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The Atlanta Thrashers have had a spectacular first half of a season and stand on the cusp of their second playoff appearance in team history.
The Thrashers signed the young Swedish defenseman, Tobias Enstrom, to a four year extension back in the 2008 off-season. The diminutive puck mover has rewarded Atlanta with two quality offensive years in a row. He was having an all-star year until he broke his finger on his right hand on January 23rd. He is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with the injury.
Atlanta is currently in eighth in the east, the last playoff spot. They have a one point lead on division rival Carolina, but the Hurricanes have two games in hand on and one more win than Atlanta does.
The good news is that Atlanta has plenty of cap space with almost $15 million available. The bad news is that the last time the Thrashers were in a similar spot they made one of the worst dead-line deals in NHL history. They traded young up and coming defender Braydon Coburn for over the hill power-play quarterback Alexei Zhitnik. They lost in four straight in the playoffs and haven't been back since. Coburn still plays 80 games a year for the Flyers and Zhitnik has played for Moscow Dynamo for the last two years.
There are no Tobias Enstrom's out there to be traded for. Atlanta has had a good offense and good goaltending this season. The team though has given up the most goals against in the league 9166) so far this year and has the fifth worst goals against average (3.08). The team is tied with Anaheim, giving up the most shots on goal against in the league.
The Thrashers could be well-served by acquiring a good defensive defenseman to help stabilize the back-end while they let Enstrom recover. They just have to be sure not to trade away too much young talent to get a guy for defense and for depth purposes.
The Washington Capitals were ahead of Atlanta when they picked up veteran defensive defensman Scott Hannan for Tomas Fleischmann.
Chris Phillips in Ottawa should be available and his veteran presence might help settle the defense. At 32 he is slowing down. Ottawa would want to extract at least a second round pick for Phillips and he may not be worth it. Phillips has a no trade contract though the NHL is littered with deals made for players who waived their NTC's.
Robyn Regehr in Calgary would be another former first rate defenseman who could probably help Atlanta with his defensive leadership and nasty edge. Regehr is still only 30 but with him it's not the age it's the mileage. Calgary would want a lot in return and he has two more years at $4 million a year due him. He too of course has a no trade clause in his contract.
A smaller deal for a younger depth defenseman would probably serve the Thrashers better.
This Thrasher team could go places if they could just make the playoffs but they shouldn't mortgage their future to do it.