2009-10 NHL Season Preview: Atlanta Thrashers

Who's in: Nik Antropov, Pavel Kubina
Who's out: Garnet Exelby, Eric Perrin

Outlook: As with every off-season, there were challenges for the Thrashers.

GM Don Waddell's budget comes in right around $48-million this season, making Atlanta one of the NHL's lower spending teams, albeit one with one of the bigger payroll rises over last season. Complicating matters is the fact marquee free agents often aren't interested in joining what has been — but for one season — a non-playoff team in a "non-traditional" market.

Making do with the hand he has, however, Waddell did improve his club over the summer, adding veteran blueliner Pavel Kubina in a trade without surrendering much to Toronto and signing another former Leaf in big Kazakh Nik Antropov. Both should help complement what was already the ninth-highest scoring team and a strong power play unit.

Further growth from the team's younger top forwards — namely Bryan Little and Colby Armstrong — will also help solidify what's become an underrated attack under coach John Anderson.

Where there are still concerns is in terms of on the blueline and in goal, and No. 1 netminder Kari Lehtonen's health is going to be a major factor in any playoff push the Thrashers make (he enters the season attempting to return from back surgery). Expect Anderson to begin to lean heavily on 19-year-old blueliner Zach Bogosian on the back end, as Atlanta desperately needs him to build on the progress he made late last season and make the Thrashers zone more difficult to play in.

What it should add up to is a minor improvement for Atlanta, with the potential of a low playoff seed if everything goes according to plan. 

X-factor: Bryan Little

For a more in-depth Thrashers preview, visit Bird Watchers Anonymous
For more NHL analysis, check out the McKeen's Hockey Yearbook

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