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How Much Money will the Thrashers Have to Spend this Summer?

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The NHL Draft and start of the Free Agency period are only about 30 days away now, so it is time to think about the Thrashers options. The Thrashers cleared quite a bit of salary cap commitments off their books when they traded veterans Schneider, Havelid and Williams.

In my interview with Don Waddell he expressed interest in adding a top 4 defenseman and a top 6 forward through free agency or trades.Then in his interview with Ben Wright he stated that the team would have a budget in the neighborhood of $46 million.

According to the Thrashers have a $31.6 cap commitment for next season. The Thrashers have several RFA (Lehtonen) and UFA (Reasoner) who need to be  signed. Neither of them will receive enormous raises in my opinion. In order to get a handle on how the money works out I've some educated guesses. (Salmela has re-signed but the amount of money is unknown at this point).

In the table below I've handed out some modest raises to most of the RFA players. My educated guesses are enclosed by () in the table. Kari was paid $3 this last year. Top rated goalies like Kiprusoff make over $5 million. I don't think he will merit All-Star money but he probably will get a raise if he signs a multi-year deal with Atlanta, so I put him down for a cap hit of $4 million.

If my RFA and UFA guesses are close to the mark, the Thrashers will spend just over $40 million on 18 rosters spots. Last year their internal budget was around $45-46 million (they would have hit that total if they had not traded away veterans like Schneider).

1st Line Kovalchuk 6.3 White 2.4 Little 0.9
2nd Line Kozlov 3.7 Peverley 0.5 UFA ???
3rd Line Stuart 0.5 Reasoner (1.5) Armstrong (2.0)
4th Line Boulton 0.6 Slater (0.8) Thorburn (0.8)
1st Defense Bogosian 3.4 Enstrom 3.8
2nd Defense Hainsey 4.5 UFA ???
3rd Defense Valabik (1.0) Exelby 1.4 Salmela (0.9)
Goalies Lehtonen (4.0) Hedberg 1.1


If my educated guesses are close the Thrashers will have roughly $6 million in cap space. That is probably not enough money to sign a top 4 D and top 6 F on the UFA market.

Don Waddell indicated in the interview that he was considering dealing a goalie to fill one of the roster holes. Which goalie will be moved is unclear. I assume Lehtonen might net a bigger name prospect or player than Pavelec would. If he were to deal Lehtonen that would free up an addition $3 million in cap room (Lehtonen's $4 minus Pavelec's $1 salary). On other hand, if the Thrashers were to go the other route and deal Pavelec to fill one roster hole, they would probably want to target a young cheap prospect which would then leave them money to use on the UFA market to fill the remaining roster  hole at D or F.

Over at HF Trade Board there have been some talk about a Pavelec for Lupul (PHI) trade which would help Atlanta up front and Philly in goal. One of the biggest problems with such a trade is that Lupul is overpaid at $4.25 per season (more than Kozlov I might point out) and if you acquire him that leaves the team with essentially just $1 million and change to fill their other roster hole--re-signing Salmela eats up the last bit in the budget.

Now if you're the Thrashers and the Flyers call up asking for Pavelec, in return for him I would request a young cheap guy like Giroux ($0.8 million) or Nodl ($0.8 million). The Flyers probably will not want to part with Giroux but I'd certainly ask. If you traded Pavelec for Nodl, that would then leave the team with $4-5 million to acquire a top 4 NHL defensemen.

Another team that might be looking for help in goal is Colorado. Some have suggested a Pavelec for Svatos or Wolski trade might work. If Atlanta acquire Svatos ($2.0 million) that would leave about $4 and if they acquired Wolski ($2.8) that would leave them about $3 for an UFA defenseman.

A third option would be to fill that top six forward with a player taken in this year's NHL draft. If the team feels that a player like Matt Duchesne, Evander Kane or Braydon Schenn could step into a top six role that would leave a significant chunk of cash available for a defenseman. The CBA sets the maximum rookie salary at just over $1 million with roughly $2.5 in potential bonuses. So a rookie like Duchesne or Kane could have a final cap hit of somewhere between $1 million and $3.5 million which would leave more $3-5 million available for a defenseman.

Conclusion: As you can see there are a lot of possibilities. We know the Thrashers probably will only have about $5-6 million to spend on a Forward and Defenseman. We know they will likely trade one goalie. We know they might draft a player who make the NHL immediately. Putting specific names into those slots is a real challenge though.