This is the second article in a series of articles where I analyze every team in the NHL over a course of thirty weeks.
Top Prospects: Zach Bogosian,Ondrej Pavelec,Angelo Esposito.
The one thing the Thrashers have going for them is these three prospects. The problem is that Don Waddell has let virtually every prospect he's had except Ilya Kovalchuk slip away.
Nothing has led me to believe that Esposito will be any different and he will run from this franchise the first chance he gets. Pavelec and Bogosian may be a little more loyal but unless Atlanta can make some major changes on and off the ice all three will get out of Atlanta eventually.
Atlanta may trade one or more of them to avoid losing them for nothing once they become unrestricted free agents. Moreover, Atlanta may gain another prospect if team superstar Ilya Kovalchuk is traded before seasons end.
Soon to be Retiring:Mathieu Schneider ,Vyacheslav Kozlov.
Two key pieces of the team are beginning to get near retirement. Kozlov isn't showing any signs of slowing down but likely will within the next two to three seasons. Schneider has begun to slow down but may hang on a few more seasons. However, Schneider wants to win a Stanley cup and will leave Atlanta or retire at the end of his contract.
Division Toughness: 1/6 They don't call it the "Southleast Division" for nothing.
Cap Space: 10,181,984 Atlanta's problem is that they just can't get enough money from the fan's. If the Thrashers could manage to put a respectable product on the ice, people will come.
Atlanta is spending about what they can afford to and until hockey in Atlanta becomes more popular the product the team provides will largely remain the same. Trading or losing Kovalchuk's $6.4 Million will open a few options, but they will probably end up overpaying someone to get above the cap floor.
Current Position: NHL-28th, Conference-13th, Division-4th
3-Year Glance: Atlanta has good prospects but as stated earlier they will not be able to retain any of them for a productive future. Losing Kovalchuk to free agency would be a disaster if they can not trade him and get someone to fill a productive role in return.
Kovalchuk will probably be traded for a top prospect, a 1st round pick and a first line forward. But then they will have the same problem they have with the Hossa trade. Unfortunately the bottom line is no one wants to play in Atlanta!
So sure you have a prospect, a pick, and a good player but no chance that they will make a career in Atlanta. It's the exact opposite of the Detroit Red Wings. This will be an endless hell unless the Thrashers do something, anything to bring in more fans and without fans the team is screwed.
Overall Grade: Present-D+ Future-D