The Atlanta Thrashers came to terms with RFA Andrew Ladd on a 1-year $2.35 million deal Thursday. This signing takes care of the one remaining player of the three that had filed for arbitration this summer. Just the evening prior it was announced that Ben Eager had accepted a 1-year $965K deal and last week the Thrashers balked at the $2.4 mil salary that was awarded to Clarke MacArthur.
Also last week they signed goalie Ondrej Pavelec to a two-year contract worth a total of $2.3 million. Earlier in the month we learned that Eric Boulton had accepted a one-year deal worth $650,000 while Jimmy Slater signed for two years at $1 mil per. The big UFA acquisition so far this summer came on July 1 when Chris Mason was inked to a contract that will dish out $3.7 million over two seasons to the netminder.
Are you sensing a pattern here?
Every Thrashers player that has come to terms on a new contract this summer has done so for either one or two years. New Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley has yet to commit more than that to any player since taking over the job last spring.
I use the word “yet” because it’s still yet to be determined what terms RFAs Bryan Little and Nic Bergfors will accept…plus there is still plenty of time left for another UFA signing or two. But don’t be stunned if any future deals follow the same path as the ones we’ve seen so far…one or two years, nothing more…as Dudley and Co. seem very leery of committing long term to anyone as they move forward with the latest Thrasherville reconstruction project.
So if Maxim Afinogenov is looking for a long-term contract, this would explain why he’s found all offers from the Thrashers “unsatisfactory”.
Now, this bucks the trend of the last few offseasons in which the Thrashers did indeed commit to long-term free agent signings…each one generating mixed results.
Last summer it was forward Nik Antropov agreeing to a four-year contract that hit the cap at just over $ 4 mil per season. I think it’s safe to say that his 24 goals, 67 points +13 showing more than justified his salary and terms.
The year prior had defenseman Ron Hainsey riding in to town thanks to a deal that will pay him $4.2 million through the 2012-13 season. In the two seasons he’s already spent here he’s only missed one game and is a –22 in that time while contributing 11 goals and 54 assists. While he has been a good addition to the blueline, there is still a debate as to whether or not his play equates to his pay. I’ve read comments about Hainsey that range from “trade his butt outa here” to “slap a C on his jersey”.
And then there is the much discussed, much debated and much maligned signing of center Todd White in 2007. His 4-year contract that will pay him a total of $9.5 million will end after this coming season. And unless I havegrossly misread the mood of Thrasherville, that day cannot come soon enough for most.
So, maybe Dudley is just a tad gun-shy to over-commit to anyone for fear of tying another Todd White-esque anchor around the organization’s neck.
Another reason for all these short-term deals may also circle around the notion that it allows both the Thrashers and the player try each other out…get a feel for each other…before deciding one way or the other. Also… and let’s just be honest with each other here…it isn’t as though star players are beating down the door to grab their share of the great Thrashers’ winning history. And unless and until a string of playoff runs are actually put together, the Thrashers are going to have to overpay for talent and/or accept players that are only willing to commit to one season here. It’s an “it is what it is” situation.
That being said however, I think what we are seeing has more to do with Rick Dudley’s stated strategy of not bogging the system down with veteran players to the point where prospects are not able to find an opening on the roster once they have ben properly seasoned. That logic seems fairly sound when you have such promising youngsters that are in the pipeline like Patrice Cormier, Arturs Kulda, Paul Postma, Carl Klingberg, Fredrik Pettersson, Alexander Burmistrov, etc.
The flip side of this one/two-year strategy, though, is that the Thrashers could be looking at quite a turnover in personnel over the next 24 months. Of the players currently on the Thrashers payroll, five are slated to become UFAs next summer and another four will be RFAs, including Zach Bogosian. In 2012 Evander Kane and Ondrej Pavelec will become RFAs while Rich Peverley, Jim Slater, Johnny Oduya and Mason will become UFAs. This means that until we learn the terms and duration of the Little and Bergfors deals only Antropov, Hainsey and Toby Enstrom have contracts past the next two seasons.
As for the most recent signings, consider Ben Eager will only be 27-years of age next summer and if he proves himself worthy of re-signing Dudley will be competing with others to keep him. And if a pending RFA like, say, Andrew Ladd has the type of season many feel he can, what is it then going to cost Dudley to re-sign him next year as a 25-year old RFA?
Given that, the Thrashers current course of action naturally causes concern given the Retention Deficit Disorder that has plagued them for the past decade. Obtaining talent around here hasn’t been a problem. Keeping it… well that’s a different story.
Regardless of the rhyme, reason or ramifications, when it comes to player contracts it looks like the Thrashers and their new GM are content to take things one year at a time…maybe two.