Mar 11, 2012; St. Paul, MN, USA; Calgary Flames forward Olli Jokinen (13) scores on Minnesota Wild goalie Matt Hackett (31) during the third period at the Xcel Energy Center. The Flames defeated the Wild 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Southeast Division: Offseason Winners

April 18, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal (11) celebrates his goal in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers during game four of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

When the offseason began last season, teams in the Southeast Division battled it out in free agency to see which team would prevail as the offseason victors. Luckily for us South Florida fans, the Florida Panthers were the winner of free agency, as they greatly improved their roster by adding key pieces in order to help them advance to the playoffs. Other than the additions injury prone Peter Mueller, Filip Kuba, and George Parros, the Panthers had a very quiet offseason as they are satisfied with their much improved roster and want to work within what they have in AHL to continue to build their roster. Dale Tallon has completely transformed this roster within a matter of months throughout free agency. Other teams in the Southeast are hoping that they can do the same thing as the Panthers last season.

With free agency well underway and a lot of big names signing, let’s take a look at which teams in the Southeast Division, did the most in order to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

The Carolina Hurricanes, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnepeg Jets, and the Washington Capitals have all made moves that can help their respective team a better chance to raise their chances of winning in the up and coming season.

On June 22nd, 2012, the Carolina Hurricanes made a draft day move which sent Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and their 8th overall selection in the draft to the Pittsburgh Penguins, in exchange for former Calder Memorial Trophy finalist, Jordan Staal. This was definitely a tremendous move by the Hurricanes and a lot of people believe that they stole him from Pittsburgh. On the opening day of free agency, the Hurricanes made sure their newly acquired star was there to stick around. The team decided to give Staal a 10 year contract extension. With Jordan moving to Carolina, he will be uniting with his older brother, Eric Staal, a four time All-Star. The Hurricanes are hoping for big things out of these two brothers in the future. Carolina is expecting these two to play well together, kind of like the Sedin brother north of the border in Vancouver. That is not all though. The Hurricanes also came to a two year agreement with forward, Jason Terry. Terry played in the AHL last season with the Charlotte Checkers. He led the checkers in scoring with 59 points. His addition will go well with Carolina as it provides them with yet another offensive weapon.  Along with All-Star goaltender, Cam Ward, the Hurricanes have done a fantastic job gaining young talent in order for them to be successful down the road.

The Hurricanes aren’t the only team this past offseason to make a splash that can help out their offense. Like the Hurricanes, Washington also made a draft day move of their own, trading for center Mike Ribeiro. The Capitals sent over center Cody Eakin and a second round draft pick to the Dallas Stars in order to gain the services of Ribeiro. While in Dallas, Ribeiro was one of their best players. In the past three seasons with the Stars, Ribeiro scored a total of 187 points. Over that period of time, he also assisted on 131 goals. The Capitals are hoping he can continue being the passer that he is in order to help out superstar Alexander Ovechkin. The Caps need Ribeiro to be the offensive force he was in Dallas as they lost winger Alexander Semin. Although Semin has yet to sign with a team, he will not be returning to the nation’s capital. Along with the trade that brought Ribeiro to Washington, the Caps also went out and signed former Florida Panther, Wojtek Wolski. Wolski isn’t the most dominate offensive player in the league; however it’s the little things that he brings to the team that doesn’t always show up on the stat sheet. The addition of Wolski and Ribeiro will certainly help jumpstart their offense and with Ovechkin on the team already, the Caps are looking good offensively heading into the 2012-2013 season.

Mar 20, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars center Mike Ribeiro (63) waits for play to resume against the Phoenix Coyotes during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Coyotes 4-3 in the overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

The Tampa Bay Lightning is a team that came into last season with high expectations. Unfortunately for them, the team was unable to make it to the postseason. The offense wasn’t the problem. The team’s defense and goalie play wasn’t always there for them as they ranked 30th in the league in goals against average. It was no secret that their defense needed to be addressed. That’s why on the opening day of free agency, the Lightning quickly began to make moves, signing veteran defender Sami Salo and resigning young defender Evan Oberg. Tampa’s general manager, Steve Yzerman knew that these two players wouldn’t be enough. In order to continuously address the issue, the Lightning went out and made a big splash, signing defender Matt Carle to a six year deal. Tampa Bay’s goal this offseason was to improve their defense, and they have done just that with their free agent acquisitions. Even though they have yet to fix the goaltender situation, the Lightning will come back next year with a much improved team.

The Winnepeg Jets haven’t had the best offseason, but they haven’t had the worst. The Jets resigned goaltender Ondrej Pavelec to a five year contract. The team also helped out their offense by signing former Panther captain, Olli Jokinen and former Devil, Alexei Ponikarovsky. The signing of these two is huge. Both of these guys will step right in and immediately help the Jet’s offense that was in the middle of the pack last year. The addition of Jokinen was a good move as they not only get a great player, but also a leader in the locker room and someone who can help out the younger guys as they continue to grow as a team. Winnepeg also agreed to terms with Kyle Wellwood and Ben Maxwell who both played for the Jet’s this past season. Although the Jets did not make a huge free agent acquisition, there is still enough talent on this team to keep them competitive in the division throughout the season and with young players like Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian, Winnepeg is a young team which people are going to have to watch out for next season as they have the potential to make a run at a division title.

All of the teams in the Southeast Division have had pretty good offseason’s so far. If I had to pick the team which I thought had the best offseason, it would have to be either the Carolina Hurricanes or the Washington Capitals. It is hard to pick just one of these teams because both of them significantly upgraded their team in the past few weeks. With the Hurricanes acquiring a big time player and the Capitals signing two players that can help their offense, both of these teams are poised to have good seasons. Not to mention that the Capitals also dumped some cap space by trading away goalie Tomas Vokoun. The Caps have now turned to youngster Braden Holtby to guard the net for them.

Next year’s season looks like it will be a good one for the Southeast Division, with a lot of questions to be answered. Are the Panthers just a one hit wonder? Will Ovechkin finally take that next step? Will the Staal brothers take over the division?

No matter what team you like in the Southeast Division, you cannot wait to watch these teams battle it out next year in what will be a great season for the Southeast.

Thanks For Reading!

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Tags: Alexander Ovechkin Alexander Semin Alexei Ponikarovsky Ben Maxwell Braden Holtby Brandon Sutter Brian Dumoulin Cam Ward Carolina Hurricanes Cody Eakin Eric Staal Evan Oberg Evander Kane Filip Kuba Florida Panthers Free Agency George Parros Jason Terry Jordan Staal Kyle Wellwood Matt Carle Mike Ribeiro NHL News Olli Jokinen Ondrej Pavelec Peter Mueller Sami Salo Southeast Division Steve Yzerman Tampa Bay Lightning Tomas Vokoun Washington Capitals Winnepeg Jets Wojtek Wolski Zach Bogosian

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