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February 25, 2007

Keith Tkachuk

Don Waddell

ROB KOCH: Good afternoon, everybody. I appreciate everyone joining us on short notice, and thanks to Don and Keith for making themselves available; Keith in particular, he's at the airport right now to meet up with the team for our game tomorrow night, so I'll be brief.
This is going to unfold by starting with a few remarks from Don, and then after that, we'll take questions for Keith so that he can get on the plane. After that, Don can field questions, and with that, I'll get it going by turning it over to Don.
DON WADDELL: Thanks, Rob. Obviously this is a big day for us in flasher lands. Keith is a player that I'm very familiar with both professionally and personally. I've been involved with Keith for many years with USA Hockey, with World Cup and the Olympics, so I know Keith as a person.
I know what we need right now with our hockey club is not only a player that has the ability that Keith has, but also the passion and grit that he shows for the game. When his name was available out there, we certainly had him high on our list and put every effort forward to make this happen.
I think Keith will bring to our team some added addition from a skill and as someone that can jump in and be a No. 1 line player for us.
So, we are excited about adding Keith to our hockey club, and at this point I'll turn it over to Keith.

Q. Can you just talk, obviously you had some options available to you and you could have at least suggested where you wanted to play. Can you just talk about why you were willing to go to the Thrashers?
KEITH TKACHUK: Well, I think it was a pretty obvious decision for me. Once I got the phone call last night, obviously it was pretty late, but you know, this is a team with a lot of great, young hockey players. They have had a great year so far. And with some of the guys they have like Kovalchuk, I just thought it was a no-brainer. I'm excited to get a chance to be in the playoffs and obviously to win the Stanley Cup, and I thought it was the right decision.

Q. If I can follow up, there's some thought that you will play some center there, as well. How do you like playing center?
KEITH TKACHUK: I don't mind. Obviously I played quite a bit of that this year. It gives me a lot more skating room. Obviously I've been -- inaudible -- my whole career, but in St. Louis, they needed me to play center. Obviously it was tough at first, but I adjusted to it. I don't mind it at all. When you get a chance to have (Ilya) Kovalchuk and (Marian) Hossa in your lane, you won't complain at all.

Q. I understand that maybe your relationship with Scott Mellanby might have also played a role, are you guys pretty tight?
KEITH TKACHUK: Yeah, I got a chance to play with Scott in St. Louis. We both got traded there at the same time. I have the utmost respect for him and I think he's a heck of a leader and a great captain.
You know, Scott keeps you on your toes. I've been in contact with Scott, and he has nothing but great things to say about Atlanta. Obviously there was rumors about me going there and I talked to him quite a bit. It will be great. Like I say, it keeps you on your toes, and I think that's exactly what a team or any NHL team needs is a guy like that. I'm going to go in there and obviously try to help him out and do what I can on the ice and help win the Stanley Cup.

Q. When you see that what Don had to give up to acquire you, does that add any kind of pressure on you?
KEITH TKACHUK: You know what, I've been in the league a long time. Obviously that makes me feel good that they wanted me that bad. You know, it's the same, I feel confident that I can go in there and help out, accomplish the same goal that everybody wants in the Atlanta Thrashers organization which is to win a Stanley Cup. I'm ready to take that journey.

Q. You touched on this a little earlier, but can you talk, whether it be on the line or on the power play, getting the chance to play with arguably two of the most skilled guys in the game in Hossa and Kovalchuk?
KEITH TKACHUK: You know, my game is pretty simple. I like to go out and try to create room for guys like that. I mean, I got a chance in St. Louis to play with a guy like Pavel Demitra, who I enjoyed playing with. I remember him always saying how good this Hossa kid is.
You know, I just want to go out and not try to do too much, just go out, try to get the puck to those guys. And, you know, when you play off guys like that, you know the puck is eventually going to get to be in net. And my job ever since I came into the league is to be around the net and get those goals and try to create room for others, and it's not going to change. I'm looking forward to it. This is a great thing. I found out late last night after I got off the phone with Donnie and I knew it was a no-brainer. It's a great thing and I'm looking forward to it.

