Things are slowly solidifying and it's starting to look like the Thrashers might just have a roster that'll hold up to some shaking and jiggling in October.
Jason Williams is not Brian Rolston, nor is he Jason Smith or Brian Campbell. He is, however, a good fit for the Atlanta roster. For starters, he can play both right wing and center. This gives Coach Anderson some flexibility down the middle where he can juggle things around depending on how people pan out in training camp and can fill in gaps in case of injury down the stretch without making anyone play uncomfortably out of position.
I have to admit that I don't recall ever watching Williams play before, and was not familiar with him at all before this signing. Reviewing his numbers, however, he appears to be a very respectable forward who looked to have found the soring touch this past season before a sports hernia sidelined him for almost half the year. 36 points in 43 games is more than just respectable. And a 12.87% shooting average over that span shows that he knows when to shoot and when to pass to rack up those 23 assists.
All of that being said, Williams is not the final piece to the Thrashers 08-09 puzzle. He adds some roster depth, but it's middle management at best. The executive board room is still a lonely place for the Czar right now. If Little doesn't show the improvement we need from him by the end of training camp, then Williams can step into the third line center role, or if we are set down the middle, he can take a spot on the second or third line behind Perrin. (Like Coach Anderson, I fully expect EP to turn in a huge year.)
Speaking of Coach; the haste with which he informed Big Shooter that "nothing is set in stone" regarding the Thrashers goaltending situation leaves open the possibility that somebody might be on the trading block in order to bring us in some more help on the other end of the ice. I get the impression that Coach Anderson would have no problem with that, as his philosophy appears to be that we don't need to stop the puck if it stays in the other zone the whole game. I still like the idea of trying to move some assets toward a team that is in cap trouble in exchange for a relatively young, talented playmaker.
The Avs are in good shape right now as far as salary goes, but that could change once Joe Sakic decides to come back. And unless they haven't been paying attention to the Bruins and Maple Leafs over the past six years or so, they know that Andrew Raycroft isn't going to win them their next Stanley Cup. While Peter Budaj is a top notch backup (with a really fun name), he's doesn't look like a franchise starting goalie. Colorado has a good stable of young talent that they could send our way (Stastny, Svatos) and would love to have a goalie prospect like Pav or Kari.
Les merde-mangent Habs are in a similar situation. Their salary numbers are right under 50 million right now, but they're strutting around telling the world that it's a foregone conclusion that Mats Sundin will be donning le rouge, blanc, et bleu for 2008. If that happens, they're going to have make some room. Logic would state that someone who has been trained by the Montreal School of Acting Injured to Produce Powerplays would be a good fit out in Hollywood, but Chris Higgins might fit nicely into Atlanta's scheme if a prospect and draft pick could pry him away from the francophones. Montreal has a young netminding corps as it is, so Kari and Pav wouldn't appeal to them as much as some of our other prospects.
As I've said before, the Devils have no one waiting in the wings to take over once Martin Brodeur retires to start his own Jerry Springer style talk show in Quebec City. Gionta, Zubrus, or Parise would all stand to score 40 goals a year and put up 40-60 assists playing alongside the Czar.
Those are just a few of the possibilities, with the Flyers and Sharks both sitting on salary totals that have to be reduced. No word on the Flying Sharks, however, as they have been unsettlingly quiet during this offseason.
For the Chronicle, I'm Razor Catch Prey.