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Everyone Wants to Play GM

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I see that many Thrasher fans are writing threads such as "what could we get if Hossa is traded?" or "who should the Thrashers target this summer?" and so forth. I'm all for playing armchair GM but I think those conversations would benefit from taking a peek at the Thrashers projected lineup and salary commitments for the 2008-09 season, so I'll post them for your speculative pleasure.

I'm going to list the current Thrashers line up and show who is UFA (unrestricted free agent), RFA (restricted free agent) and who is signed for the 08-09 season so you can see where the roster holes will be and how much money is available.

Kovalchuk ($6.4) White ($2.4) Recchi ($ 0.6)
Kozlov ($ 3.7) Perrin ($ 0.8) Hossa ($ 6.0)
Dupuis ($ 0.9) Holik ($ 4.25) Larsen($0.5)
Boulton ($ 0.5) Thorburn ($ 0.5) Slater($ 0.8)
Enstrom ($0.9) Havelid ($ 2.7)
Klee ($ 1.25) Zhitnik ($ 3.5)
Exelby ($ 1.4) McCarthy($0.7)
Lehtonen ($ 1.85) Hedberg ($ .9)
F: Rucchin ($ 2.1)
D: Popovic ($0.5)

Total Salary $42 million

Looking ahead to the Thrashers 2008-09 Roster I think that it is safe to assume that Little, Pavelec and perhaps Sterling will make the team out of training camp which will fill some vacancies. I have Lehtonen re-signing for Cam Ward money and Sterling back at $900,000. If those are accurate and those younger (and cheaper) rookies make the team has salaries commitments which only total $31 million.

What is missing from this projection? Well UFA Marian Hossa, Bobby Holik, Mark Recchi and Mark Popovic. If you think Hossa will re-sign then allocate $7-8 million towards that and now the Thrashers have a payroll of $39 with two active rosters spots to fill. At this point it seems more likely to me that Hossa will be dealt for a combination of players and picks. If those players are NHL ready they will fill some slots and eat up some salary. But is very unlikely that any of them will be making superstar money like Hossa currently does.

Just to throw out some names out there, let's say that Hossa is dealt to Detroit for Jiri Hudler F and D Brett Lebda. Those two young guys would bring with them salaries of $1 million and $.65 respectively. That would fill two active roster spots very cheaply and still leave the Thrashers with a mountain of cash to use this summer if they wish.

The NHL Salary Cap will rise from around $50 million this season to about $55 million next season. The Thrashers are currently spending $42 million right now and I would guess that they will spend around the mid point ($44-45 million) next season. If I'm correct in my assumptions then next year's Thrashers squad will be MUCH younger and MUCH cheaper due to the promotion of rookies and the acquisition of young players in exchange for Hossa. If that is the case then the team will have roughly $10 million to spend on two remaining roster spots. The Thrashers can afford to go after nearly ANY player on the UFA market this summer. This includes forwards like Dumont or defensmen like Campbell, Redden or others. Because the big salaries of Holik, Hossa and Rucchin are coming off the books the GM will have a very wide variety of options available to him.

Projected 2008-09 Atlanta Thrashers lineup and salaries
Kovalchuk ($6.4) White ($2.4) XXX ($ 0.)
Kozlov ($ 3.7) Little ($ 0.9) Sterling ($ 0.9)
XXX ($ 0.) Perrin ($ 0.8) Larsen ($0.5)
Boulton ($ 0.5) Thorburn ($ 0.5) Slater ($ 0.8)
Enstrom ($0.9) Havelid ($ 2.7)
Klee ($) 1.25 Zhitnik ($ 3.5)
Exelby ($ 1.4) XXX ($0.)
Lehtonen ($ 2.7) Pavelec ($1.4)

Total Salary: $31 million
Projected Salary: $44-45 million
Available to Spend: $12-14 million
Rosters Spots 3 Active lineup + bench spots

I wouldn't mind seeing both Recchi and Popovic return for a final season. Both would likely be rather affordable.

The Thrashers could also buy out Zhitnik's final year and open up a defensive roster spot. I can't imagine Don Waddell buying out any player let alone one he traded a prospect to acquire so I consider this an extremely remote possibility, but it is one option the team could pursue. Popovic could fill out the 3rd pairing and you could go after Campbell or Redden for the top 4 rotation on defense.