The Thrashers did more than sign Dustin Byfuglien, one of their best players, to a lengthy contract extension today. The team got a huge statement of confidence from that player, and the ownership group was willing to fork over the cash to make this possible.
Everyone knows of the ownership issues surrounding this team, and the assumption that they’re not willing to shell out big money to retain talent. However, all signs point to the fact that they were willing to give Hossa a decent amount of money and that they were throwing around $8 million at Brian Campbell (currently of the Chicago Blackhawks and part of the reason for this past off-season’s cap-hell). Of course, they offered to make Ilya Kovalchuk the top paid player in the league last season, and were rebuffed.
The ownership group, while cheap, also realizes that you have to have at least one marquee player to get attention and to keep the losses down. The marquee players, though, just haven’t seemed to have trusted the ownership group to back the team up. Chances are good that the players haven’t wanted to stay because of the constant rumor mill swilling around the Thrashers’ future in Atlanta, and that is very understandable. I’d hate to sign with a team that I thought was going to be in one city, and then wake up the next day and have to play for another city – with totally disparate climates, to boot.
To have a player like Dustin Byfuglien re-sign here shows that maybe the ownership issue is diminished in the eyes of a player when you have a quality core, young talent, and a coaching staff and general manager who run the team like a hockey club, not like a country club. This is a huge vote of confidence in the future of the franchise, and one that the ownership group obviously greenlighted. Did they do so to make their on-ice product more marketable? Of course. It wasn’t done out of belief in the franchise winning the Cup; they know that putting a good team on ice is enough to get more butts in the seats.
Will Thrasher fans complain about it? Nope. For once, Atlanta Spirit gets a pass for a good decision, and one of the game’s rising stars gives the Thrashers franchise his stamp of approval. I think this works out in the end.