Today, I am going to take an in depth look at the Southeast division.
Key acquisitions: DJ King (only acquisition)
Key losses: Brendan Morrison, Joe Corvo, Shaone Morrison, Jose Theodore and Scott Walker
Up front the Capitals added some toughness in DJ king but lost two good players in Brendan Morrison and Scott Walker. DJ King will provide a lot of toughness for the Capitals and will serve as the "body guard" for high skill players like Ovechkin, Backstrom and Semin.
The Capitals stayed pat on the blue-line and will use defensive prospects such as Karl Alzner and John Carlson to fill the holes in their defense. Both Alzner and Carlson are NHL ready and proved that on several occasions last season when they were called up to play for the Capitals in both the regular season and the playoffs.
Like on defense, so far the Capitals have not added a goaltender. If the season started right now the Capitals would go with Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov. In my opinion those are two skilled goaltenders but none of them have real NHL experience which could become a problem.
Overall the Capitals lost a few good players but have almost the same roster as last season and once again should be a force in the Eastern Conference.
Expectation: 1st in the division
Tampa Bay Lightning
Key acquisitions: Simon Gagne, Dominic Moore, Brett Clark, Sean Bergenheim, Pavel Kubina and Dan Ellis
Key losses: Kurtis Foster, Andrej Meszaros, Antero Nittymaki and Matt Walker
Up front the Lightning are a much deeper and talented group. In Simon Gagne they added an instant goal-scorer who has the talent to score 40 goals if he can stay healthy. In Dominic Moore they added a veteran forward who can play both sides of the ice very well. In my opinion Moore is very underrated and should pan out to be a great signing for the Lightning.
The Lightning made another addition to the forward position as moments ago they announced the signing of Sean Bergenheim. He is a very talented two-way forward who can provide some offense and has the potential to be a 20-25 goal-scorer in the NHL.
On defense they lost some pretty solid players in Foster, Meszaros and Walker but they did add some good defenseman in Brett Clark and Pavel Kubina. In Brett Clark they added a very solid and underrated player on both sides of the ice who also brings leadership and experience to the room.
In Pavel Kubina they added a very solid puck-moving defenseman who can and will play the PP and is familiar with the organization. He also brings experience and a cup ring to the locker room which should help Victor Hedman.
In goal the Lightning lost Antero Nittymaki but added Dan Ellis. I have always been a fan of Dan Ellis' game and truly believe he can be a number one goalie. In Tampa Bay he will share time with Mike Smith but if Ellis plays well or Smith gets injured, you could see a large increase in the number of starts Ellis gets.
Overall the Lightning are a much improved team thanks to none other than Steve Yzerman. The Lightning will battle for a playoff spot this season.
Expectation: 2nd in the division
Key acquisitions: Brent Sopel, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Chris Mason
Key losses: Max Afinogenov, Johan Hedberg, Pavel Kubina, Clarke MacArthur, Colby Armstrong, Slava Kozlov, Marty Reasoner and Todd White
The Thrashers lost a ton of depth from their NHL roster but with all their solid prospects ready to make the jump to the NHL and the acquisitions they did make, filling their roster with solid players will not be a problem.
With the addition of Ladd and Big Buf (Byfuglien) they added two solid forwards who play both sides of the rink well and are not afraid to be physical. It is also worth mentioning that they both have cup rings.
Ben Eager is a very solid 4th line guy. He plays a very physical in your face type game and can also put the puck in the net from time to time. Eager will bring a ton of character and toughness to the team, not to mention a Stanley Cup ring.
In Brent Sopel they added a solid defenseman who simply loves the game. He comes to the rink every day ready to play and give it his all. Along with his defensive skills he will bring some experience, leadership and a Stanley Cup ring to a very young Thrashers team.
In Chris Mason they added a very experienced and solid goalie. He will likely play 55-60 games for the Thrashers this season. Mason is a good character guy and will put in a 100 perfect effort every night.
Whether the Thrashers make the playoffs or not remains to be seen but they are an improved team and will not be an easy team to play against.
Expectation: 3rd in the division
Key acquisitions: Joe Corvo and Anton Babchuk
Key losses: Ray Whitney, Brian Pothier and Manny Legace
Up front the Hurricanes have not made any additions and have lost Ray Whitney. The Hurricanes will use players within their system to fill Ray Whitney's roster spot and overall up front the Hurricanes should be a very young and skilled group led by captain Eric Staal.
On defense the Hurricanes lost Brian Pothier but added two solid defenseman who are familiar with the system in Joe Corvo and Anton Babchuk.
In Joe Corvo the Hurricanes know what they added and that of course is a puck-moving defenseman who has a bomb of a shot. Corvo also brings a lot of experience to a young Hurricanes team. With the addition of Anton Babchuk they added an offensive defenseman who like Corvo has a bomb of a shot.
Aside from those two additions nothing drastic has changed from on defense.
In goal the Hurricanes let veteran Manny Legace walk away to free agency. The Hurricanes will now go with Justin Peters who is a very capable backup. Based on what I saw from Peters last year he is an NHL caliber goaltender.
The Hurricanes have a very similar team this year, if they can stay healthy they could possibly push for a playoff spot; however, they will likely be in the 10-13 range.
Expectation: 4th in the division
Key acquisitions: Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner, Chris Higgins, Marty Reasoner, Dennis Wideman and Nathan Paetsch
Key losses: Nathan Horton, Keith Ballard, and Gregory Campbell
At the forward position they lost a proven goal-scorer in Nathan Horton; however, they did add some solid pieces up front.
With the addition of Steve Bernier the Panthers added a solid two-way forward who can bring a physical presence at times as well as some experience.
In Grabner they added a solid forward prospect who is ready to make the jump to becoming a full time NHL player. Grabner had some short NHL stints with the Canucks last season and showed that he is a very talented forward who has a bright future in the NHL. Grabner will likely see a lot of ice time which will help him develop into the player he can be.
In Chris Higgins and Marty Reasoner the Panthers added two solid forwards who are known for their defensive abilities; however, they can provide offense at times.
On defense, the Panthers added two solid players with Wideman and Paetsch.
In Dennis Wideman the Panthers added a experienced defenseman who can play the PP and help be a mentor for their young defenseman like Dmitry Kulikov.
With the addition of Nathan Paetsch the Panthers added a solid defenseman who is best known for his work in the defensive zone. Paetsch will also bring some experience to this young Panthers team.
The Panthers stayed pat in goal. If the season started today they would go with the same goaltending tandem they had last season in Tomas Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen.
It is no secret that the Florida Panthers are rebuilding and they are doing it the right way. Though the Panthers do have some solid players they are not playoff ready yet. Expect no better than 12th in the Eastern Conference this year.
Expectation: 5th in the division
This concludes my in depth look at the Southeast division, enjoy.
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