By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
Before NHL teams dumped contracts in Arizona, the contract graveyard of the league was the Atlanta Thrashers. A very small market team before the Salary Cap was installed in 2005, the Thrashers were often against the cap floor. Atlanta became the place to drop veterans with bad contracts, or where veterans could sign for bigger sums of money, which lead to some strange players gracing their rosters.
This is the top 5 most bizarre players to play for the Thrashers.
Number 5- Bobby Holik
After a decade with the Devils, he was traded to the Rangers. New York bought him out after the installment of the salary cap in 2005. Holik played three full seasons in Atlanta, though failing to live up to his former glory. Through 228 games as a Thrasher, he only scored 96 points. He was not re-signed following the 2007-08 season. Instead, he played one final year with his longtime New Jersey Devils.
Number 4- Chris Kunitz
Originally signed by the Mighty Ducks after going undrafted, Kunitz spent his early career in the AHL, including the entire 2004-05 lockout year with the Cincinatti Mighty Ducks. After the lockout, he was claimed on waivers by the Thrashers. Kunitz played two games for the Thrashers, but two weeks later he was reclaimed by the Ducks. It was a move that would ultimately lauch his NHL career, as he went on to break the Ducks’ rookie scoring record with 41 points.
Number 3- Chris Chelios
Even though Chelios’s career was just about over in 2009, he signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Wolves, the Thrashers’ AHL team. He was recalled in March of 2010 with the hopes that he would provide a spark to push the team to the playoffs, but after a weak showing in just seven games he was sent back to the AHL. He retired four months later.
Number 2- Mark Recchi
During the summer of 2007, Recchi signed a one-year deal with the Penguins. But after a slow start posting only nine points through the team’s first 18 games, he was sent to the AHL. The next day, the Penguins put him on re-entry waivers and he was claimed by the Atlanta Thrashers. Recchi played the rest of the 2007-08 season in Atlanta where he scored 12 goals and 40 points in 53 games. He did not re-sign with the team, instead opting to go to Tampa Bay.
Number 1- Keith Tkachuk
In one of the more bizarre post-salary cap moves, the St. Louis Blues traded Tkachuk to the Thrashers for Greg Metropolit, a 2007 first, 2007 third, and a 2008 second round pick on February 25, 2007. Tkachuk played 18 games as a Thrasher, registering 15 points during that span. He helped the Thrashers reach the playoffs, but they were swept by the Rangers in the first round. Later that summer he was reacquired by the Blues for a conditional first round pick, thus ending his stint in Atlanta.
Marian Hossa– Spending the first seven years of his career with the Senators, Hossa signed a new three-year deal in the summer of 2005, and all seemed normal. Later that same day Hossa and defenseman Greg De Vries were traded to the Thrashers in exchange for Dany Heatley, who wanted out of Atlanta after the death of teammate Dan Snyder that he was responsible for. Hossa teamed up with Ilya Kovalchuk where he recorded 92 points during his first season in Atlanta. During his second season he became the only player in Thrashers history to hit the 100-point plateau. Hossa and the Thrashers could not agree on a contract extension so he was traded to Pittsburgh at the 2008 trade deadline. He sits third all-time in Thrashers points, third in goals, and fourth in assists.
Pascal Dupuis– Dupuis played his early career with the Wild, but due to a string of injuries he struggled to find a home in the NHL. He played on three different teams in February of 2007 before landing in Atlanta. Dupuis finished the 2006-07 season and played most of the 2007-08 season with the Thrashers before being traded at the 2008 deadline to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Peter Bondra– The longtime Capitals legend was affected by the lockout just like everyone else. After choosing to play in the Slovak Extraliga during the dispute, he was in talks to return to the Capitals. But due to salary restraints (which ended his Capitals career the first time) he ended up signing a one year deal with the Thrashers. Atlanta failed to qualify for the playoffs that year despite Bondra’s 39-point season. Bondra played one final season in Chicago before ending his legendary career.
photo credit: sbnation.com