The Washington Times - July 2, 2008, 12:20PM

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).

SEE RELATED:


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.

WASHINGTON

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

CAROLINA

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

FLORIDA

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

ATLANTA

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

TAMPA BAY

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):

Prospal-Lecavalier-St. Louis
Malone-Stamkos-Vrbata
Roberts-Halpern-Hall
Jokinen-Craig-Ouellet

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.