at this point with Ms. Bauer

World Be Free

July 6th, 2009
12:50 pm

From Toronto-

Like most free agents, Kubina had a big, black X on his head when we arrived in Toronto. Leafs’ fans were skepical of his signing from day one. He’ll be asked to play his game in Atlanta, similar to the way he played in Tampa.

I ask you-has anyone been popular in Toronto the last 4 years? You guys have traded just about anybody, or wished to trade everybody out of town, with the exception of Luke Schenn.

Smoothie

July 6th, 2009
12:56 pm

Much rather have Tanguay than Kovalev at this point, injury risk and all. When healthy, Tanguay is capable of scoring at a .9 pts / game clip which is pretty darn stout. Plus, Tanguay is listed as both a LW and a RW so I’m sure he could adjust. Hell, Kozlov certainly could play RW if asked to play with Kovy.

Kovy — Pevs — Kozzy

Tanguay — Little — Antro

via trade for White — Marty — Army

Boults — Slater — Crabb / Thor

No need to get our hopes up though as I don’t see the ASG ponying up an additional $4 M for any guy named Alex if they are seriously close to bringing back Mike Bibby for the Hawks. They will surely have to overpay to retain Bibby and that will mean the Thrashers go no higher than $47 or $48 M.

Alan

July 6th, 2009
1:02 pm

I’m fine with a $47m-$48m internal cap, though, considering the economic forecast. I don’t think we’ve even seen the full extent of the storm, so to speak, and the salary cap will almost assuredly fall next year.

We stay at $48m, and we’ll be near the cap ceiling next season, as opposed to hovering near the cap floor..

R. Stroz

July 6th, 2009
1:24 pm

Hockey Biltong – You’re right, I forgot about the 1.167 million due $hitnik. So between the Kozlov and $hitnik money coming off the books, which amounts to about 5 million, those funds could be allocated for Little and Peverley.

Smoothie – Kubina’s salary is going to be the BIG question mark. If Kubina plays well, the Thrashers have to decide whether to keep him and at what price. I don’t think the Thrashers will, or should be, willing to pay Kubina 5 million/year on an ongoing basis. So if the Thrashers decide to keep Kubina, the question becomes what salary to pay him and the length of the contract.

frosty the snowman

July 6th, 2009
1:25 pm

I dont think these moves are going to drastically improve the thrashers. Antropov is not a top line guy, he is a 2nd line guy.

Glovesave29

July 6th, 2009
1:26 pm

But on the other hand, do we take advantage of this final season at the higher cap? What if we do bring in a few more players with one year deals, and we have a really good team that can make the playoffs? Players see that Atlanta is a great place to play and to live, and we get in the position to get the “hometown discounts” that some teams already get. Players that have been media targets up north, who cannot enjoy a simple meal at a local restaurant without being pestered by fans – I think a season here might be enjoyable (Marty Reasoner obviously thinks so) with some February golf and affordable housing.

Alan

July 6th, 2009
1:29 pm

Affordable housing is right. Especially on the south side. Driving down some neighborhoods, it’s like there’s more foreclosed homes than there are homes with occupants. :P

That said, I don’t see us in a position to rent a few players. Especially with roster spots pretty much written in stone at the moment.

Spud Webb

July 6th, 2009
1:30 pm

Frosty, you don’t think a top 4 dman and Nik are going to help the Thrashers? What team have you been watching??

Adam

July 6th, 2009
1:41 pm

Alan – Ok I can see the points with not going after Max, but that’s why I said incentive base contract. But what about Kotalik?

