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Southeast Gets Stronger

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

If the Panthers hope to win their second straight division crown next year, they'll certainly be in for some extremely tough sledding when it comes to facing the rest of their rivals.

A little over an hour into the draft and two of their division foes improved themselves immensely, especially along the forward ranks, as they made blockbuster trades.

First the team that finished second in 2011-12 got things started as the Washington Capitals sent forward Cody Eakin and a 2012 second round pick to Dallas for center Mike Ribeiro. The play-making forward has sick hands as evidence by his almost 400 assists over his 12-year NHL career. He has 560 points (173-387-560) in 737 career games.

The first stone was cast in the battle for Southeast Division supremacy.

The Carolina Hurricanes would not be outdone as they made a trade with the draft hosts, acquiring versatile center Jordan Staal, team captain's Eric's younger brother. Stuck playing third fiddle behind superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Jordan still provided offensive punch while shutting down opposing teams offenses as he has posted 248 points (120-128-248) in 431 games over six NHL seasons.

Talk about saying game on to the competition. 2012-13 just got all the more difficult.

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