Q. At the same time, I understand your excitement, but just for the fans in St. Louis, how difficult is it for you to leave this franchise and go play someplace else?
KEITH TKACHUK: Well, obviously it is difficult when you've been there for, you know, which I consider a long time. It's tough because I've developed a great relationship with a lot of people in St. Louis. You know, I have three children and obviously a wife back there who the kids are in school and doing different things. I have the most respect for guys like John Davidson and Larry Pleau, who have been great to me, especially Larry over the last couple of years, and the fans.
You know, this is something that's good for both St. Louis and obviously Atlanta, and it's just part of the business. You know, I'll miss it in St. Louis, there's no question about it. But, you know, the Atlanta Thrashers are heading for the playoffs and -- inaudible -- for St. Louis, I'll never forget, it was a great time there. And, you know, it's a place where eventually I'll probably live once the hockey is over.

Q. What will it be like, so many times you have welcomed new guys into the locker room, what will it be like for you being the new guy?
KEITH TKACHUK: I'm a pretty personable guy, so I don't think it will be -- obviously I'm 34 years old, but you know, I get a long with everybody, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to make myself at home and just go out and play hard. And obviously I know Scott, he's the captain of that team and just go about my business and just deal with it and looking forward to it. I'm excited.

Q. I know Bob Hartley was showing some concerns that this team was showing signs of not handling the pressure of this playoff race. Do you feel like you bring some stability in that dressing room at a time when the team might really need it?
KEITH TKACHUK: Well, I hope so. I mean, they are a great hockey team. Everybody knows what they have to do.
You know, this is my 15th year in the league and you know, this is crunch time, there's no question about it. This is a big by Atlanta, putting it on the line with me coming there. So I have to go there and do the right things on and off the ice and get ourselves in the playoffs.
Once you're in the playoffs, anything can happen. You know, we'll just see what happens. And we have a big game tomorrow against Boston, and you know, two points are very important. Every game is so huge now at this time of the year.

Q. I just wondered if you had had any discussion with Larry or John to the extent about what might happen in the off-season, obviously we saw Doug Weight go to Carolina, win a Stanley Cup and go back to St. Louis. Have you had any discussions about that and what are your feelings about what might happen to you this summer?
KEITH TKACHUK: You know what, I haven't had one discussion with them. The only discussion I had was that I was traded to Atlanta. So I mean, you know, I'm an Atlanta Thrasher right now and I'm very happy to be an Atlanta Thrasher and I want to win the Stanley Cup.
Whatever happens this summer, happens. I think, you know, that's the only goal right now is to win a Stanley Cup. You know, the people in St. Louis have been great to me. So you're just going to play a new season.

Q. Just wondering what it's going to be like now changing conferences. You were a western guy for so long, you know, you're going to see a lot of teams more often and a lot of goalies more often than you're used to.
KEITH TKACHUK: Yeah, I know, Billy Guerin was kind of joking around with me about that. Yeah, I've been a western guy my whole career, but I think change is good. Obviously it's a little tight right now in the Eastern Conference, but it's going to be great being an Eastern boy. I think it's going to be fun playing in places that I haven't really played in in a long time. Kind of looking forward to it; I think it's going to be a change, but I think it's going to be a good change.

Q. You kind of touched on this, but obviously the Thrashers have given up a lot and they have struggled here in recent weeks kind put this playoff race in a little jeopardy, what pressure are you feeling to come in and that turn around? Obviously they are counting you on to play a big role in that.
KEITH TKACHUK: There's obviously pressure in every game. The NHL is to tight, every team is so close. I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to go in and play hard, and hopefully great things will happen. This is a special group of guys there, but I think can take it to a whole new level and I'm looking forward to being a part of that.
ROB KOCH: Thank you, Keith, I appreciate you taking the time. I'll now open the floor for any questions for Don.