Smoothie

July 6th, 2009
1:42 pm

Stroz, it will certainly be interesting to see how Kubina performs in Thrasher blue. But considering his 32 years, paucity of + seasons as an NHL blueliner and presence of D-man talent in our prospect pipeline (Kulda, Lewis, Postma etc), he will have to score at least 40 points, hover right around break-even in +/- AND bolster our lousy PK in order to have any hopes of garnering $4 M + on the open market. In my opinion, I see this as a one-year gap plan to take some of the pressure off Bogosian and give time to our prospects in Chicago to develop into NHL talent. I really see Anssi Salmela as our next Top 4 D-man playing alongside Hainsey in 2010-11. My prediction:

Bogey / Enstrom

Hainsey / Anssi

Kulda / Valabik / Lewis

I don’t know why DWad doesn’t seem keen on keeping Oystrick around for depth, but perhaps he wants to let Nathan try to crack the Top 6 somewhere else. I just hope he doesn’t sign with a divisional rival like Carolina who will need to sure up their blueline.

Tony C.

July 6th, 2009
2:09 pm

What’s kincade’s email? I can’t call from the office-I definitely want to give X the big ups he deserves-classy guy making a classy move by “officially saying goodbye”. I’ll miss the guy-I hope he gets the flu when we play the buds.

Rawhide

July 6th, 2009
2:12 pm

:!: 2009 PRESEASON SCHEDULE RELEASED!! :!:

Sorry to cut this blog short…but I’ve just posted a new one about the 2009 Preseason Schedule that has just been released.

Six games, three at home as well as 2 prosepct games at the Dulth Ice Forum!

from Toronto, with Love.

July 6th, 2009
2:13 pm

World Be Free -
We didn’t have a GM until this year..JFJ messed about everything possible up ! Remember our Secret Weapon the last time we made the playoffs? Calle Johanson..fresh from a tour of duty behind a desk somewhere..!
Atl is definitely on the right-track in terms of personell…hope you guys get something done this year, ie: 2nd round :)

R. Stroz

July 6th, 2009
2:15 pm

Darren

July 6th, 2009
3:03 pm

Antropov may or may not be a top line guy, but it’s not like Kovalchuk’s been playing with an elite center for years anyway. That’s the guy Kovy wanted, and that’s the guy Kovy got. Besides, that’s not to say that Peverley and/or Little couldn’t continue to develop into more of a classic, 1st line-type of center in the next couple of years.

WBF’s also right; there aren’t many players fans in Toronto *would* be happy with, so it’s not unexpected that both Kubina and Antropov got run out of town. I did see Antropov when he visited Nashville, and he was a difference-maker the entire game. Granted, Nashville’s got a tiny team, but still. Kubina’s acquisition has Dudley’s influence all over it, in my opinion, even if it is several years removed from his Stanley Cup season. If Dudley thinks he’ll help, I believe him.

For what it’s worth, I think he’s more well-rounded than Exelby on both ends of the ice, so it’s not like he’s a step down for who he’s replacing.

World Be Free

July 6th, 2009
3:19 pm

Toronto-the Leafs’ biggest problem is that they do not have a clear cut owner/president. Who is running the show? There are so many chefs in the Leafs’ kitchen. Not sure Burke is going to sift through all the BS to straighten things out.

Yup, JFJ really messed things, but only to a point. Toronto fans were after him to resign Brian McCabe and that’s what he did. Then they all realized that McCabe was a one dimensional defenseman that wasn’t worth the money he received!

Toronto fans booed him when he returned last year, which made no sense. All McCabe did was agree to the money he was offered, never bad mouthed Toronto and never wanted to leave town.

The Mats Sundin screws the Leafs out of a high draft pick and prospect, leaves them high and dry for Vancouver. Then Sundin gets a standing ovation when he returns! Even Bozo Cherry figured that one out; he’s the dumbest person on 2 feet!

Harold Ballard must be laughing in his grave. This is the same team that screwed Punch Imlach after he won them 4 Cups!

World Be Free

July 6th, 2009
3:21 pm

Toronto-thanks for the good wishes too. I hope Toronto improves as well. Leafs’ fans deserve better. They are the best fans in hockey.

Jameson

July 6th, 2009
6:56 pm

I think it’s been a good off-season so far, and I happen to win the Kovy signing sweepstakes, it’ll be a Trahsers’ Mid-Summer KNIGHTS Dream. Sorry, I try not to yell Knights, but sometimes, I just can’t resist.