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.