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Lehtonen Trade Rumors

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Far be it from me to endorse either Al Strachan or Bruce Garroich, but this is the most logical Thrasher trade rumor to come down the pike in a while. In fact, I wrote something myself about the possibility of Lehtonen being moved last summer.

Consider the following:
  1. Atlanta has two goalies who could be #1.
  2. Atlanta has a backup (#2) that has a two year contract (if they intended to carry both Lehtonen and Pavelec no need to re-sign Hedberg last summer).
  3. Atlanta has a top prospect who refused to report to the AHL, but then did report after talking to the GM.
  4. Atlanta still need more talent on their roster. Having two #1 goalies is a luxury they can't afford.
Ergo, it is virtually certain one of these two goalies will no longer be a Thrasher in October of 2009. At some point, either Lehtonen or Pavelec will be moved. The only question is WHEN and for WHOM.

Let's consider the WHEN question more carefully.

Make a trade right now--At the moment the Thrashers are on a three game win streak-- thus they don't NEED to make a deal. It is often said that dealing from a position of strength is better than dealing from a position of desperation. There are some other clubs like Edmonton and New Jersey that are in a position of need. Perhaps one of them will make a terrific offer--if not the Thrashers can afford to wait. In the case of New Jersey I find it hard to believe they would make a terrific offer because Brodeur will come back and he will expect to play almost every single game. You're not going to make a huge trade just for a temporary starting goalie.

Teams like Edmonton and Ottawa and even Detroit have a long term need in goal and are more logical trading partners. But Ottawa and Detroit are not in a desperate position right now. The biggest advantage of making a deal now is that a club like Edmonton or Ottawa might think that acquiring Lehtonen could be the difference between missing and making the playoffs and therefore they pay a higher price than they would during the summer time.

Make a deal at that trade deadline--The biggest problem of waiting until the trade deadline is that you only get maximum value if one of the playoff teams are really hurting for a starter. Only 16 qualify for the playoffs--most of these teams will have a #1 guy and not want to make a change late in the season. Also the Thrashers would be looking for a young player (19-25) who could contribute immediately at the NHL level. Most NHL teams are NOT going to want to give up a roster player right before they head into the post-season. Contending teams are more likely to offer draft picks and very young prospects in exchange. The only way a playoff bound team makes a deal with Atlanta is if their #1 is done for the rest of the year and they have an abundance of prospects.

Make a Deal in the Summer of 2009--This still strikes me as the likely time for a goalie trade. A team like Detroit will shopping Jiri Hudler and Brett Lebda during the summer and they will be looking for Chris Osgood's successor. Also a new GM in another city might be looking to make a big splash by acquiring a goalie-of-the-future type move for his club. The biggest downside to waiting until summer is that you loose some leverage in trade talks because another team can say "your price is too high, we'll just go sign veteran goalie so and so to fill our net for the upcoming season."

As for the WHOM part, I expect it is Lehtonen that would be moved. Why? Lehtonen is playing for a big contract, he has a history of not being consistently healthy and he is older. Both he and Pavelec look like #1 guys but Pavelec will be cheaper in the near term until he demonstrates his ability at the NHL level.

The Thrashers must contend on a budget which means loading up on talented players who are still relatively inexpensive (under 25). They need to win to draw fans which will then produce the revenue to re-sign some of the key players (the Buffalo model).