Back on the tenth of April the Atlanta Thrashers finished off their 2009-10 NHL campaign with a 1-0 win over the then-defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Looking forward, on October 8 they will open the coming season with a home game against the Washington Capitals who have won the Southeast Division three years running.
This means that in just a few days, we in Thrasherville will be right at the midpoint of our offseason…the Thrasherville solstice, as it were…marking the time equidistant from the end of the season last spring and the beginning of the new one this fall.
So where do the Thrashers stand at this sort of milestone in the middle of summer?
First off, three Thrashers RFAs filed for arbitration prior to Monday’s deadline…Clarke MacArthur, Ben Eager and Andrew Ladd. Last season these three players earned $1.4 million, $1.0 million and $1.6 million respectively.
Eager and Ladd have yet to play a single game in a Thrashers uniform, having recently been traded for from Chicago. MacArthur came this way last March 3 from Buffalo in exchange for a third and fourth round draft pick.
It should be noted that no player in the franchise’s history has ever actually gone to an arbitration hearing…settling instead before getting the third party arbitrator involved. Just last season Colby Armstrong filed before agreeing to a one-year, $2.4 million contract. So we’ll see if Rick Dudley can continue that trend by getting them to put ink to paper in the coming days.
With that…and with the dust settling a bit from last Thursday’s start to UFA signing season…the Thrashers currently have the following players under contract.
Forwards: Nic Antropov, Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, Todd White, Rich Peverley, Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn.
Defensemen: Ron Hainsey, Tobias Enstrom, Johnny Oduya, Zach Bogosian, Brent Sopel and Boris Valabik.
Goalie: Chris Mason.
Those player’s salaries bring the Thrasher cap hit to right at about $35 and a half million.
If you add in last year’s pay of the those who filed for arbitration as well as RFAs Bryan Little, Nic Bergfors and Ondrej Pavelec… that would add another $7 mil-plus to the payroll and bring the total cap number to just shy of $43 million.
It would also bring you to the exact number needed to ice a squad…12 forwards, 6 defenders and a pair of goalies. Toss in…say… an Arturs Kulda, a Patrice Cormier and a Spencer Machacek to round out the roster and now you’ve got players on the ice and healthy scratches in the press box.
You’d also have a payroll at about $45 million…give or take… and would leave Dudley and the Thrashers about $14 million below the cap. Of course, once we know what the RFA contracts are worth, those numbers will surely adjust.
As for putting together lineups from that list of players…rubbing chin, adjusting glasses, tapping pencil on desk…I guess up front you could do something like Bergfors-Antropov-Little…Kane-Peverley-Byfuglien…Ladd-Slater-MacArthur…and Eager-Cormier-Thorburn. This would allow White and Machacek to sample the press box buffet spread. Maybe Machacek could play his way into the lineup and then we would see MacArthur park himself next to Todd.
Looking at that… I would really love to have Maxim Afinogenov back.
On defense, well…Hainsey-Enstrom…Oduya-Bogosian…Sopel-Kulda with Boris upstairs. I think the young Kulda would benefit greatly working with the veteran Sopel.
And finally…prospect camp at the Thrashers practice facility in Duluth will open up this Thursday and run through Tuesday the 13th. Here is a list of those expected to participate as well as the schedule. The on-ice sessions are open to the public and admission is free.
UPDATE 7/6 9:45 pm: Eric Boulton re-signs with Thrashers…one year deal at $650,000. Last season he made $600,000. That’ll shuffle my projected lines a bit, eh?