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2009 NHL Free Agency: What The Thrashers Could Do

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Pending UFAs: Eric Perrin, Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb

Pending RFAs: Colby Armstrong, Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn, Boris Valabik, Anssi Salmela, Kari Lehtonen, Grant Lewis, Jordan Lavallee.

Key Departures at Trade Deadline: Nic Havelid, Mathieu Schneider, Eric Christensen

Salary cap space: $18-19 million

Projected budget: $46-47 million

Money Available for UFAs: between $7-9 million

Key needs: Top 4 Defenseman, Top 6 Forwards with some size who can work puck down low.

Possible Targets:

  • FORWARDS: Guerin, Cole, Gionta, Knuble, Antropov, Samuelsson, Cammalleri.
  • DEFENSE: Aucoin, Ohlund, Boucher, Skrastins, Kalinin, Mara, Oduya, Gil, Leopold, Schneider

What our rivals want: Raw Charge, Litter Box Cats, Canes Country, Japers' Rink.

A brief overview of the salary situation. According to updates on Marty Reasoner's two year deal averages $1.15 million Anssii Salmela signed for an average of 0.612 million (also a two year deal) which is just over the NHL minimum. In fact, both numbers came in slightly below what I had forecast in this post.

So how much money do the Thrashers available? Well you have to make some informed guesses regarding the amounts that Restricted Free Agents will sign for. I put my guesses in () and I think they are pretty realistic. The two key ones are Armstrong $2.2 million and Lehtonen $4.0 million, either could end up higher or lower.

Another unknown is how the Thrashers will budget for potentially big bonuses due Bogosian and Kane if they attain their bonus clauses. Last year Bogosian's bonuses all counted against the cap because the CBA could possibly end (it diddn't) and this year they don't count as cap hits. But the Thrashers still have to budget for the possibility they could hit those bonus numbers. I've simply put each down the $1 million base salary for each.

1st Line Kovalchuk 6.4 White 2.4 Little 0.9
2nd Line Kane 1.0 + bonuses Peverley 0.5 UFA ???
3rd Line Kozlov 3.7 Reasoner 1.2 Armstrong (2.2)
4th Line Boulton 0.6 Slater (0.8) Stuart 0.5
1st Defense Bogosian 1.0+ bonus $ Enstrom 3.8 Thorburn (0.6)
2nd Defense Hainsey 4.5 UFA ???
3rd Defense Valabik (0.9) Exelby 1.4 Salmela 0.6
Goalies Lehtonen (4.0) Hedberg 1.1


Slightly unrelated comment: Wouldn't a 3rd line of Kozlov-Reasoner-Armstrong be one of the very best in the National Hockey League. All defensively sound with good hands who can score if the other team's line makes a mistake. In fact, I'd give that line loads of ice time versus the opposition's best line every night. Play the Kane-Peverley-UFA line against weaker opposing players.

If my educated guesses are close, the Thrashers will have roughly $38 million committed to fill out 20 roster spots (including Thorburn and Salmela as bench F and D). I can't imagine the team will spend above the mid-point ($48 million) and probably has a working budget in the $46-47 range. They would be wise to leave some space for injuries and potential trades opportunities so my guess is an opening night payroll of $44-46 million. So $45 million budget minus $38 million estimate for 20 roster players leaves $7 million for a F and a D position on the UFA market. That's a nice chunk of change.

Supposedly Antropov is seeking $5 per season, if he fails to get that much, signing him for $4.0-4.5 might be a nice addition. Cammalleri is another possible target who might be inked for around $4.5-5.0 per season. On defense Aucoin ($4.0 last year), Ohlund ($3.5 last year) and Leopold ($1.5) are interesting guys. Mathieu Schneider has expressed a desire to keep playing and I wouldn't be opposed to seeing him return on a one-year deal for a modest amount of money (many members of the boards will hate me for saying this.) I'd put Schneider and Hainsey together on the 2nd pairing. $9 million might land you Cammelleri+Schneider or Antropov+Leopold. The other unknown variable in all this is the much anticipated goalie trade and whatever players+salary that trade would bring into the equation.

One last free agency tidbit. Don Waddell had mentioned the possability that he might show up at someone's doorstep on the first morning of free agency. I asked him about that statement after the draft on Saturday and hedged saying that the travel involved to talk to certain players would be prohibitive. Perhaps, I'm reading too much into this but might the Thrashers be targeting a player who lives in Europe in the summer? hmmm. No way to know for certain. Stay tuned readers.