As I’m sure you all know, the Thrashers have a fair amount of pending unrestricted free agents on their roster. Given the fact that we are now in late January, the time is drawing near for the organization to decide whether to retain their services beyond this year…or to ship them off at the deadline.
And given that we have an Olympic break scheduled between now and the official trade deadline, chances are good that we could see teams pullin the trigger on deals in the next couple of weeks…as well as the first week of March.
Therefore, this weekend’s assignment for you is to review the list of those in Thrasherville whose current contracts expire this summer and are able to swim in the NHL UFA talent pool, then…acting as the team’s cyber-GM…let us know if you would attempt to re-sign the player or ship them off for something in return.
And with that, let us begin…
Total Voters: 214
Colby Armstrong: Doesn’t seem too that ago we were welcoming this guy to town along with Erik Christensen, does it? Now, if he’s dealt away in the next few weeks, all we have to show for the trade that sent Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis to Pittsburgh two years ago will be a prospect playing at Michigan State, (Daultan Leveille selected with the Penguin’s 2008 draft pick), a prospect playing in the OHL, (Eric O’Dell who was acquired when Christensen was traded to Anaheim), a prospect who was playing with the Chicago Wolves before suffering his second ACL injury in as many years, (Angelo Esposito)…and whatever we get in return for Army.
Someone want to tell me again how Waddell procured the proverbial “king’s ransom” for Hossa?
Armstrong has 8 goals, 9 assists and is a +3 in 49 games played this season. His current contract pays him $2.4 million.
Rawhide’s take: He’s probably traded at the deadline, if not just before the Olympic break.
Total Voters: 213
Pavel Kubina: Last summer, long-time Thrashers defenseman Garnet Exelby was traded to Toronto in exchange for Kubina…both players had one year left in their contracts and there were a couple of prospects also involved in the deal as well. It was, IMHO, one of the better transactions Don Waddell has made in his 11-plus years as the organization’s GM. Kubina has been a very solid, dependable blueliner for the team and his physical presence is something we’ve not had the pleasure of seeing in the parts too often. But, seeing that he’s going to be 33-years of age on April 15, the question for the team is whether or not a blueliner of that age would be of benefit given some of the prospects waiting in the wings.
Kubina has 5 goals, 20 assists and is a +8 in 49 games played this season. His current contract pays him $5 million.
Rawhide’s take: Tough call, however I wouldn’t mind seeing him back for another year…but at a considerably lower price.
Total Voters: 205
Johan Hedberg: Ah yes…the Moose. He is as dependable a back-up goalie that any team could ask to have. He’s in his fourth season with the Thrashers and has a record of 46-39-11 while in Atlanta. On May 5, the Swede will turn 37-years of age and with the ultimate return of Kari Lehtonen the team will have three goalies in which to chose from. Is Pavelec returning to Chicago…or traded? If so, then we return to the Kari starter/Moose backing up role. Or, is it more likely that Anderson and Company have seen enough of Opie to at least let him remain to back up Lehtonen? The third option is putting the oft-injured Kari Lehtonen on the trade blocks…but if there’s one thing we’ve learned in 50 games so far this year…Opie isn’t just quite ready to carry the load full-time and Hedberg is a career backup for a reason.
One last note about Hedberg…he’s the only one of the three with a winning record since the beginning of the last season.
Hedberg is 10-8-3 with a .913 SV% and 2.60 GAA to go with one shutout. His current contract pays him just over $1 million.
Rawhide’s take: Given Pavelec’s better-than-thought showing this year, and Hedberg’s age, I think the days of the Moose are numbered in Thrasherville. But I’d love to see him remain as a goalie coach for the team.
Total Voters: 214
Maxim Afinogenov: The $800,000 spent on Maxim Afinogenov has been money well spent, I believe. Last summer, after a disappointing end to his time in Buffalo, he came to training camp on a professional tryout and played his way onto the squad. Not too many people doubted his skating abilities or his talent potential…but the big question circling over Afinogenov was if he could actually finish plays as well as he started them. Well, let’s see… in 50 games so far he has ten more goals than he scored last season in 48 games and has six more than two seasons prior when he played in 56 games. His career-high in points…73 in 2005-06…could very well be matched this season. Oh, and he’s second in overall points with 42.
Again…he’s been well worth the short-term investment thus far. Question is, would he be worth keeping for another 2 or 3 years at a higher price?
Afinogenov has 16 goals, 26 assists and is a –8 having played in all 50 games. His current contract pays him $800,000
Rawhide’s take: I’d have him back in a heartbeat, but he may opt to test the free agent waters. This is especially true if one Mr. Ilya Kovalchuk isn’t around here nest season.
Total Voters: 206
Slava Kozlov: First off, let me just say that Slava Kozlov is…and will always be considered…one of my all-time favorite Thrashers players. He has provided 6-1/2 seasons of quality service for the Thrashers since joining the team in 2002. Prior to the 2006-07 season, he agreed to remain in Atlanta for another three years. He’s a class act and nothing short of a professional. That be said…I just don’t see how the Thrashers can bring Kozlov back after this campaign. He will be 38-years old in May and his play has shown it this season. His –14 rating the second lowest on the team…Todd White is a –15.
