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ATLANTA SIGNS #1 GOALIE / MARTIN ISSUES STATEMENT

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The Thrashers have signed Kari Lehtonen to a 2-year $3.7 million deal today.

"It was critical for us to get this done for two reasons," Thrashers GM Don Waddell told The Canadian Press on Thursday. "Kari missed a lot of time with injuries last year so for him to miss any time in camp (which opens next week) would have been disastrous on both ends. Secondly, we have everybody signed now, which is huge. Last year we didn't have (Ilya) Kovalchuk signed and that was obviously a distraction."

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Panthers Coach and new GM Jacques Martin has issued a statement about Mike Keenan's departure today, defending their friendship and deflecting any blame.

"No, I don't think there was a breakdown with my relationship with Mike," Martin told The Canadian Press in an interview Thursday. "I think I've always had a good relationship with Mike. I think we worked well together. I think the organization, the ownership, for whatever reason, listened to Mike when he came to them."

"All I know is that ownership came to me, Mr. Cohen, and offered me the dual role. At that point I wasn't planning on that but when I sat back and looked at it, I said sure, it's a challenge. But I feel good about this challenge."

So why was Keenan forced to resign as GM last weekend?

"I can't answer that," said Martin. "I don't have that answer."

Then what the hell really happened? The answer is being narrowed down to Keenan and Panthers ownership. Keenan still isn't returning anyone's phone calls.