One roster spot is all that remains.
The last position on the Thrashers likely belongs to a defenseman – either Boris Valabik or Freddy Meyer.
The Thrashers released four players following Monday’s practice to trim the roster to 25. Forwards Fredrik Pettersson and Patrick Rissmiller and defensemen Arturs Kulda and Andrey Zubarev were released. With prospect Andrew Kozek still on the training camp roster following groin surgery, the Thrashers are essentially down to 24 players. They must get to a maximum of 23 players by the NHL’s 3 p.m. Wednesday deadline.
It is possible the Thrashers will release two players to get to a roster of 22 players with only one extra forward and one extra defenseman. However, the status of center Jim Slater remains unknown. He did not appear in an exhibition game due to a right wrist injury.
“Slater is a longer-term issue,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said Monday.
Pettersson, Kulda and Zubarev will be reassigned to AHL Chicago. Rissmiller, who will make $1 million next season no matter where he plays, must pass waivers before he can be assigned to the AHL. Pettersson got off to a fast start with a goal and an assist in the opening exhibition game, but he didn't have a point in three others. Pettersson, who spent the past three seasons in the Swedish Elite League, had a minus-two rating.
With top-six defensemen Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey, Johnny Oduya and Brent Sopel already in place, the Thrashers need just a seventh defenseman to round out the roster. Valabik and Meyer are the two who remain.
Valabik was a first-round pick (No. 10 overall) of the Thrashers in 2004. He appeared in only one of six exhibition games. Meyer, who signed with the Thrashers in the offseason, played in four exhibition games, scored two goals and had a plus-four rating. Meyer has played in parts of six NHL seasons with Philadelphia, Phoenix and the New York Islanders.
“We have a tough, tough decision to make,” Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley said last month. “It will probably end up being an unfair process, but it’s one you have to make. Someone is going down that deserves to be in the league.”
It appears that Alexander Burmistrov, the team’s first-round pick in this year’s draft, will start the season in the NHL. He would be the third straight first-round pick to make the Thrashers roster out of training camp, joining Bogosian and Evander Kane. The Thrashers can still send the 18-year old Burmistrov back to junior hockey (Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League) at any time. However if he remains for more than 10 games the clock starts on his pro contract, making him a restricted free agent a year earlier.
It also appears the Anthony Stewart has earned an initial spot on the team. Stewart, a former first-round pick of Florida, spent all last season in the AHL. Stewart was a plus-2 during the exhibition season with an assist. Ramsay called the line of Stewart, Chris Thorburn and Ben Eager the best of training camp. Nigel Dawes, signed as a free-agent late in the offseason, is still on the roster after scoring two preseason goals. Those three players stood out during exhibition games, according to Ramsay.
“We had a lot of people to look at,” the coach said before the roster moves were announced. “Some of our young people did extremely well. A guy like Nigel Dawes came in and played very well also. … I think Stewart stepped up and jumped into the mix. Suddenly you were looking at a bunch of people that I didn’t know very well that pushed themselves into a chance to start in the lineup. I think it worked out well that we got to see them play and know our people a little bit better. Freddy Meyer was another guy we weren’t sure of. We had some good pickups [in the offseason] that make these questions a little more difficult to answer.”
* Byfuglien, who missed several practices and did not appear in the final two exhibition games, skated in Monday’s practice. He reported feeling no ill effects of the ankle injury that has hampered him.
“So far, so good,” Byfuglien said. “We took care of it with rehab and everything is good now.”
* Slater took part in practice on a limited basis Monday and did not participate in all drills. He went through a rigorous pre-practice workout.
* Slava Kozlov, who spent the past seven seasons with the Thrashers before leaving as a free agent during the offseason, signed a contract to play for CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League.
After Monday's moves, the Thrashers roster is currently at 25 players.
Forwards (15): Nik Antropov, Niclas Bergfors, Eric Boulton, Alexander Burmistrov, Nigel Dawes, Ben Eager, Evander Kane, Andrew Kozek, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Fredrik Modin, Rich Peverley, Jim Slater, Anthony Stewart, Chris Thorburn
Defensemen (8): Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey, Freddy Meyer, Johnny Oduya, Brent Sopel, Boris Valabik
Goaltenders (2): Chris Mason, Ondrej Pavelec