Thrashers invite free agent Afinogenov for tryout

September, 18, 2009

Because Maxim Afinogenov has so much talent, you just knew some team would finally bite on the unrestricted free agent.

In my mind, Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell made a nice move this week by inviting the 30-year-old winger for a tryout. Why not?

"He's had a couple of tough years with some injuries and that, and he wasn't playing as much as he was," Waddell told on Friday. "But he's 30 years old. You look at a guy with his skill and skating ability and his track record, it's a no-lose situation for us."

Credit Afinogenov's agent Don Meehan, a veteran of the business, for finding what should be a good fit for his client.

"I think it's a great move by Atlanta," Meehan, the head of Newport Sports, told "I think, at the end of the day, they'll be pleased with him. He's a great character person who has always been well-liked by his teammates.

"He's a great athlete and he's in great shape. He'll be a great asset for them."

Afinogenov arrived in Atlanta on Thursday and joined his teammates for practice on Friday.

"I know a few guys here, which helps," Afinogenov told after the practice. "I know [Ilya] Kovalchuk from the [Russian] national team, and, of course, Slava [Kozlov] and I played in Buffalo. We played on the same line for one year in Buffalo; that was a lot of fun."

If Afinogenov makes the team, he'd likely play on the second line with Kozlov and perhaps Rich Peverley. Kovalchuk likely will be on the top line with Nik Antropov and Bryan Little.

Afinogenov had a career-high 73 points (22-51) in 2005-06, but has dipped ever since as injuries slowed him down. Last season, it was a groin problem.

"I'm putting that behind me," said Afinogenov. "I'm starting a new life and I want to help this team now."

But first, he needs to make the team (the Thrashers can sign him between now and the end of the preseason). At least there's one thing he doesn't have to worry about: lodging.

"Slava gave me no choice. He said, 'You're staying in my house.' He's a good guy," said Afinogenov.

Sounds to me like someone has found a new home in more ways than one.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer


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