Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell today traded goaltender Kari Lehtonen to the Dallas Stars for defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy and a fourth-round selection in the 2010 Entry Draft. However, in a stunning move just hours later, Waddell then traded the rest of the team to Jim Balsille for 7 pounds of dried moose jerky, 11 cured beaver pelts and a burlap sack of loose cash. The full terms of the deal are not yet known, but the deal reportedly includes not only the entire current Thrashers roster, but also Phillips Arena, both zambonis, all 8 hot dog carts, all 16 immigrant cleaning staff personnel, 4 stockrooms of unsold miscellaneous Thrasher merchandise, and just about everything else associated with, or owned by the Atlanta Thrashers organization. "It's pretty much the whole kit and kaboodle" said a source inside the organization who requested anonymity so people would not associate him with the Atlanta Thrashers.
It had been initially rumored among several league sources that upon hearing of the trade, Gary Bettman's head actually exploded. However, this rumor was quickly debunked by the league office, which released a statement containing technical data illustrating that Gary Bettman's head was, in fact, big and malleable enough to contain any potential explosions without damage. Calls to the league office requesting further comment on this technical data were not returned.
In a short press release, however, the Thrashers explained the rationale for the unexpected move. "While we know that today's decision to trade the entire team to Jim Balsille may come as a shock to all 16 members of our core fanbase, with the recent departure of Ilya Kovalchuk what's the point in even trying anymore? As a token of our appreciation to the dozens of fans who have attended Thrashers games over the years, we will be having a buy 1 get 4 free sale on official Thrashers jerseys from 6 am to noon, each remaining Saturday in February at booth number 23 at Flea Market USA, conveniently located at 1919 Metropolitan Parkway Southwest. Come early, come all."
Another source close to the situation indicated that the deal nearly fell through, when Balsille balked at Waddell's initial demand of 8 pounds of moose jerky - one pound for each owner. However, both sides eventually were able to agree on 7 pounds, when part owner Steve Belkin agreed to retain 2 unopened boxes of 'Skittles' from unsold snackbar inventory, in lieu of his pound of jerky.
New owner Balsille, owner of Research in Motion, quickly expressed his delight with the trade. "Today I am proud to report that I have acquired the Atlanta Thrashers in a pre-deadline trade. I know that many current owners and GM's will say that I overpaid in this trade, but there are times when one has to have the cajones to just go out there and take what one wants, costs be damned. Oh, and UP YOURS, Bettman!!!" Balsille also unveiled a new "Third Jersey" that will be worn by the team for the remainder of the year:
It has also been widely rumored that the new owner has expressed interest in petitioning the league to change the name of the team from the "Thrashers" to the "Blackberries". But this rumor has not yet been confirmed.
The trade has also fueled speculation that Balsille's acquisition of the team is a precursor to the team being relocated to Canada. When asked about this possibility in a telephone interview this afternoon, Balsille indicated that such talk was premature, as he has not yet had time to complete a feasibility study on disassembling Phillips Arena and having it trucked to Hamilton, Ontario for reassembly. "I'm told that all those hicks down there live in little tin houses on wheels" said Balsille. "While it stands to reason that they would use their same primitive construction methods in their stadiums, our technical personnel have not yet been able to get down there and pull the underpinning off the building to assess the condition of the axles. Plus, I'm sure we would need some construction permits, a really big truck and a big-ass license plate before we could drag that puppy back up to Canada. Such an undertaking would take a couple of weeks at least."
In a related story, the NHL today unexpectedly received a new bid to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes. The league office would not release any details as to the potential buyer or other terms of the deal. However, a source familiar with the proposal has indicated that the sale would be contingent upon the league approving the team's relocation to Cupertino, California and changing the team name from the Coyotes to the "iPucks".