Chris Mason, Andrew Ladd Go to Atlanta
First, the Thrashers inked goaltender Chris Mason (formally of the St. Louis Blues) to a two-year, $3.7 deal, and then followed it up by acquiring restricted free agent Andrew Ladd from the Chicago Blackhawks, who are starting to look nothing like the team that hoisted the Stanley Cup just one month ago.
As far as Mason is concerned, we've already seen four goalies sign on Thursday (Dan Ellis in Tampa Bay, Marty Biron with the Rangers and Antero Niittymaki in San Jose were the other three), and not one of them is named Nabokov, Turco or Theodore, the three biggest "names" on the market as far as goaltenders are concerned.
After Atlanta allowed Johan Hedberg to hit the open market, it left the club with only Ondrej Pavelec (currently unsigned as a restricted free agent) as a goaltending option. At nearly $2 million per season, Mason gives the Thrashers a solid option as either a true No. 1, or to be used as part of a rotation with Pavelec. An eight-year veteran, Mason spent the last two years as a member of the St. Louis Blues, posting very solid numbers, including save percentages of .916 and .913. There's a lot of teams in the NHL that are paying a lot more money and getting a lot less in return.
For Ladd, it's Atlanta's second deal with the cap-crushed Blackhawks in the past week. The Thrashers previously acquired Dustin Byfuglien, and on Thursday, sent prospect Ivan Vishnesvkiy and a second-round pick to Chicago for Ladd, who is coming off a 17-goal, 21-assist campaign.
Vishnevskiy was acquired by Atlanta last year in the trade that sent goaltender Kari Lehtonen to Dallas.
He didn't get the same fanfare Byfuglien did, but I think Ladd can be -- if he already isn't -- a better overall, and more productive player. Their production was identical last season, while Ladd already has a 49-point season under his belt (Byfuglien, for what it's worth, has never topped 40 points in a single season).
Since winning the Cup, the Blackhawks have traded Ladd, Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager, and will likely lose John Madden to free agency due to salary cap restrictions. In related news, the contracts given to Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet (taking up over $12 million in cap space) are looking absolutely horrible. Without them, a lot of these cap problems could have easily been avoided.