antropov-thrashers-306

New York Rangers' Nik Antropov skates against the New York Islanders on March 5, 2009. ((Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) )

Nik Antropov has signed a four-year, $16 million US contract with the Atlanta Thrashers.

It will be the third team since March for the powerful centreman, who spent the first nine years in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Antropov, 29, was dealt to the New York Rangers at trade deadline.

Last season, he collected a career-high 28 goals and 59 points while taking in a $2.15 million paycheque. During the 2007-08 season Antropov had 56 points with the Leafs.

The deal will see him team up once again with Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk.

The pair played together in the Russian league during the NHL lockout. The Thrashers' captain, Kovalchuk is entering his free-agent season and said he was looking for the team to make off-season moves before he talks about a new deal. 

General manager Don Waddell said Kovalchuk endorsed the Antropov signing with a text message that read "great job."

Waddell says Antropov's addition to the team should help in re-signing Kovalchuk.

"Certainly, it's going to help us through the process," Waddell said. "Ilya wants to be part of a winning organization and this is a big step in the right direction."

Antropov will also be reunited with former Leafs' defenseman Pavel Kubina, whom the Thrashers picked up on Wednesday in a four-player deal with Toronto.

"I said we didn't need a lot of pieces, we needed key pieces, and that's what we've added," Waddell said.

The general manager said he plans to complete the free-agency period before he begins negotiating with Kovalchuk, and both the Thrashers and Kovalchuk want to finish their negotiations before the 2009-10 season.

"My feeling is once we get at it, hopefully it will move along relatively quickly," Waddell said. "There's not a rush to get there today or tomorrow."

Antropov, who's 6-foot-6 and 230 lbs, and Kubina, at 6-foot-four and 244, add size to the Thrashers.

"We thought to give them the best chance of having some success we needed to surround them with some size," Waddell said.