Preview: Atlantic Division

Friday, 27.09.2013 / 11:51 AM canadiens.com

Lost in the web of offseason trades and free-agent signings? Let us walk you through what happened in the NHL over the summer.

Boston Bruins

Despite losing marquee players Jaromir Jagr (UFA), Nathan Horton (UFA) and Tyler Seguin (trade to Dallas) this offseason, the Bruins are poised once again to be serious contenders in the East in 2013-14. Looking to bolster a power play that clicked at a rate of just 14.8% in 2012-13 – good enough for 26th-overall in the NHL – Boston added an 11-time 30-plus goal scorer to the mix with the acquisition of Jarome Iginla this summer. In addition to extra offense, the Bruins also brought in two-way winger Loui Eriksson from Dallas, who will likely join forces with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to form one of the most effective shutdown trios in the league.

Buffalo Sabres

Currently icing the second-youngest team in the league and with longtime franchise pillars Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller both entering the final year of their contracts, the Sabres will once again be counting on young guns to carry the load in 2013-14. With a keen eye for developing prospects, new head coach Ron Rolston will need strong performances from emerging stars like 19-year-old Mikhail Grigorenko and 23-year-olds Cody Hodgson and Tyler Myers to avoid missing the playoffs for a third-straight season.

Detroit Red Wings

One of three teams changing conferences in 2013-14, the Red Wings join the atlantic division in search of the same success they’ve enjoyed over the past two decades. Following a second-round postseason collapse last year, general manager Ken Holland lured long-time Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson and goal-scorer Stephen Weiss to Hockeytown to complement a lineup that already boasts perennial All-Stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Finesse aside, Detroit also brings with it a measure of physicality to the Eastern Conference with the likes of forwards Justin Abdelkader and Todd Bertuzzi, and defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson. With star netminder Jimmy Howard in tow, the Red Wings are poised to extend their record streak of consecutive postseason appearances to an astonishing 23 straight years.

Florida Panthers

After finishing the 2012-13 season at the bottom of the standings, the Panthers will have their work cut out for them if they do not want to wish to once again be a draft lottery team. This will be no easy task, as the Panthers will play the 2013-14 season in the ultra-competitive Atlantic division, featuring the likes of Boston, Ottawa, Montreal and Detroit. Jose Theodore will not return to the team, so the Panthers will likely count on young Jacob Markstrom (23GP last season) and veteran Scott Clemmensen (11GP) to keep the puck out of their net, unless Tim Thomas can bounce right back from a year away from hockey to win the NHL starting job on his new team.

Montreal Canadiens

Despite a disappointing playoff showing, the past summer has been a productive one for the Canadiens. Leading defenseman P.K. Subban became the first Hab to take home the franchise’s first James Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s best rearguard, since Chris Chelios won it in 1989. General Manager Marc Bergevin also made significant moves during the off-season, inking physical defenseman Douglas Murray (Pittsburgh), tough guy George Parros (Florida) and scoring centerman Daniel Brière (Philadelphia).

Ottawa Senators

The 2013-14 season marks the beginning of the Bobby Ryan era in Ottawa. The highly-touted right winger (46 GP, 11 G, 19 A last season) comes to town from Anaheim and will fill in for former captain Daniel Alfredsson, who signed in Detroit during the off season. Jason Spezza will take over as team captain and becomes the first Senators player to don the “C” since Alfredsson inherited it in 1999. Sergei Gonchar, the team’s second leading scorer, has also left the capital and now plays for the Dallas Stars. The injury-plagued Sens had a surprisingly good season in 2012-13, qualifying for the playoffs as the seventh seed and making it as far as the conference semi-finals before falling to Pittsburgh.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Despite the fact that Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos finished one-two in the NHL scoring race in 2012-13, the Lightning failed to clinch a playoff berth for the fifth time in six years last season. As a result, general manager Steve Yzerman took drastic measures over the summer to turn Tampa’s fortunes around. On June 27, he used a compliance buyout on captain Vincent Lecavalier, ending the Ile-Bizard, QC native’s 14-year tenure with the organization. Yzerman also signed talented centerman Valtteri Filppula and 2013 first-round selection Jonathan Drouin to bolster an already potent offense. Victor Hedman and Sami Salo return as head coach Jon Cooper’s top defensive pairing, and will be counted on to protect netminders Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback, who will likely battle for the starting job.

Toronto Maple Leafs

After a trip to the playoffs in 2012-13, Toronto GM Dave Nonis made a few big moves in the off-season, signing rugged winger David Clarkson to a massive seven-year deal, locking up probable starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier to a two-year deal and inking number one center Tyler Bozak to a five-year contract. This left no place in the organization for Mikhail Grabovski, who was waived before being bought out. The Leafs’ offense, led by Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri, was the 6th best in the league during the past season but its defense only ranked 18th in the NHL during that span. Will the arrival of Bernier help improve that statistic? Time will tell.

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