A busy few weeks for Thrashers GM Rick Dudley have concluded with today's NHL Trade Deadline. While the league as a whole was relatively quiet, with only 16 trades (there were 31 last year), the Thrashers were one of the busier teams on deadline day. The Thrashers sit four points out of a playoff spot and are hoping that a few moves today could lead to big things as the true stretch drive begins. Here is our breakdown of the Thrashers moves today, including waiver pick-ups and re-signings:
THRASHERS ACQUIRE DVORAK, 5TH FOR BERGFORS AND RISSMILLER
Looking back, it should have been obvious Patrick Rissmiller would be moved after getting the call up for one game last week (19 different scouts were at his only game as a Thrasher in Buffalo). But the big news is Niclas Bergfors, a centerpiece in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade a year ago. Bergfors notched 19 goals and 27 assists in his 79-game Thrashers career, both respectable numbers. But Bergfors got the infamous "enigmatic" label, which translates to "streaky" which can translate to lots of losses when you're not streaking the right way. As reported by Chris Vivlamore in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Rick Dudley agreed: "Bergy is a streaky player. We were in a situation where we needed him to be streaky the other way."
In return the Thrashers add a rental player in Dvorak, though with the Thrashers recent re-signing of Mark Stuart (more on that momentarily) nothing is out of the question. Dvorak was playing top penalty kill minutes in Florida, the 2nd best PK in the NHL. The Thrashers PK has plummeted to 28th in the NHL, only ahead of Colorado and Edmonton. It should come as no surprise that those are the two worst teams in the Western Conference. It should also come as no surprise that of the bottom-10 teams in the NHL in penalty kill, 7 of them are sitting outside the playoff picture. The moral? Adding a solid penalty killer could help the Thrashers immensely in winning games. Dvorak is also a big body with some scoring touch and fits much more nicely into Craig Ramsay's system than Bergfors, despite having much less talent. The ability to flip Rissmiller for a 5th-round pick is also helpful, as the Thrashers get some sort of an asset for a player that didn't figure into their plans at all. For what it's worth, the Thrashers took goaltender Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel, who is a highly touted Swedish prospect, and Yasin Cisse with their 5th rounders in 2010.
Overall, the trade works out well for the Thrashers because of their subsequent move:
THRASHERS CLAIM ROB SCHREMP ON WAIVERS
After giving up Bergfors, the Thrashers promplty swooped in and claimed Rob Schremp, the immensely talented forward off the waiver wire. Schremp's talent has never translated into results, with only 17 goals in 96 NHL games, but Schremp is only 24 and could benefit from a change of scenery. Schremp does have character questions which could come forth in Atlanta, but under Ramsay the move may work out, especially if Schremp has scoring talent around him.
THRASHERS MOVE MACINTYRE FOR FESTERLING
Having seen Festerling play in Portland with the Pirates several years ago as a Ducks prospect, I can say that there are things to like about his game. He's got decent size for a defenseman and is a solid skater. He is a defensive defenseman but has 83 games of NHL experience. You can never have too many defenseman, and moving an AHL goalie will open up opportunities for prospects Edward Pasquale and Chris Carrozzi. I like this move as a whole, as minor as it may be.
THRASHERS GET 7TH FOR MODIN
As I mentioned in today's deadline blog I thought that a 7th rounder was adequate compensation for Modin. As it turns out, that's exactly what they got. While 7th round picks rarely translate to NHL talent, Modin was going to be the odd man out in Atlanta, likely play few of the remaining 19 games, and really had no place on the Thrashers. By getting even the least significant of assets in return, it was still a necessary move for the Thrashers.
THRASHERS RE-SIGN STUART
Finally, the Thrashers were able to re-sign Mark Stuart for the next three years at a total of $5.1 million. It says a lot about Stuart, who has only played four games for the Thrashers. The ultimate team guy, Stuart skates well and could find some more offensive upside in Craig Ramsay's system. Stuart has already fought twice in a Thrashers uniform and has shown his willingness to stick up for his teammates. Stuart oozes character, something the Thrashers haven't always had, and is a nice piece for the Thrashers moving forward.
It was an active trade deadline for the team, and while many suggest the team moved laterally, I believe they have improved. They shedded some dead weight in Modin and MacIntyre, improved their Achilles heel in the penalty kill, and added a center with tremendous skill and hopefully unrealized 20-goal potential. Preceeding the deadline, the Thrashers added Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart, both of whom who have made a big impact already (Wheeler has 3 points in 4 games) and both of whom figure in the long term plans.
While many believe that more could have been had for Bergfors, I'm inclined to disagree. Fans frequently complain about his defensive play, hustle, and inconsistency. If fans can see these things, NHL scouts certainly can as well. Dvorak is a decent return for someone who could end up being a bust. There is the chance Bergfors will be a perennial 20-goal scorer, but his potential was probably not going to be realized in Atlanta's system.
Overall, the Thrashers had a solid day and now hopefully the continuity of the roster will lead them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006-2007.