TSN's Darren Dreger put out a top 10 trade list and has Lehtonen as #2 and uber prospect James van Riemsdyk as #3 on his list. Dreger writes:
No. 3 - Philadelphia prospect James van Riemsdyk. The University of New Hampshire forward, picked second in 2007, has been linked to Atlanta in a deal that would see a goalie going to the Flyers.
No. 2 - Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen is of interest to the Flyers. If Atlanta GM Don Waddell continues to rebuild, swapping Lehtonen for a prospect such as Van Riemsdyk would have to be seriously considered.
I'm not the least bit surprised to read that the Thrashers might be talking trade with Lehtonen. Going back to last summer I suggested that a trade was in order since the Thrashers have both Pavelec and Lehtonen and Hedberg who can all play at the NHL level.
For a team like Atlanta--which only has 4 sure fire scoring players and 6 slots for scorers on their roster--sitting on three NHL goalies is a waste of resources. One of these guys needs to be moved for something of value that can help the team.
Van Riemsdyk's stock took a bit of hit at this year's World Junior Championship after he turned in a less inspiring performance than he did in 2008. Drafted 2nd over in 2007, he's still considered a blue chip prospect. He's currently putting up a point per game for New Hampshire. His 31 and 34 points in college as an 18 and 19 suggest that he is on track to be an top six NHL forward. Very few 18 year olds can manage a point per game playing against guys who are mostly 20-22 years old.
This potential trade also makes a lot of sense when you consider that right now the Thrashers are on track to land the #2 overall pick. Most believe that Center Tavares will go first overall and Swedish Defenseman Victor Hedman #2.
Now the potential of having Hedman, Bogosian, Enstrom and Hainsey, Valabik and Kulda as the defensive corps of the future is VERY exciting to me as a fan. But the Thrashers still need to address the two big holes in their two scoring forward lines. It is possible Esposito could fill one of those spots, depending upon his recovery from a major knee injury (realistically he might not make the team until 2010 though). But Van Riemsdyk could turn pro this summer and slot right into our top six (although he might need to switch wings).
Your 2010-2011 Atlanta Thrashers
- Sterling-Esposito-van Riemsdyk
- C. Stuart-Thorburn-Crabb
- mystery backup goalie
That entire team is YOUNG and TALENTED and CHEAP (other than Kovalchuk). Of course it is unlikely all those prospects will make the NHL and some of those slots are likely to be filled by a few UFA players (especially if the salary cap falls for the 2010 season as many expect that it will).
Conclusion: Moving Lehtonen for a star prospect like van Riemsdyk makes a lot of sense as it allows the Thrashers to use a surplus of talent to fill in a big need for scoring forwards. It also allows the Thrashers to get young and expand their talent base. I say go for it!