Monday, February 26, 2007

Thrashers and Sharks get a head start on the competition

The weekend saw Atlanta and San Jose strengthen up for the present, while losing a little for the future as the two NHL teams put together separate deals as the deadline day gets closer.

San Jose swung a deal with Bob Gainey in Montreal, taking soon to be free agent Craig Rivet in exchange for Josh Gorges and a 2007 first round pick, the Habs will send a fifth round pick in the 2008 draft back to San Jose to complete that deal.

For Gainey it was probably the realization, that he was most likely lose Rivet to free agency this summer that led to the deal. And while Gorges is an unknown quantity, it’s most likely the first round draft pick that helped make the deal go down. Rivet will be a solid addition to the Sharks blue line corps, which has been having a troublesome time of late controlling the zone and clearing out attacking forwards.

Atlanta mortgaged the future completely with their acquisition of rent a player Keith Tkachuk . Don Waddell gave up a raft of draft choices over the next couple of years all in the goal of securing at least the eighth place in the playoff race and then making a run of the table. Prior to the Tkachuk deal, Waddell had secured the services of Alexei Zhitnik from Philadelphia, all in a bid to shore up the defensive end of the rink. The Thrashers gave up former number one pick Braydon Coburn in the process.

It’s an interesting strategy that smacks more of this is the year, than any long term desire to build the team up for the next few years. Tkachuk, who is an unrestricted free agent, could very well walk away from the team whenever the playoff run ends, with or without Lord Stanley’s Cup on parade down Peachtree Street. There are even those in the world of conspiracy theories that suggest, that he’ll end up right back where he left from next year, as St. Louis realizing that they’re done for this year rent out the players and collect some draft choices for a better future. After all it’s not like that is untested territory for the blues who sent Doug Weight to Carolina last year, only to welcome him back to the Midwest over the summer.

It’s all short term for the Thrashers, a team that got off to a pretty terrific start this year but has begun to tail off as the march towards the playoffs begins. The Thrashers currently sit in sixth place, three away from third and three away from tenth. They are one of four teams in the conference that have already played 64 games, leaving them in a spot of trouble against the others that have two or three games in hand to work with.

Of the two deals over the weekend, the Atlanta one seems to provide some interesting omens for the post season and beyond. First off if the gambit fails and the Thrashers don’t make the playoffs, let alone go far in them, it’s doubtful that Waddell will have to worry about the missing draft picks down the line.

Secondly, it’s likely the opening salvo in the much anticipated St. Louis Blues fire sale, where they release their faithful servants of recent years to seek fame and fortune in the rental world, a chance to grab a Stanley Cup ring before the retirement years beckon. Next skate to drop perhaps will be Bill Guerin’s, another Blue who it has been rumoured could be skating elsewhere and if things go as he’d like maybe for a little longer than the Blues apparently have planned to skate this year.

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