Continued from page 1

With Chicago forced to dump players to stay within the salary cap, Dudley swooped in to land Byfuglien, Eager and Sopel in one deal, then pulled off another to bring in Ladd.

“It’s a business,” Sopel said. “With the salary cap issues, it’s pretty tough. That’s what we all fell victim to. It’s part of the job. But I’m excited to be in Atlanta. It reminds me of the Chicago team three years ago when I got there. Some young kids, great talent, great kids looking to learn, looking to get better, looking to win.”

The Thrashers do look better on defense with Byfuglien and Sopel joining Bogosian, Ron Hainsey, Tobias Enstrom and Johnny Oduya. Chris Mason was signed as a free agent but the team hopes 23-year-old Ondrej Pavelec will become the sort of dominant No. 1 goaltender they’ve never had in Atlanta.

The biggest question is up front.

Atlanta has only three players _ Nik Antropov (24), Rich Peverley (22) and Niclas Bergfors (21) _ who scored as many as 20 goals in the NHL last season. An 0-5-1 preseason in which the Thrashers managed just 10 goals did little to raise hopes.

Maybe the Ex-Hawks will help turn things around.

“It’s great to have added players who have won the Stanley Cup before,” Kane said. “They bring a winning attitude that we can build on. With so many new faces, it takes a while to come together. But everyone is excited about what this team can do.”