Thrashers Sign Josh Gratton and Mike Vernace
A press release will be up soon announcing the signings of forward Josh Gratton and defenseman Mike Vernace.
Gratton is a true enforcer who brings size (6-2, 214 lbs) and a real willingness to drop the gloves. He played 19 games for the Flyers last season and picked up 52 penalty minutes in the process. In 2006-07 he was involved in 16 NHL fights (according to hockeyfights.com) and finished second in the NHL with 188 PIMs while playing 52 games for the Coyotes. The question is whether he can be a useful every day player in the NHL like Eric Boulton has turned out to be. If Gratton’s game isn’t well-rounded enough to stick he’ll likely end up being Mike Hoffman’s replacement in Chicago. At just 26, Gratton is still young enough to improve his game and carve out a role for himself. When Boulton was that age he was a pure fighter, and now he’s an effective fourth-line player.
Mike Vernace is a 23-year-old defenseman who played 12 games for the Avalanche last season. He was held scoreless in those games but the 6-2, 200 lb Toronto native went from playing 11:51 in his first game to regularly logging well over 20 minutes per game. In those 12 games he had 20 hits, 17 blocked shots, and averaged 2:13 per game on the PK. How many PP goals did Colorado give up when he was on the ice? None. It’s easy to see Vernace as a depth signing, but there’s some very real potential there. He also had 10 goals and 72 points in 68 games with Brampton to close out his OHL career in 2005-06, so there’s some offensive ability there as well. If he makes a strong impression at training camp and in the pre-season the coaches could be in for some very difficult decisions when it comes to selecting their top seven defensemen. Bogosian, Enstrom, Hainsey, and Kubina are locks, then you have Nathan Oystrick, Anssi Salmela, Boris Valabik and Noah Welch battling for the remaining spots, along with Vernace and prospects like Arutrs Kulda and Grant Lewis.