Do Atlanta Thrasher fans remember former Thrasher Garnett Exelby?
Exelby was a tough guy that was traded for defenseman Pavel Kubina .
The trade was a good one for Atlanta as Kubina quickly emerged as the Thrashers best and most consistent defenseman.
With high potential newcomers like Zach Bogosian, Arturs Kulda, and other established regulars such as Tobias Enstrom, Johnny Oduya, and Brent Sopel, Kubina was allowed to leave Atlanta and sign a lucrative multi —year contract as a free agent with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
General Manager Rick Dudley has maintained that he will pay strict attention to paying what each unrestricted free agents (UFA’s) are worth. He recently made one —year qualifying offers for most of the teams free agents to continue the negotiation process. Kubina ended up going back to Tampa where he won a Stanley Cup.
New Tampa General Manager Steve Yzerman showed astute judgment in signing Kubina who will add immediate strength the their blue line corps.
The business side of hockey has again been illuminated in Kubina’s departure. Make no mistake, the salary cap and the sobering reality of red ink faced by many NHL teams cannot be overlooked and definitely plays a part in every decision NHL teams make nowadays.
Rick Dudley has proven to be an active participant in numerous transactions since his elevation to the top job. It is unlikely that Dudley was taken off guard by Kubina’s departure since the Thrashers and Kubina have been negotiating continuously since the season ended.
Many Thrasher fans have expressed unhappiness at Kubina’s departure but given the defensive talent now available, the Thrashers will still produce a quality on ice product.
There are just only so many minutes of playing time that are available in a game, so the Thrashers like many NHL teams were forced to make tough decisions weighing talent with economic sensibilities.
In the past without salary cap pressures teams would stockpile talented players to insure a steady stream of talent moving up from minor league affiliates each season. The Montreal Canadiens were legendary for that approach.
Things are dramatically different today.
The Thrashers have several defensemen who will vie for improved playing time in the 2010-11 season.
New Thrasher coach Craig Ramsay has made it known that he will support his defenseman jumping into the offensive flow and contributing which should make for a very interesting season for Thrashers blue liners.
Zach Bogosian will have an opportunity to log additional playing time with consistent powerplay minutes this upcoming season. Last season Bogosian was sporadically used on the point due to Ilya Kovalchuk operating the point position along with Enstrom.
Bogosian began the year with strong offensive numbers leading all defensemen in goal scoring before sustaining an injury.
Starting the season healthy with a tremendous upside, Bogosian could have a breakout season in his third year.
If Johnny Oduya provides the same performance he has produced since coming from New Jersey he will also pick up a substantial amount of minutes logging time on the penalty kill and perhaps on the second powerplay unit.
Brent Sopel arrives from Chicago where he won a Stanley Cup and will bring with him some consistency and quality minutes on the blue line. Sopel will also bring a needed locker room attitude which was something that was lacking early last season.
Tobias Enstrom is coming off an excellent offensive season emerging as an effective playmaker on the blue line. Enstrom logged impressive minutes on both the powerplay and the penalty —killing unit while also taking a regular shift.
Arturs Kulda may be ready to make the jump from the minor leagues to the NHL having made an impact during the 2009-10 season with improved defensive play. “He is very strong,” Dudley said in a Automotive News interview.
“When he hits, (opposing players) stay down. His processing ability is above average and that’s very important, because he usually makes the right selection depending on what play is available. He’s gotten to the point now where he can get the puck out of the zone. He can hit the open man. He processes the game much better.” Kulda had a plus rating of 47 while playing in the AHL for the Chicago Wolves.
With Ron Hainsey and several other prospects vying for a position, the Thrashers will have fewer spots than defense men to fill them.