Q. Don, just wondered if you can walk us through the thought process on bringing Keith in, and obviously the significance of that in terms of draft picks. And also with the Braydon Coburn deal as well, just what you have given up and what you expect to get in return over the last few days.
DON WADDELL: Well, I'm sure we're just like other teams. When you put together your wish list of what your needs are, we had on there, you know, a defenseman that could help our power play and play some significant minutes for us, and we had a top front line player that we, needed. That was our thought process.
And then when Keith became available, obviously I know Keith was a very appealing name and player to us. We started a dialogue with St. Louis some four or five days ago at the general managers' meetings about what the price was going to be. Certainly, I know everybody talks about the price you give up, but if you look at big-time players that have performed well throughout their career, it's going to be a price that's going to be paid for.
Over the years we have been pretty conservative about trading away picks and about our prospects. We felt that we've always protected the future; the future for us is now. We have very good crop of young players that we have already drafted for the next several years coming up, and that's why we felt like we could afford to give up not only a draft pick in this deal, but Braydon Coburn in the deal we made last night, also.

Q. Obviously you felt the price was right because you made the deal, but could you just address the price for rentals these days and why you made the decision to pay a steep price?
KEITH TKACHUK: Well, our franchise, we've gone along here, last year we came up short of our goal of getting into the playoffs. This year we had a tremendous first 45 games and we've kind of faltered here the last three or four weeks. And we just felt that we needed to not just make some changes; we needed to make some different changes as far as players that make a difference. And Keith makes a difference in a hockey game, and that's why we're willing to give up the assets that we gave up.
You know, the price you pay for rental players really can't be measured until the season is over because you know, depending on how the results are for our hockey club, you can argue it both ways, whether it's worth it or not.
For us, the price was right, and we were in a position we could afford to give up those picks, and St. Louis can take those picks and I'm sure put them to good use.

Q. With people talking about the price for rental players, when you see it with Forsberg and what Nashville gave up and what you gave up for Tkachuk, do you see this trend continuing, and if you look into your crystal ball for guys like a Bill Guerin or some of the guys in Florida, I mean, is this going to take big-time commitments from teams if they really want these guys?
DON WADDELL: Well, you know, as we all know, probably the price goes down a little bit toward the final day. There's not that many players available compared to -- very many top players available compared to the teams that are in need for it.
So I think some of the top guys are going to get -- teams are going to get pretty good prices for them. You know, that's what the market bears this year. You know, year-to-year it changes, depending on, as Keith mentioned, that there was a race in particular with us right now in the East. There's a lot of times that are trying to add and not delete.
So I think the price for the top players is still going to be what it's been established, and I know there's teams out there still trying to -- I know we had great competition to get Keith, and I'm sure there's that same competition going on for that next guy.

Q. A couple things, one is any thought about -- I know that there's an extra pick in there if you re-sign Keith. What are the prospects of that and how quickly you might get to that with him, and also personally any pressure you might be feeling with what's happened the last few weeks and the slump and such and whether that had an effect on these deals.
DON WADDELL: Well, first, you know, we will get through this season with Keith, and then we'll address all our free agents in the summertime. We were not going to negotiate any of our UFAs at this time, so that will take care of itself when the time comes.
The pressure that we get in this business, certainly there's pressure every day in this business from lots of different sources. The biggest pressure that we have is -- that I have is for myself. I've been with this franchise since day one. We all know what the goal has been. So do you feel added pressure? I feel pressure every day. And I said we would make a deal, if it made sense for our hockey club, it made our hockey club better, and we felt this deal certainly addressed both those needs.
ROB KOCH: Thank you, everybody, for joining us. If anybody has any follow-up questions or needs, please feel free to call me in the office and once again, thanks to Don and Keith both. Have a great day.

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