while most NHL teams can still fantasize about the playoffs, the Atlanta Thrashers have been out of the running for some time. About the only benefit of being out of the hunt is that the Thrashers are one of the few sellers in a league filled with mostly buyers. Which Thrashers are most likely to be traded on defense and in goal?
Even with the Montreal Canadians snapping up Mathieu Schneider early, the Thrashers have a log jam at defense. Each night someone is a healthy scratch and Grant Lewis and Arturs Kulda are both due for a NHL call up before the season is finished in my opinion. I'll run through the Thrashers depth chart at defense.
|2008 - Zach Bogosian||26||3||5||8||4||19||0||0||0||0||37||8.1|
|2008 - Tobias Enstrom||61||2||12||14||1||40||0||1||1||0||61||3.3|
First we have the untouchables: Bogosian and Enstrom. These two players are so highly valued I can't imagine anyone making an offer that would pry them away from Atlanta.
Players Unlikely To Be Dealt
The Thrashers invested a high 1st round pick in Boris Valabik five years ago. He has finally reached the NHL. Given how much time and energy they have invested in his development I think the Thrashers are unlikely to move this giant physical defensemen.
|2008 - Boris Valabik||35||0||5||5||-3||91||0||0||0||0||14||0.0|
Ron Hainsey signed a multi-year deal in Atlanta after Brian Campbell took less money to go to the Blackhawks. There was some speculation out there that Hainsey might be dealt but he has been a solid player for the team and is in the middle of his peak performance years.
|2008 - Ron Hainsey||61||5||25||30||-14||22||3||0||0||0||117||4.3|
Garnet Exelby has a reputation as a big hitter but takes himself out of position and can't pass at the NHL level. Personally, I'm tired of watching him just dump the puck to center ice and if I were GM I would see what his shiny reputation would bring in a trade. However, he is one of the few vocal Thrashers in the locker room and I think that alone will make management think twice before trading him.
Players Who Could be Moved
|2008 - Niclas Havelid||61||2||12||14||2||42||0||1||0||0||39||5.1|
Nic Havelid is the Thrasher defensemen most likely to be moved. He is an Unrestricted Free Agent at the end of this season. He is also 35 and Father Time spares no one. Three years ago Havelid choose to avoid free agency and re-signed with the Thrashers he probably left some money on the table when he made that choice. My assumption is that he and his family like Atlanta. He has great chemistry with fellow Swede Tobias Enstrom and I would not be the least bit surprised if he is dealt to a contender at the deadline only to re-sign with Atlanta over the summer.
He brings toughness and grit and great positional defense most of the time. He's precisely what many Cup contenders could use--a reliable defenseman who comes to play every night. Another plus factor is that Havelid has been matched up against the NHL's best offensive forwards over the last three season and he has learned to defend elite players without taking very many penalties.
|2008 - Nathan Oystrick||39||3||6||9||-10||22||0||0||0||0||32||9.4|
Oystrick is a 25 NHL rookie. He has above average offensive skills and below average defensive skills. The Thrashers were hoping to see him push a veteran for a NHL job the last several training camps but he came to NHL camp in unacceptable shape. Finally, this year he came better prepared and he made the team. He is a 6th/7th guy who can be used on the power play in a pinch. I'm not sure how many NHL teams would want a NHL rookie with questionable defending skills, but the Thrashers might not require much to part with him. They recently acquired AHL depth defensemen Clay Wilson and Brett Skinner who bring much the same skill set to the table. Next year Oystrick might struggle to keep his job should the Thrashes draft Victor Hedman and sign a NHL veteran to help out the defense.
Goal is another place where the Thrashers have more depth than in years past. Ondrej Pavelec won a AHL Championship in the spring of 2008 and appeared ready to make the jump to the NHL. He later held out for a brief time when he was sent down to the AHL in the fall of 2009. At some point the Thrashers will have to choose between Lehtonen, Pavelec and Hedberg. Lehtonen is a RFA next summer and will be looking for more than a one year contract and he will be looking for more money. Hedberg and Pavelec are both signed for one year year at a bit more than $1 million.
|2008 - Kari Lehtonen||34||1943||12||18||3||4||102||3.15||1108||1006||.908||1|
Lehtonen is big and has great technique. If he faced fewer high quality shots each night he might probably be discussed as a potential All-Star Goalie. His Achilles heel has been staying in the line up. He has been unavailable for large parts of the season three of the last four years. He's a quality NHL goalie right who is about to become more expensive.
I wouldn't be complete shocked to see him traded, but I think such a move is more likely to happen over the summer. On the other hand, if a team like Detroit wants to get someone who could replace Chris Osgood the Wings have the prospects required to leverage Lehtonen. Another club rumored to be interested is Philadelpia where both of their goalies will be UFA this summer.
|2008 - Johan Hedberg||24||1181||7||9||3||2||71||3.61||614||543||.884||0|
For a NHL team looking to a veteran goalie insurance policy for the playoffs, Hedberg might be an attractive option. Hedberg is immensely popular with his teammates. A backup most of his career, he knows how to prepare himself to be ready at all times.
Unfortunately his numbers this year have been pretty ugly. The Thrashers have scored a LOT more goals when Hedberg starts which makes his Win-Loss record look much better. That SV% is one of the worst in the NHL. Hedberg has proven especially vulnerable on the PK the last two seasons.