After his first full 82 game season as General Manager of the Atlanta Thrashers, Rick Dudley’s work doesn’t stop. In fact, it quite possibly could be the busiest time of year for a General Manager. In Dudley’s case, that may be an understatement. The Atlanta Thrashers have a group of Restricted Free Agents that will without a doubt headline the summer of 2011 for the parent club.
Captain and forward Andrew Ladd and newcomer forward Blake Wheeler are due to become restricted free agents and lead a deeper RFA group than in recent years in Atlanta. Not a bad thing, it’s actually a good problem to have.
Rick Dudley faces challenges ahead as any GM does, but the mere fact that Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler’s desire is to return to the Atlanta area, bodes well for a team that has operated the revolving door in recent history.
“We want them back and they want to come back. All that bodes well. It doesn’t seal the deal, but you know if you have two sides that really want to get something done that we will figure it out somehow,” GM Dudley said.
Ladd, captain of the 2010-11 Atlanta Thrashers posted 29 goals and 59 points in 81 games this season. Wheeler, joining the Thrashers after a deadline deal sending former Thrasher Rich Peverley to the Boston Bruins, scored 18 goals and posted 26 helpers in 81 games played.
Ladd and Wheeler are followed by the likes of defensemen Zach Bogosian and forwards Ben Maxwell, Rob Schremp and Anthony Stewart.
Bogosian re-signing in Atlanta is a no brainer for management, finishing the season with 5 goals and 17 assists in 71 games played.
“I don’t think we will have a problem re-signing him,” Dudley said
As far as Maxwell and Schremp, both players arriving prior to the 3pm trade deadline on February 28th, question marks are there in terms of the interest from both sides of the table.
Ben Maxwell has expressed a desire to wear the Thrasher sweater in the 2011-12 season. There is a mutual feeling with the coaching staff as well. Just what the asking price will be, well that’s yet to be determined, but shouldn’t create a problem when negotiating.
Robbie Schremp’s agent and Rick Dudley will sit down and talk eventually, but what Schremp brings to Atlanta in the not so distant future, is the question coaching and management must answer prior to putting the pen to the paper.
“He’s an interesting one. We’ve beaten that one up quite a bit because we like the kid. He came in and worked hard. He was a good guy. He seemed to be the guy that fit into what we are trying to do,” Dudley said.
So, might there be slight hesitation there?
The offensive weapon plucked off the waiver wire from the New York Islanders brings an offensive brand of hockey to the table, but is his work ethic sufficient for a coaching staff that preaches attention to detail and strong work habits on and off the ice?
Well, that’s something for the coaching staff to ponder, given the short amount of time this season spent in Atlanta for Schremp, also taking into consideration that a change of scenery works from time to time with professional athletes. In Schremp’s case, we will find out sooner rather then later, exactly what the Thrashers think.
Anthony Stewart may just be the toughest negotiation for Rick Dudley this summer, given the production in the beginning of the season, translating into 2 goals in his final 30 regular season games in the 2010-11 season for the Thrashers. Stewart, ending the season with 14 goals and 25 assists in 80 regular season games will be given the opportunity to return to Atlanta, but at an asking price that makes sense based upon his performance history.
“Stewy is an interesting guy because he had a productive first half and a not so productive second half. Both our side and their side has to take a look at that. I think he likes playing for Craig. I think he’s had some success playing for Craig. We have to arrive at a number,” Dudley said.
While the Stanley Cup playoffs are just days away from the second round, Atlanta management will continue to investigate every avenue in preparation for continued improvement with player personal.
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