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Southeast Division Notebook: Week of June 20-27

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

Coming off the 2012 NHL Entry Draft weekend, several teams around the Southeast Division have already begun bolstering their rosters in anticipation of the upcoming season. We take a look at all the action happening around the Southeast Division to see where each club stands as the league prepares for the upcoming, rapidly-approaching free agency period.

Tampa Bay Lightning...

For starters, we’ll catch up from exactly a week ago when Bolts superstar center Steven Stamkos brought home the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal scorer in the regular season at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas.

Stamkos, who became the first NHL player since Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08 to record at least 60 goals in a single season, was awarded the trophy for the second time in three seasons and held a 10-goal margin over the NHL’s next closest scorer, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin.

Just a few days later, while general manager Steve Yzerman was building for the future at the NHL Draft, he also addressed one of the team’s present needs, as he traded minor-leaguer Michel Ouellet and a fifth-round choice to the Boston Bruins in exchange for left wing Benoit Pouliot.

Pouliot registered 16 goals in 74 games last season for the Bruins and also registered career-bests for both points (32) and plus/minus (+18).

On the farm, the Bolts extended their affiliation agreement with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL, which will continue to serve as the Lightning’s primary ECHL affiliate and they will provide the Everblades with players under both NHL and AHL contracts.

The decision came just a little more than week after the Lightning opened into an agreement with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League to serve as the club’s top farm club in the AHL.

Away from the ice, Tuesday saw former Lightning assistant coach Adam Oates take the head coaching position for the division-rival Washington Capitals, a team Oates once played for throughout an illustrious 19-year career.

With Tampa Bay in 2009-10, Oates’ primary focus was on the power play, which improved from 12th in the NHL the previous year to eighth under Oates’ tenure. Last but not least, general manager Steve Yzerman on Monday issued qualifying offers to pending restricted free agents Brendan Mikkelson, Keith Aulie, Brian Lee, Evan Oberg and Jaroslav Janus, whose rights the Lightning own to retain negotiations with those players.

Among those not qualified were defensive prospect Sebastien Piche and forward Benoit Pouliot, although in Pouliot’s case, the team is confident a deal to sign the left wing will get done soon.

Carolina Hurricanes...

Prior to the NHL Entry Draft last weekend in Pittsburgh, the Hurricanes’ 20-year-old defenseman Justin Faulk was named to the NHL’s 2011-12 All-Rookie team.

Faulk totaled eight goals and 14 assists (22 points) in 66 NHL games during his first professional season in 2011-12. The South St. Paul, Minnesota native also led all Hurricanes skaters in average ice time per game (22:50), ranking first among NHL rookie defensemen in that category. In addition, Faulk ranked first among rookie defensemen in power-play goals (5) and tied for first in goals (8) and second in points (22).

Perhaps the biggest news coming not only out of Carolina, but out of the entire NHL over the weekend, was Carolina’s acquisition of Jordan Staal from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Brandon Sutter, Carolina’s first-round pick at this past weekend’s draft and young defenseman Brian Dumoulin.

Staal, 23, completed his sixth NHL season in 2011-12, posting career highs in assists (25) and points (50), and a career second-best 25 goals, despite playing in just 62 of Pittsburgh’s 82 regular-season games. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native added six goals and three assists (9 points) to lead the Penguins in scoring in their six-game, first-round playoff series against Philadelphia.

In six NHL seasons with Pittsburgh, Staal (6’4”, 220 lbs.) has scored 120 goals, earned 128 assists and posted a plus-53 rating in 431 regular-season games. He helped the Penguins qualify for the playoffs in each of his six seasons, and he captured the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009. In 73 career Stanley Cup playoff games, he has scored 23 goals and earned 13 assists (36 points). The Penguins selected Staal in the first round, second overall, in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. The trade also reunites him with his older brother and Hurricanes captain, Eric Staal.

Florida Panthers...

Last week, Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell took home the Lady Byng Award at the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas for showing the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.

Campbell led all NHL players in ice time and tied for first among all NHL skaters in average ice time per game with 26:53 during the 2011-12 regular season, totaling only six penalty minutes. The 33-year-old ranked tied for second among all NHL defensemen with 53 points (4g-49a-53p) and was one of only three Panthers to skate in all 82 regular-season games. He set a Panthers franchise record with 30 power-play assists and tied a franchise record for a defenseman with 49 helpers.

