So we’re only a little more than a day into free agency, but there have been plenty of moves made by teams in the Southeast Division.
When everyone was at the draft less than two weeks ago, three writers from around the continent told me they expected the Caps to be the class of the division and I overheard two other conversations intimating the same. Well, a lot has happened since then, and maybe the Caps aren’t the runaway favorite anymore (some folks on the left coast of Florida might not think so).
While it appears the Caps might able to bring back their team from last year almost entirely intact (save for a goaltender swap, of course), can any of the other four teams do enough to pass them? Here’s a Southeast Tracker of sorts that can be updated over the course of the next couple of weeks.
2007-08: 43-31-8, 94 points
Additions: G Jose Theodore, D Karl Alzner (maybe)
Subtractions: G Cristobal Huet, G Olie Kolzig, D Steve Eminger
UFAs: C Sergei Fedorov, F Matt Cooke
RFAs: F Brooks Laich, C Boyd Gordon, RW Eric Fehr, D Shaone Morrisonn
2007-08: 43-33-6, 92 points
Additions: D Joni Pitkanen, D Anton Babchuk, D Josef Melichar, C Brandon Sutter (maybe)
Subtractions: LW Erik Cole, LW Jeff Hamilton, D Glen Wesley, D David Tanabe
UFAs: D Bret Hedican, G John Grahame, RW Trevor Letowski, RW Keith Aucoin, LW Ryan Bayda, D/LW Wade Brookbank, D Tim Conboy
RFAs: C Chad Larose, D Dennis Seidenberg
2007-08: 38-35-9, 85 points
Additions: LW Cory Stillman, D Keith Ballard, D Nick Boynton, C Shawn Matthais (likely), C Michael Frolik (maybe)
Subtractions: C Olli Jokinen, C Jozef Stumpel
UFAs: D Branislav Mezei, D Steve Montador
RFAs: D Jay Bouwmeester, C Greg Campbell, F Garth Murray, F Anthony Stewart
2007-08: 34-40-8, 76 points
Additions: D Ron Hainsey, D Zach Bogosian (maybe)
Subtractions: D Alexei Zhitnik, C Bobby Holik
UFAs: RW Mark Recchi, C Steve Rucchin, D Mark Popovic, D Joel Kwiatkowski
RFAs: G Kari Lehtonen, LW Brett Sterling
2007-08: 31-42-9, 71 points
Additions:C Steven Stamkos, RW Ryan Malone, LW Vinny Prospal, RW Radim Vrbata, LW Gary Roberts, RW Adam Hall, G Olie Kolzig
Subtractions: G Marc Denis
UFAs: C Chris Gratton, RW Junior Lessard, RW Andre Roy, D Doug Janik
RFAs: LW Karl Stewart
And, here’s a stab at what the Tampa Bay lines could look like (when Jeff Halpern returns from his knee injury):
That’s a pretty scary group, especially if Stamkos is the genuine article. The goaltending, and especially the defense, could be an issue, but the Lightning will probably be a trendy pick to pull off a Philadelphia-like revival.