Do the Thrashers still need another top-six forward?

I’m quite sure that upon reading the question posed in today’s header, most of you already answered the enquiry out loud. And I’m certain it was phrased something like… “Do we need another winger for one of the top two lines? Well, yeah…DUH, Rawhide”!

Nik Antropov scored 24 goals for the Thrashers as the top-line center last season (AP Photo)

Nik Antropov scored 24 goals, 43 assists and was a +13 as the Thrashers top-line center last season (AP Photo)

Uh-huh…and maybe there were a few other special words strategically placed as well.

But let’s take a look at this for just a second. Right now the top two lines that could be rolled out October 8 could possibly consist of Nik Antropov centering Nic Bergfors and Bryan Little as well as Rich Peverley in between Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane.

So…which one of those players isn’t worthy of top-six status? I’m sure that debate will be waged in the comment section below.

Regardless, there are a couple of issues here to take into consideration. First of which is that Bergie is still yet unsigned. When the RFA and the Thrashers will come to terms is anyone’s guess. Then you also have the whole “Byfuglien could play on defense” thingy that’s been floated out there by Mr. Dudley. Take either of those two players out of the equation then I join the chorus of those calling for a deal to bring in another winger.

Could Andrew Ladd be called upon to fill a possible void if Bergfors holds out? Sure, sure. The former Blackhawk has netted 32 goals, 87 overall points and was a +28 in the past two seasons in Chicago. As an added bonus, he’s played in all 164 games during that time as well, so health issue doubts don’t circle around him.

Boris Valabik may find the Thrashers blueline too crowded if Dustin Byfuglien plays defense (AP photo/Gregory Smith)

Boris Valabik may find the Thrashers blueline too crowded if Dustin Byfuglien plays defense (AP photo/Gregory Smith)

But I’m looking for Ladd to join Slater and Fredrik Modin/Spencer Machacek/Fredrik Pettersson on the third line, depending on who impresses most during training camp and preseason. If so…coupled with a possible fourth line of Patrice Cormier, Ben Eager and Eric Boulton…then your odd man out might just be Chris Thorburn, who could then be used as trade bait.

Now, if Big Buff is tapped to play back, then that creates a bit of a crowd on the blueline. He would join Ron Hainsey, Toby Enstrom, Zach Bogosian, Johnny Oduya, Brent Sopel and Boris Valabik there. That’s seven, leaving no room at the inn for Arturs Kulda.

I don’t know about you, but I want Kulda up here this fall.

Somehow, I think Dudley and Co. do too. If Byfuglien does indeed wind up joining the Thrashers’ defensive corps, I would imagine it was because the team was able to package up Valabik with [insert name of any of the handful of two-way players that have been acquired recently here] to bring in that much sought after top-six forward.

I’m not ‘down’ on Boris, mind you. I see a lot of upside to his game…heck, there is a lot of up side that comes in a 6’-7” 245 lb frame. Plus, he’s also cut down on his propensity to commit the untimely penalty. During last year’s injury-shortened season, he earned 36 penalty minutes in 23 games played, (1.56 PIM per game). This is an improvement on the 2.64 PIM per game the year before that and 6 PIM per game during seven games played in the 2006-07 season.

Do the Thrashers need to add another top-six forward to the roster?

  • Yes! They're doomed without it (53%, 80 Votes)
  • Maybe. If the price is right (41%, 62 Votes)
  • No! They look good 'as is' (6%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 150

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But if given the choice between Valabik and Kulda right now…I’d choose Kulda.

So returning to the question of if we need another top-six forward, my answer is “it depends”. If a deal could be made to procure one at the cost of a Boris Valabik and/or Chris Thorburn along with…oh, say…a Nigel Dawes or Patrick Rissmiller type of player, then I think Dudley would entertain the discussion. Same true if a deal can be worked to ship Bergfors to a place he’s be happy to ink a deal with in return for a signed winger of similar quality.

But if any the price is too high… I’d venture to guess they’d keep Buff on the forward line while Kulda and Valabik compete with Freddy Meyer to round out the seven man defensive group. Then allow prospects like Cormier, Machacek and Pettersson to do battle with Dawes for the remaining spots on the forward lines.

That should make for a very interesting training camp.

