With the vast majority of the summer's transactions complete, and rookie camp just around the corner, it's time to start thinking about how things are going to shape up in the regular season. For the Capitals that means, in part at least, thinking about their Southeast Division opponents. With that in mind, we thought we'd take a look at the moves made in the Southeast in the last few months, and how they might play out in the 2010-11 season.
Follow the jump to read who's in, who's out, and what it all means.
Atlanta Thrashers (35-34-13, 83 points, 2nd in the Southeast, 10th in the Eastern Conference in 2009-10)
Acquired: Dustin Byfuglien (trade, Chicago), Ben Eager (trade, Chicago), Andrew Ladd (trade, Chicago), Chris Mason (UFA, St. Louis), Freddy Meyer (UFA, Islanders), Patrick Rissmiller (trade, Rangers), Brent Sopel (trade, Chicago)
Lost: Colby Armstrong (UFA, Toronto), Evgeny Artyukhin (UFA, unsigned), Slava Kozlov (UFA, unsigned), Pavel Kubina (UFA, Tampa Bay), Clarke MacArthur (UFA,
unsigned Toronto), Marty Reasoner (trade, Chicago)
Bottom Line: The Thrashers weren't all that bad a team last year, especially considering they wound up having to deal Ilya Kovalchuk at the trade deadline and never really settled on a number one goaltender, and they've made moves to strengthen their team this offseason. The infusion of grit and big bodies from Chicago should make the Thrashers hard to play against, and adding Chris Mason as a free agent will let the team play Ondrej Pavelec as his performance warrants, rather than just because he's the best option. There might not be any elite forwards on the roster, but the group is well-rounded, and the team sports the divisions best top-to-bottom defense corps.
Carolina Hurricanes (35-37-10, 80 points, 3rd in the Southeast, 11th in the Eastern Conference)
Bottom Line: A disappointing season for the Hurricanes can be blamed somewhat on injury and/or underperformed from a number of key players including Eric Staal, Erik Cole, Tuomo Ruutu, Rod Brind'Amour, and Tim Gleason. Nonetheless the Hurricanes still entered the offseason with a roster with pretty significant holes and didn't add any major pieces. It's possible the 'Canes could see some of their guys rebound, 2009-10 breakout players like Jussi Jokinen and Brandon Sutter keep improving, and the team makes some noise in the Southeast, but it's just a possible another mediocre season's in the cards.
Florida Panthers (32-37-13, 77 points, 5th in the Southeast, 14th in the Eastern Conference)
Bottom Line: Having moved out Jay Bouwmeester and Nathan Horton in the two previous offseasons and installed Dave Tallon as the new general manager, the Panthers are (again) fully in rebuild mode. Tomas Vokoun is enough to ensure the team won't be an automatic win for opponents in 2010-11, but it's hard to imagine the Panthers finishing anywhere other than at or near the bottom of the Southeast; likely as a lottery team to boot.
Tampa Bay Lightning (34-36-12, 80 points, fourth in the Southeast, 12th in the Eastern Conference)
Acquired: Sean Bergenheim (UFA, Islanders), Brett Clark (UFA, Colorado), Chris Durno (UFA, Colorado), Dan Ellis (UFA, Nashville), Simon Gagne (trade, Philadelphia), Pavel Kubina (UFA, Atlanta), Dominic Moore (UFA, Montreal), Marc Pouliot (UFA, Edmonton), Mathieu Roy (UFA, Florida)
Lost: Brandon Bochenski (UFA, Barys Astana), Todd Fedoruk (UFA, free agent), Kurtis Foster (UFA, Edmonton), David Hale (UFA, Ottawa), Zenon Konopka (UFA, Islanders), Andrej Meszaros (trade, Philadelphia), Antero Niittymaki (UFA, San Jose), Alex Tanguay (UFA, Calgary)
Bottom Line: New general manager Steve Yzerman has had an impressive offseason, unloading Andrej Meszaros contract, letting tough guys Konopka and Fedoruk walk, re-signing Martin St. Louis, bringing in under-the-radar free agent, adding another offensive talent in Simon Gagne, and nabbing highly sought after head coach Guy Boucher. The Bolts unquestionably have more talent heading in to the 2010 season, but how long is it going to take to get roles sorted out with so many new faces and a new system?
Washington Capitals (54-15-13, 121 points, 1st in the Southeast, 1st in the Eastern Conference)
Acquired: D.J. King (trade, St. Louis)
Bottom Line: Change, at least to some degree, is afoot in Washington, as Jurcina, Morrisonn, Walker, and Theodore were let go, presumably to be mostly replaced by prospects within the organization. What exactly that means remains to be seen; one on hand you have to figure guys like Karl Alzner, John Carlson, and Michal Neuvirth have higher upsides than the players they're replacing, but the youngsters also come with a lot more uncertainty. Right now it's hard to definitively say whether the Capitals will be better or worse given the inherent uncertainty surrounding the young players who are going to get regular ice time with the team. On paper, they're almost certain to be worst - don't expect 121 points again. But it's also possible they could fall well short of that mark and be a team much more likely to succeed in the postseason, in which case they're a much better team than they were in 2009-10.
When all is said and done, here's how we see the offseason's impact on the Southeast:
Tampa Bay Lightning
More or less the same:
Which Southeast Division team has improved itself the most this offseason?
Atlanta Thrashers (267 votes)
Carolina Hurricanes (16 votes)
Florida Panthers (21 votes)
Tampa Bay Lightning (608 votes)
Washington Capitals (44 votes)
956 total votes