I have long-since held the opinion that if the Thrashers do indeed re-sign Kovalchuk, Kozlov’s $3.6 million salary will simply be diverted to the captain’s ledger in order to pay for the raise.
Kozlov has 8 goals, 15 assists and is a –14 in 50 games played. His current salary pays him $3.67 million.
Rawhide’s take: After this season, I believe the next time we’ll see Slava Kozlov on the ice for the Thrashers is when he watches his #13 jersey raised to the rafters.
Total Voters: 205
Jim Slater: The first round draft pick…30th overall…of the 2002 NHL entry draft has seen most of his playing time on the fourth line. However, he has been getting more and more time playing up…and this is a good thing. He is nothing but all out hustle and effort night in and night out. Since being the last off Schnide Island…well, besides Valabik who was injured for half the season…he’s made up for lost time, scoring four goals in his last nine games. He has nine points and is a +3 in that stretch of games dating back to the 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh two and a half weeks ago.
Slater has 5 goals, 3 assists and is a –2 in 29 games played. His current salary pays him $840,000.
Rawhide’s take: Yeah…sign him. This team needs as many players that give 110% every night that they can get.
Total Voters: 202
Eric Boulton: Boulton is as close to an enforcer as they have. He’s not afraid to drop the gloves to protect a teammate…or simply infuse the team with some much-needed energy. The fourth-line winger was the 234th overall pick by the New York Rangers in 1994 and has been with the Thrashers since 2005. Prior to that he played 172 in four seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. By the time next season comes around, Bolts will turn 34-years of age…so that might be a small concern for some.
Slater has 2 goals, 6 assists and is a +1 in 42 games played. He also leads the team with 75 PIM. His current salary pays him $600,000.
Rawhide’s take: Unless there is a plan to replace his toughness…better keep him around.
Total Voters: 191
Mark Popovic: Popovic is in his second tour in Thrasherville after playing 44 games here between 2005 and 2008. He was invited into training camp last summer where he impressed the coaching staff enough to make the team. Pops is currently on IR nursing an injured foot and hasn’t played since the 5-2 loss in Toronto back on December 7. He’ll be 28-years old next October.
Interesting little stat here…the Thrashers are 11-4-2 in the 17 games Popovic has started and 11-17-5 without him out of the lineup. You can make of that what you will.
Popovic has 2 goals, 1 assist and is a –4 in 17 games played. His salary currently salary pays him $600,000.
Rawhide’s take: Eh…I can go either way with this one. But his return could depend on where certain prospects are in their development.
Total Voters: 194
Christoph Schubert: The Thrashers picked up Schubert when Ottawa was trying to slip him through waivers and has recently been placed on IR with a lower body injury. The 6’-3”, 230-pound German does seem to fit in well with Anderson’s system as he’s a defender who loves to join in the attack. In fact, if need be, Schubert can fill in on the wing. Like Kubina, his physical size makes him a presence the Thrashers have lacked for so long…and when he uses it to his advantage, it’s a very good thing. Personally, I’ve liked the pairing of Schubert with Boris Valabik. His attacking play allows Boris to remain back and concentrate solely on defense. The big problem with Schubie is the untimely penalties as he has raked up 63 PIM in the 44 games played so far.
Schubert has 2 goals, 5 assists and is a –7 in 44 games played. His current salary pays him $441,667.
Rawhide’s take: I’d like to see him back for another season or so.
Total Voters: 218
Ilya Kovalchuk: Yeah…I saved this one for last. Look, we’ve discussed this one ad nausea. He’s the team captain, leading scorer and the current face of the franchise. To listen to Waddell and Kovalchuk, talks are still ongoing and both parties are continuing to strive towards a deal that will keep the prolific scorer in Atlanta for years to come. He was the overall number one pick in 2001, became team captain a year ago and the Thrashers have stated to Kovy that this team is to built around him. Could he get his money elsewhere? Oh sure…that’s never been a question. Could he even wear a ‘C’ for another team? I’m sure that is possible. But where else is he going to go in which the team was “his”? I don’t know if that’s going to happen outside of Thrasherville.
However, as long as professional players are compensated at such high rates, superstar franchise players of all sports will move from team to team. If Kovalchuk does…he won’t be the first and he won’t be the last. Also, many feel that since he hasn’t signed already, then he’s as good as gone…and as such, the team needs to move forward with shipping him out seeing that they can ask for a “king’s ransom”.
A “king’s ransom”? Hey wait a second…haven’t we seen this movie before?
Kovalchuk has 30 goals, 26 assists and is a +2. His current contract pays him just shy of $6.4 million.
Rawhide’s take: I still believe the best outcome to the Kovy contract talks is that he’ll re-sign here. But if the rumored reports are true that he isn’t coming off his demand for max-dollar, (appx. $11.3 per season), then I would suspect he’s gone.
I just hope that in seeking the “king’s ransom”, Don Waddell doesn’t wind up looking like the court jester.
And finally…there are three others on the payroll scheduled to be UFAs. Steve McCarthy, Josh Gratton and Noah Welch. You may opine as to their status as well.