181 comments Add your comment

Russian

September 11th, 2010
9:10 am

I heard a rumor that Berg will sign with Atlanta very soon. Deal will be done at Wednesday. My friend from Canada sent me a text message this morning. I hope he is right.

alex

September 11th, 2010
9:57 am

like everybody don’t like buff. move. i think after some time ram. going to correct this. unfortunatly it’s take a lenhtly losing streak to change wrong decision. hope it going not to late still to fight for playoff spot. on the other hand, remember last season how many game thrashers lost because not show up to play for 60 min. how many game we lost by 1 goal. sure if not ja, but ram. coached last year we been in playoff. my point: last year roster been good enought. in my opinion with this year roster need coach hero to be in playoff (out kovy, kubina, max, army, art. in buff, ladd, eager, sopel) also don’t forget, if ram coached last year no kozzy frustration and benching occur.

kracker

September 11th, 2010
10:51 am

That is perfect, Russian. Bergfors’ agent has pushed this far enough. I hope Nic has been working out in Sweden.

Alan R.

September 11th, 2010
11:21 am

That was a nice find, Stroz. Marketing 097. That’s all that is. I’m glad someone else took notice of it, and how no one is really getting all butthurt over it.

Brendan

September 11th, 2010
1:21 pm

Tom, I’d say you’re correct in thinking that Bogosian’s ultimate destination is the top pairing for defensemen, even if he doesn’t start out the year that way. Could Big Buff be a top pairing minutes guy? Shrugs. I don’t know. I want to see him play defense first. I trust Craig Ramsay to do what’s right. Dudley may be high on Byfuglien playing defense, but that’s not a GM-decision to make. It’s the GM’s job to get the players. I personally think that the coach should be consulted before the GM goes to the store to shop for the ingredients. Dudley disagrees. In Dudley’s view, “I go shopping. The cook prepares the meal based off what I brought home, without complaint.” But in the end, where and how to utilize players (cooking the meal) … is a decision … made by the Head Coach (chef). We won’t know if Byfuglien on D is the right thing … until we see how it works out there on the ice. If it isn’t working, I think pig-headed pride has to waltz out the door, and Byfuglien put back as a Top Six forward. That’s how I see it. It’s more important to win, than it is to be right.

World Be Free

September 12th, 2010
9:17 am

A bunch of teams needs to dump salary in the next week or so. The Thrash are at the minimum, even when they sign Bergfors. Something has to give.

Getting a big chuckle out of the people in Quebec, all the “passion” for landing another NHL team after letting the Nords leave tow without a wimper. The Quebec Government is willing to bankroll the arena, which makes no sense for a province that’s a financial mess. Kind of reminds me of Hamilton 25 years ago, building Copps Coliseum without a commitment for a team. Then the Hamiltonians turned around and blamed everyone in the world for not getting a team while they sat there with a white elephant arena which is now outdated.

Another season of Canadians crying, bitching and moaning about teams in the south that should be in Canada, at least in their little minds.

Badger Bob

September 12th, 2010
10:07 am

Regards from the Great White North. The Nuck fans out here are thinking they are this years Blackhawks, loaded to the point that someone should just mail them the Cup. Meanwhile, my Calgary friends are actually more interested in talking Thrashers than Flames – that’s unprecidented! Apparently, in Dudley they trust as well.

My trust would increase with one more legit top-6 forward, but don’t want Duds to deal as if he’s the one in need. It needs to be a very sweet salary dump move from BOS or NJ with us only giving up depth prospects (Bergeron’s still my fav). Otherwise, go to camp, let Rammer’s system take hold and let the younguns batte it out.

World Be Free

September 12th, 2010
12:42 pm

Badger-I’d take Bergeron in a heartbeat-
No idea why Canucks want to dump Bieksa, I like his game.
Dudley in Calgary, yup good, knolwedgeable hockey people know a winner when they see one and they have had enough of Sutter.

Don Fehr = work stoppage

Brendan

September 12th, 2010
1:13 pm

Joe Friday suggested Marc Savard. I definitely think he could help tremendously over the next two seasons. I’m concerned, however, about a contract that pays him until he’s 40. And, perhaps falsely, I fear Savard might mail it in, if the Thrashers aren’t committed to going deep into the playoffs. Savard’s already on his “final” contract. It’s done. It got grandfathered in. Marc is just playing for the love of the game, at this point. Whereas, Travis Zajac has 3 more years to go, then he needs a new contract. So, he can’t phone it in for 3 years in Atlanta. He’s got to produce. Blake Wheeler, as suggested by Smoothie, is also intriguing. Bieksa is worth considering, but I’m not gung-ho on that one, either.

