The Atlanta Thrashers are not in the most optimal ownership situation, so the fact that they were able and willing to fork over the kind of cash they did for defenseman Dustin Byfuglien says a lot, writes Laura Astorian at SB Nation Atlanta.
The ownership group, while cheap, also realizes that you have to have at least one marquee player to get attention and to keep the losses down. The marquee players, though, just haven't seemed to have trusted the ownership group to back the team up.
Chances are good that the players haven't wanted to stay because of the constant rumor mill swilling around the Thrashers' future in Atlanta, and that is very understandable. I'd hate to sign with a team that I thought was going to be in one city, and then wake up the next day and have to play for another city - with totally disparate climates, to boot.
The Thrashers have historically had trouble keeping players in town, but it wasn't necessarily because they were cheap, even if it's the reputation that they have. They offered the house to Ilya Kovalchuk and he didn't take it. They made a large offer to Marian Hossa, too, and that didn't work.
The fact that Byfuglien accepted this five-year, $26 million extension says that players are willing to sign there, the shaky future be damned. Ultimately, if they can sign players like this to long-term deals in Atlanta, even if it's considered an overpayment, it can go a long way toward putting people in the Philips Arena seats.