On the hockey ops side of things, Florida Panthers Executive Vice President and General Manager Dale Tallon announced Monday that the club tendered qualifying offers to nine of their restricted free agents, including Mike Caruso, Roman Derlyuk, Keaton Ellerby, Brian Foster, Dmitry Kulikov, Michal Repik, Eric Selleck, Kris Versteeg and James Wright.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, former Florida Panthers right wing Pavel Bure was announced as an official inductee of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Though his 12-year professional playing career was cut short by continuing knee problems, Bure was one of the most prolific goal scorers in National Hockey League history. For his career, the Moscow, Russia native recorded 779 points (437g-342a-779p) in 702 games.

Originally drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the sixth round (113th overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, the “Russian Rocket” spent seven years with the Vancouver Canucks (1991-1998), parts of four seasons with Florida (1999-2002) and parts of two seasons with the NY Rangers (2001-2003).

Bure also holds the Florida single-season franchise record for goals scored (59 in 2000-01) and points in one season (94 in 1999-00). He received the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the league’s goal scoring leader in back-to-back seasons (2000 and 2001). Bure posted 251 points (152g-99a-251p) in 223 games while playing for the Panthers.

Washington Capitals...

At Friday’s first round of the NHL Entry Draft this past weekend in Pittsburgh, the Capitals acquired center Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars in exchange for center Cody Eakin and the club’s second-round draft pick (which was selected the following day at Day 2 of the Draft), vice president and general manager George McPhee announced.

Ribeiro, 32, ranked tied for second on Dallas with 63 points (18g-45a) in 74 games during the 2011-12 season. His 45 assists ranked tied for first on the Stars while his 18 goals ranked fourth. Last season marked the eighth-consecutive season in which Ribeiro has tallied 50 or more points. The Montreal native has recorded 50 or more assists three times in his career and has collected 60 or more points five times in his 12-year career.

The center spent the last six seasons with Dallas and appeared in the 2008 NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta. Ribeiro has collected 560 points (173g-387a) in 737 career NHL games with Dallas and Montreal. In 42 career playoff games Ribeiro has also recorded 25 points (5g-20a).

Ribeiro tallied a career-high 83 points (27g-56a) during the 2007-08 season and added 17 points (3g-14a) in 18 playoff games that year. He won a bronze medal with Team Canada at the 2000 World Junior Championships in Sweden and was the top scorer in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) during the 1998-99 season, collecting 167 points (67g-100a) in 69 games with Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Ribeiro was originally drafted by Montreal in the second round (45th overall) of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft.

Tuesday also proved to be quite a memorable day for former Lightning assistant and Capitals forward Adam Oates, who was both inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and introduced as the new head coach of the Capitals all in a matter of hours.

Oates, who is set to become the 16th head coach in Capitals history, appeared in 1,337 games and collected 1,420 points (341g-1,079a) with Detroit, St. Louis, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton. In NHL history, only Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux averaged more assists per game than Oates.

The Weston, Ontario, native ranks sixth all-time in assists and 16th all-time in points in NHL history. The former center led or was tied for the league lead in assists three times in his career (1992-93, 2000-01 and 2001-02) and ranked in the top-10 in assists in 12 of his 19 seasons. Oates was named an NHL All-Star five times (1991-94 and 1997) and was a six-time Lady Byng finalist during his career.

Winnipeg Jets...

Anxiety surrounding the potential departure of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was all but put to rest Monday when the Jets agreed to terms with the netminder, who was rumored to have been leaving for Russia’s KHL. Not long after, the Jets and Pavelec came to terms on a five-year extension.

Pavelec, 24, appeared in 68 games with Winnipeg last season, where he earned a 29-28-9 record, 2.91 goals against average and .906 save percentage. He ranked fifth in the league in overall games played as well as fifth overall in shots against (2,036) and saves (1,845). Last season, he set new career-highs in games played, minutes, wins, and saves.

The Kladno, Czech Republic native has played in 187 career NHL games between Atlanta and Winnipeg for a career 70-79-25 record, 2.99 goals against average and .907 save percentage.

Bolstering the team’s situation in net even further, Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff also acquired the rights to goaltender Jonas Gustavsson from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Gustavsson, 27, played in 42 games with the Maple Leafs last season, posting a 17-17-4 record, 2.92 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. The Danderyd, Sweden native has played in 107 career NHL games and has also represented Team Sweden at the 2009 and 2010 IIHF World Championship, winning the bronze medal in both tournaments.

*Some information used in this report such as statistics and prospect news was taken from the official web sites of the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets.
**Click here to read last week's Southeast Division Notebook

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