While the Stanley Cup Playoffs and looming Finals series seems to be stealing the majority of the headlines around the National Hockey League, news in and around the Southeast Division has been just as prevalent.
Tampa Bay Lightning...
Beginning with our very own Tampa Bay Lightning, forward Ryan Shannon has reportedly signed a three-year deal with ZSC Lions of the Swiss League and will not return to the Lightning next season, according to Damian Cristodero of the Tampa Bay Times.
Shannon, 29, signed a one-year deal with the Bolts last summer and recorded four goals and 12 points with a minus-11 rating in 45 games, while also averaging 12:01 in ice time. His season ended prematurely in March due to surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder. The native of Darien, Connecticut also dealt with a knee injury that forced him to miss 15 games in December and January.
Down on the farm, the Lightning’s top affiliate in Norfolk of the American Hockey League completed a four-game sweep of the St. John’s IceCaps in the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs’ Eastern Conference Finals. The Admirals will now play in the Calder Cup Finals, but will have to await the winner of the Western Conference championship, currently being contested between the Toronto Marlies and the Oklahoma City Barons.
While the NHL’s free agency period doesn’t begin until July 1, the Carolina Hurricanes have been efficient in extending the contracts of a few of the team’s key players long before then.
Coming off a successful month of April in which the team signed 2012 Frozen Four standouts Jeremy Welsh and Brian Dumoulin, as well as Beau Schmitz and Jiri Tlusty, the Hurricanes continued in the same fashion this past week by signing Jamie McBain and Nicolas Blanchard to two-year deals.
McBain, 24, completed his third full professional season in 2011-12, leading all Hurricanes defensemen with 19 assists and 27 points. The Edina, Minnesota native also led team blueliners with five power-play goals and was second among Carolina defensemen with 11 power-play points. Blanchard, 24, completed his fifth full professional season in 2011-12, scoring nine goals, earning 12 assists and accumulating 103 penalty minutes in 68 regular-season games with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL. The Granby, Quebec native ranked second among Checkers skaters in penalty minutes in 2011-12, marking the fourth straight season he has ranked among the top three in penalty minutes for Carolina’s AHL affiliates.
The Hurricanes also agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Bobby Sanguinetti this past week. Sanguinetti, 24, totaled 50 points in 60 games for the Hurricanes’ top minor-league affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, in 2011-12. The Trenton, New Jersey native also ranked third among AHL defensemen in assists (40) and points (50) and led Charlotte blueliners in goals (10).
Much like the Lightning, the in-state rival Florida Panthers currently have a few prospects participating in the 2012 Memorial Cup.
Panthers defensive prospect Jonathan Racine of the Shawinigan Cataractes recorded three goals and 13 points in 61 games during the regular season, but broke out in the postseason, tallying a goal and six points in just 11 games played.
He’ll be going up against fellow Panthers prospect Jonathan Huberdeau, a forward taken with the third overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft who is currently playing for the defending Memorial Cup champion St. John Sea Dogs.
Huberdeau is the reigning MVP of last year’s Memorial Cup, and already notched 21 points in 15 games to help the Sea Dogs qualify for the current tournament en route to being named team captain.
About the only news coming out of Washington Capitals camp this week was the triumph of forwards Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin, who each helped Team Russia to a gold medal at the recently-concluded World Championships tournament.
With the Capitals’ Stanley Cup Playoff run going into the late stages, both Ovechkin and Semin joined their native country’s squad after the start of the tournament, but still managed to combine for four goals and nine points in six games.
All, for the most part, appears to be pretty quiet up at Winnipeg Jets headquarters north of the border, where, as mentioned above, the team’s top AHL affiliate in St. John’s fell to the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs’ Eastern Conference Final, thus ending its season.
That will do it for this week, so please check in next Wednesday, May 30, to receive the latest rumblings around the Southeast Division.
*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.