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Atlanta Thrashers Add To The Blueline And Coaching Staff; Are RFA Contracts Next?

Adding some confusion and just a touch more speculation to the mix, the Thrashers have signed unrestricted free agent Freddy Meyer, late of the New York Islanders, to serve as a possible 7th defenseman. I speculated a while ago that the 7th man would probably be between Boris Valabik and Arturs Kulda, who'd alternate in on the third pairing whenever needed. Well, so much for that.

The team extended Meyer a one year, two way contract at a $600,000 cap hit. This gives room for Kulda to continue to develop as a player if need be and get called up whenever the team feels like he has hit the point where he could play in the NHL full time. Valabik and Meyer would alternate on the third pairing with probably Brent Sopel. Honestly, the third defensive pairing depends an awful lot on Valabik's ACL and Kulda's development. Valabik was playing extremely well between injuries last season; as Ben Wright points out he was plus or even in 20 of the 23 games he was in, which is an impressive stat. Ben has a Q&A with Boris up at the Blueland Blog that sounds positive, at least from the big defenseman's point of view.

Continuing the busy day that the Thrashers had yesterday, the team hired Clint Malarchuk as goaltending consultant. Malarchuk, you might remember, is the goalie known for his unfortunate brush with death when a skate knicked his carotid artery in 1989. Happily, he has built a much more successful career as a goaltending consultant. The Thrashers have never had an official goaltending coach that I can think of - Steve Weeks almost kind of filled that duty - which explains the stunted development of Ondrej Pavelec and the atrocious conditioning of Kari Lehtonen. In all honesty, the closest that the Thrashers have come to a goaltending coach was former back-up Johan Hedberg. Frankly, the team didn't pay him enough to be a player coach. Pavelec should benefit from the mentorship of Chris Mason, but he needs a professional coach to help him as well. Malarchuk has experience with the other goaltending Mason in the league - Steve Mason - and coached him in his Vezina Trophy winning rookie campaign. He was not responsible for whatever you want to call Mason's season last year.

So, any more contractual papers coming out here soon? *wink wink nudge nudge*

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.