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Atlanta hasn’t been able to locate investors, but after making only playoff appearance (2007) since the team’s debut as an expansion team in the 1999-2000 season, the Thrashers have once again found success on the ice.

Atlanta is winning with a new collection of young talent assembled in drafts and through offseason trades.

A candidate to follow Kovalchuk as the new figurehead of the franchise is big defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who was a star on the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup championship team last year. Byfuglien (6-5, 265) leads all NHL defensemen in scoring.

Another young star is goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, 23, who ranks among the NHL leaders with his average of only 1.80 goals allowed per game.

Byfuglien, Evander Kane, captain Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and others have shared the scoring load. Atlanta is in position to contend for only the second playoff appearance in franchise history.

“I think it’s very encouraging,” Daly said. “I think the club has done some really, really good things personnel-wise in the last couple of years and I think you’re starting to see some of those results on the ice. Hopefully that will translate to better support and Bruce will have better success in finding the capital he needs and hopefully we won’t be in a position where we have to consider alternatives.”

Any discussion of the team leaving Atlanta will have to start with the arena.

In 1999, Philips Electronics signed a 20-year, $182 naming rights deal for Philips Arena. The company can walk away from the contract, one of the most lucrative in sports, if the Thrashers or NBA Atlanta Hawks leave the arena.

“We all know hey, we have some challenges here,” Waddell said. “But for three years now I’ve been talking about rumors. Until we figure a way to move this building, I still feel it’s going to be difficult for us to move this franchise because I haven’t seen anybody move a building like this.”