Continuing the series of trade deadline scouting, next up is the Atlanta Thrashers. The Thrash are in a bit of a perplexing situation. They're not quite sellers but also not quite buyers. Currently sitting in the last playoff spot, they are in a trade deadline gray area that normally ends with standing pat and not committing either way. However, the decision to be a buyer or seller for GM Rick Dudley isn't nearly as pressing as it has been for his counterparts in similar situations. The Thrashers do not have a big ticket player with an expiring contract who is likely to leave (think Jay Bouwmeester a few years back) so they can afford to wait it out and see where they are come February 28th.
The next few weeks will in all likelihood determine what the Thrashers next move is. If they play well and are in contention, expect them to be buyers. If they soil themselves and fall back a bit they may be sellers. Keep in mind though, it is going to be easier for Dudley to commit to buying than selling. He has a struggling franchise with a largely disinterested fanbase that he needs to rejuvenate. Selling off assets may send the wrong signal even if it's the correct hockey decision.
With that said, the Thrashers do have some interesting pieces to potentially offer:
Nik Antropov: He was a productive player in his short stay with the Rangers picking up 13 points in 18 games when he was traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs. As expected, Antropov bolted to the highest bidder where he was united with Ilya Kovalchuk for half a season. He likely won't be available at the deadline, even though his contract is probably going to pose a problem in a year or two. Nevertheless, it's fair to say lets steer clear.
Brent Sopel: Perfectly fits the bill as a veteran defenseman. He's fresh off of a Stanley Cup Championship with the Blackhawks and has the past NHL playoff experience that the Rangers d-corps is lacking. I've already outlined why Sopel would be a good fit: he's affordable, has an expiring contract, and has playoff experience. Dudley has already shipped off Ben Eager for a draft pick and I wouldn't be surprised if he did the same with Sopel (even if the Thrashers are still in that trade deadline gray area I talked about earlier). Sopel gets the stamp of approval.
Eric Boulton: He's only being mentioned because there is still a small contingent of people who'd like to see the Rangers replace Derek Boogaard. But punches and body slams aren't going to get the Rangers to the dance.
Nigel Dawes: He's been tearing up the AHL... Just kidding..
Ron Hainsey: I'm sure Dudley would love to move Hainsey and his fat contract, but I'm sure there won't be many (if any) takers.
Fredrik Modin: He's an option only if the Rangers injury woes continue. Owns an expiring contract and would come on the cheap. But I'd rather see Chad Kolarik get that ice time if need be. A case could be made for him in that scenario though.
Dustin Byfuglien: Probably the trade of the year, where the hell was Sather on this one? Face palm.
Rich Peverley: Timmy of Birdwatcher's Anonymous advocated trading Peverley while his value is high:
"If you only trade disposable players, you never get much in return. There are always tradeoffs. Peverley is a VERY CHEAP top-6 center. We might be budget-sensitive, but most other teams are near the cap. Any team looking to add production in the playoffs will be hoping for a guy just like Peverley."
Peverley is signed for an additional year at an extremely reasonable cap hit of $1,325,000. His cap hit is where his value lies, it's dirt cheap for a 55 point payer. Had Brian Boyle and Derek Stepan not proved to be reliable centers, an argument could have been made for Pevereley at the deadline. However if the Rangers get skunked on Richards, he's a viable trade target this summer.
Best Options: Sopel, Peverley (more for this summer though) and Modin (if the injuries continue to mount)
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to email me canyonofblueshirts (at) gmail.com.