Folks, I want to speak to negative-outlook people for a moment. Yes, this ownership is lacking. We’ve talked about it ad nauseum. But Dudley’s influence over Waddell is winning out some. Dudley is smarter than Waddell. He’s better than Waddell in every aspect. This year, which is Year Four of a 4-year project, the entire approach will be different. Anything different is GOOD. You really shouldn’t look at this team as the most pathetic in the NHL. It’s not. It won’t be in the lottery draft. It may not be in the playoffs, but moving in a BETTER direction is better treading water. This team should be close to .500 this year. But, for once, we’ll have a TEAM CONCEPT. That NEVER happened under Waddell. So, don’t plan parade routes, but neither should you think this is the “same ol’ Thrashers.” It isn’t. It might a while for all the new faces to gel, and for line combinations to sort themselves out, but we will be a TEAM this year. A TEAM. Not a smattering of coddled superstars. If you went to zero games last year, go to two this year. If you went to five games last year, go to 7-10 this year. If you went to 10 last year, go to 15 this year. Dudley and Ramsay aren’t losers. They want to win. They know the score. Of course they do. They know it’s an uphill battle. But don’t let the away team goals cause Philips Arena to erupt in applause. Give the home team … an advantage. They desperately need some support. Try to forget who owns the team. Try to realize that all the players and coaches and the GM staff … are trying overcome that problem, too. They’re trying. They have limited resources, but they’re trying. I can’t tell you this team won’t finish 12th in the East. They might. But they’ll come by the points they get this year, honestly. Harpooning them won’t help anything. One day, it will come to pass … that free agents will return our calls, because we’ve built a winner. It’s a rung the ladder. It’s a process. This year … is another step on the ladder, towards the top. You never know … at season’s end, this ownership could be gone, and replaced by another. And this team will have some decent young prospects and the budget room to make it better. Maybe even a very nice spot in the draft, to deal as well, for a proven star.

kracker

September 12th, 2010
1:30 pm

Don Fehr = work stoppage. We hope that is not true.

World Be Free

September 12th, 2010
1:56 pm

kracker-me too.
But I am a huge baseball fan, one that has not forgiven players and owners from the 1994 debacle. I still go to games and support the Braves, but I know the players and owners back in ‘94 did not care about the fans. Today, Fehr leads the NHL players; I suspect he will have the same contempt for hockey fans as he did for baseball fans.

Brendan-Savard will not be leaving Boston, his contract works for the Broones. Bergeron is in the last year of his current deal, as is Chara. Z will get his contract and Bergeron will get the door, Boston will not have the money to resign both players next summer. I like Savard too, but he has a NTC and left here for reasons, I doubt he is ready to come back.

Red Light

September 12th, 2010
2:49 pm

Not so sure about that WBF. Chara is 34 next March and if he wants the same compensation next year as he received during the life of his current deal, then I’m not sure Chiarelli will pay it. After all, that’s another Albatross contract unless it’s for two years. If they let Bergeron and Chara walk, they’ll have cap flexibility and it’s not like they won anything with Chara!

kracker

September 12th, 2010
3:11 pm

The 94 bb strike left me never feeling the same about baseball. I guess I can survive another hockey strike/lockout.

Midfield

September 12th, 2010
3:54 pm

Brendan,

unfortunately, promises of the better future has warned thin in this market. I agree with you that the team cannot be successful without being a “team” in this day and age. However, for most fans here, the same spot at the end of the season – whatever the concept is – will spell out nothing more than frustration. There probably won’t be too many “pretty” goals to enjoy while at it either. Waddell’s continuing presence in the office does not help with the perception either. So, the way I see it, it’d better be some upgrade up front. As of now, I just don’t see enough scoring capacity, whether team concept or not.

World Be Free

September 12th, 2010
4:51 pm

R/L-I did not realize Chara was going to be that old! Still, I think the Brunes will give him what he wants, the Brunes fans would burn the place down if he walks. He’s a heck of a defenseman, another brilliant move by Mike Milbury.

kracker-it was tough for me to go back to baseball after the 1994 work stoppage. I was not living here at the time, in a non-MLB city. So there was a curiousity about having an MLB team in my town. Fehr had alot to do with that work stoppage, as he might if we have one oin the NHL. He’ll have ruined 2 sports.

