In reading this morning's post from Eklund, it appears that the Atlanta Thrashers are still alive and well in the free agent market. The Thrashers have 19 players signed on for next season for an estimated cap hit of $44.8 million, leaving themselves about $12 million, if they wanted to fill their cap space up for the remaining four players.
I think the most surprising name is Nikolai Zherdev, who had already has his name in the ring in Russia. Zherdev may have not actually fully committed to the KHL, like it was suggested in August, leaving the door open to return to the NHL for the coming season. Zherdev has since been quoted as saying that he would be more than willing to play with the Thrashers, especially since his fellow countryman, Ilya Kovalchuk, is playing there currently. I'm sure players like Nikolai Antropov, Slava Kozlov and Pavel Kubina doesn't hurt either.
Also tagging along in the new Red Army rumours is Max Afinogenov, another unrestricted free agent looking for new work. Afinogenov has been struggling over the past few seasons, seeing his production drop significantly. It would be rather interesting to see if the possibility of a new scene and some familiar teammates would lift Afinogenov back up to his previous sniper status. He should be able to come at a cheap premium for the coming year, so if he was interested in playing with Kovalchuk or the other Russians, why not take that chance?
The Thrashers are a bit of wild card this summer, making some improvements to be a better competitor in the tight Southeast Division. A couple more moves like these signings may have an interesting effect on how other teams approach them in the first half of the season. With the cap space that they have left, they could make this splash and see what happens. It likely won't make them worse off.