Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Cross Post: Talking Trade

Note: This was first posted over at the Southeast Shootout. I thought I'd post it here as well for those who may not have seen it. The one thing I wish to add this summary is that Derek Armstrong a center for the LA Kings is another possible trade candidate. I wish I could say something brilliant about him but to be honest I don't think I've seen him enough to offer much of an opinion other than he would be better than Kapanen.

The NHL shopping season is upon us! NHL GM's are trading phone calls like sorority girls anticipating a shoe clearance sale at Macy's. Beat writers angle for any news and management tries to misdirect them like a Rod Brind 'Amour deflection in the slot.

In years past Thrashers fans have pined for that perfect player who could put their team into the playoffs. However, this year the playoffs seem very likely and the team is able to focus on making the Thrashers an actual Stanley Cup contender. So whom will Atlanta end up with after the deadline passes?

First let’s identify the sellers in this market. Only Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago are completely out of the playoff race. Personally, I think that the GMs of Florida, Boston, Washington, Columbus, Phoenix and St. Louis ought be focusing on next season, but they may not see themselves as sellers just yet.

Thrashers GM Don Waddell has identified team needs as a center and a puck-moving defensemen. Let’s take a look at the market for centers. Mike Comrie ($3.0 million salary in 2005-06) and Craig Conroy have already been traded ($2.4) thinning the ranks of potential candidates. Peter Forsberg ($5.75), Brian Smolinksi ($1.5), Jozef Stumpel ($1.75) are all presumed to be potential trade candidates.

Forsberg will likely command a hefty price based upon his superstar past even though questions linger about his health. Of those three, I think that Smolinski is the most likely candidate because of his reasonable salary, ability to win face-offs and overall game. Stumpel plays for divisional rival Florida—I have no idea if that would prevent a trade or not. In the past the Thrashers made a trade with Florida, but that was before current GM Jacques Martin took over.

If we dig a bit deeper, it is possible that some additional centers may (or may not) be on the market. Scott Burnside of ESPN.com recently suggested that Toronto begin rebuilding in earnest by shipping out captain Mats Sundin ($7.6). Should the Leafs choose to restock they will no doubt be looking to stockpile young talent and/or high picks in exchange for their veteran players.

Thrashers GM Don Waddell expressed interest in shoring up the team’s penalty kill unit on AJC.com. Centers who could possibly be used for both offense and in a PK role might include Blue Jackets Sergei Fedorov ($6.0) Coyotes Stephen Reinprecht ($2.0) and Toronto’s Mike Peca ($2.5).

As far as defense goes, a certain website continues to pimp Brian Leetch, but I seriously doubt it. The Thrashers need to strength their defense not weaken it. Leetch hasn’t played all year and I wouldn’t take a chance on him at this point. Other defensemen mentioned as being available include the disappointing: Eric Brewer ($2.0), and Joe Corvo ($2.5); the overpaid Jason Cullimore ($2.5), Adrian Aucoin ($4.0). Looking around the teams at the bottom of the standings I suspect that Adam Foote ($4.6) and Derek Morris ($3.9) could be obtained from their current squads. Brad Stuart is also been mentioned as being available.

Out of that list I like Joe Corvo’s potential as a PP quarterback and certainly Don Waddell should be very familiar with his game since he played for the Thrashers AHL affiliate the Chicago Wolves during the lockout season. Brad Stuart also has some potential but frankly none of these candidates really excites me all that much.

It is possible that the team could try to improve the power play by adding a winger like Keith Tkacuk or Bill Guerin, but the Thrashers appear fairly loaded at that position already. But if the price was reasonable I could see the team adding either to the roster.

In order to make a deal you have to give something up of course (unless you’re acquiring Roenick perhaps). In the past, the Thrashers rarely traded away picks or prospects but as the team enters a contending phase they may change philosophy. What assets do they have on hand? At the NHL level they have three veteran defensemen all in the final year of their contract (Andy Sutton, Vitali Vishnevsky, Greg de Vries) and they now have a logjam of 8 defensemen and just 6 spots. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Vishnevski or de Vries moved at the deadline.

Down on the farm the Thrashers have a nice collection of prospects with upside. In Chicago winger Brett Sterling has been scoring goals right and left. Sterling may have attracted some GM’s desire by winning the All Star Game MVP. Bryan Little is a top OHL player and a leader on Team Canada’s 2007 World Junior Squad. Goalie Pavelec was sensational last season in the QMJHL, but has not been as dominant this year. Alex Bourret is also from the Q and he struggled at the start of the AHL season but has picked it up lately.

Currently the Thrashers have young defensemen coming out of their ears. Defensemen Braydon Coburn looks NHL ready and Boris Valabik is physical defensemen who may be ready in the near future. Other AHL Defensemen Popovic and Oystrick give the Thrashers great depth at the D position. The team also has two promising young defensemen in Europe (Enstrom and Zubarev) and one in college (Grant Lewis) all of whom may sign with the team this summer.

I think that if the Thrashers make a bid for a center like Sundin or Forsberg the other teams are going to ask for either Coburn or Little and another pick or prospect. Based upon Waddell’s comments I think he is very unlikely to deal Coburn, so a trade for a top center would likely involve a top prospect and a high pick in my opinion. If the team were to trade for a less high profile centerman like Smolinski or Stumpel I expect that the team would like to deal one of their many defensive prospects such as Popovic, Oystrick, Enstrom, Zubarev, Lewis or Valabik.

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