EB

September 12th, 2010
4:52 pm

No way do I want Slater on the third line, he needs to get back to the fourth line where he belongs and let the bigger, younger Cormier join the third line with Ladd and Modin which could be a very strong line for us this season. Slater can skate with Bolts and Thor/Machacek. Now that Ramsey has confirmed Big Buff will be a defenseman, it’s a must that we sign a top six forward AND sign Ice Berg to a long term deal asap!! We could have a very solid top six group with Ice Berg, Antropov, Little, Kane, Pevs, and a 20-30 goal scorer addition. Hopefully Klingberg, Esposito, and our newest center (the Burmese Python) can be that guy for us soon but more than likely not this season.

EB

September 12th, 2010
4:57 pm

I would LOVE to see Bergeron in a Thrashers jersey as a top six guy for us for sure, if we could make a deal with the Bruins!! He can not only kill penalties but also help the PP and has the skill set we should covet at this point. He would help us offensively but also play solid defense, which is a must for any addition we make imo!

kracker

September 12th, 2010
5:56 pm

How do all y’all that are more closely following NE hockey than me feel anout Patrice’s noggin? Is it sound? Bergeron, I mean. There’s no way to really know for sure, is there?

World Be Free

September 12th, 2010
6:05 pm

kracker-it’s a crap shoot, especially the way the kid plays, just like Savard.

kracker

September 12th, 2010
6:22 pm

Yes, World, a crap shoot. I suppose the team doctors would have some idea. He did pass the tests to play again so it is not like he was playing while still overtly diminished. And he did put up some pretty good numbers for the Bruins last season, only missing some time with a hand injury.

Smitty

September 12th, 2010
8:31 pm

I have my doubts in regards to Bergeron and Savard due to the concussions. It seems the second concussion comes along easier than the first. I had two concussions in my younger life. One in a car accident and the second one came about two months later during a lacrosse game after a routine hit against the boards.

I have been a Sabre fan since their inception into the NHL and I have been a STH for the Thrashers since day one. If that does not prove my brains or what is left of them have been scrambled, I do not know what will.

SomaAtl95

September 12th, 2010
8:43 pm

Just remember that potential changes and key additions/subtractions could happen all the way to the first puck drop.
Thank you, drive through.

Jack

September 12th, 2010
8:45 pm

That would probably be a key factor why the Bruins are having an issues getting what they want for Savard. Concussions kill careers.

DT

September 12th, 2010
10:30 pm

What about getting James Neal from Dallas. He hasn’t signed yet.

World Be Free

September 13th, 2010
6:01 am

DT-James Neal will sign with Dallas, The Stars have a similar self-imposed budget as th Thrashers do, just a matter of time before Neal signs, I believe.
Smitty-I had 2 concussions myself playing hockey in WNY and the 2nd one was real strange, happened very easy. Concussions have made Tim Connolly more skiddish than he was before.

Sara

September 13th, 2010
7:06 am

Re: Waddell. Heavy sigh. Look, the guy didn’t do anything to justify still being here.

Apparently he did because he is in fact still here. As much as it pains so many here, Don Waddell does not answer to the fans; he answers to the people who sign his paycheck. It is what it is, right?

Badger Bob – if I was in Calgary I’d probably want to be talking about anyone other than the Flames as well. Sutter’s offseason moves can only be described as bizarre. Nevermind their cap mess.

Glad to know the boys are heading back to the ice officially this week. Looking forward to Saturday and seeing them in person.

kracker

September 13th, 2010
8:08 am

Spectre on James Neal

THE SPORTING NEWS: Craig Custance reports Stars management continues to negotiate with restricted free agent winger James Neal. Nieuwendyk said he’d prefer to have a deal in place before training camp opens this week but acknowledged the possibility talks could drag on into training camp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the depth on left wing the Stars have (Morrow, Benn, Ott and Brunstrom) it doesn’t appear Neal has much leverage here. I wouldn’t be surprised if a contract is signed very soon. And no, I don’t believe the Stars will trade Neal for a defenseman.

kracker

September 13th, 2010
8:58 am

wooohooo!!

Real_ESPNLeBrun Hearing that Bergfors is close to re-signing in Atlanta.

Tom Lysiak

September 13th, 2010
10:19 am

Glad he is signing, but was hoping for a multi-year. Not 1 year for $900k.

Brendan

September 13th, 2010
2:37 pm

Sara, Don Waddell’s continued employment by the Atlanta Spirit, LLC tells me everything I need to know about the Atlanta Spirit, LLC. Can’t blame Waddell for accepting the paycheck. At least, I don’t.

Hockey Biltong

September 13th, 2010
8:21 pm

Good post Brendan, re; supporting the team…