Southeast Division Watch (February 21)

Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Southeast Division outlook (February 21 -27)

1. Tampa Bay Lightning (34-18-7 for 75 pts; 59 Games Played)

Current streak: Three straight losses.

Week ahead: Home vs. Phoenix (Wednesday), home vs. New Jersey (Friday) and @ NY Rangers (Sunday.)

Thoughts: After a bad week, the Lightning are now only 5-3-2 in the first 10 games of their mammoth 12-game homestand. That being said, two wins would mean that they earned 16 out of a possible 24 points. They need to stock them up, because the Capitals are starting look like their old, dangerous selves again.

2. Washington Capitals (31-19-10 for 72 pts; 60 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: @ Pittsburgh (Mon), home vs. Rangers (Fri), @ NY Islanders (Sat).

Thoughts: Tonight’s game against the Penguins will determine how this road trip (currently 2-2-0) went, but Tampa Bay’s stumbles dictates that it wasn’t a disaster. The Lightning still have the advantage, though.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (28-24-8 for 64 pts; 60 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Rangers (Tues), home vs. Pittsburgh (Fri) and @ Montreal (Sat).

Thoughts: The Canes still have plenty of space in front of the surging Devils, but they didn’t make a compelling statement about their superiority by losing to them twice last week. They need to eke out points against three teams currently above them in the Eastern Conference standings this week or they might find themselves looking up at Buffalo or Atlanta.

4. Atlanta Thrashers (25-25-10 for 60 pts; 60 GP)

Current streak: Three losses.

Week ahead: @ Buffalo (Wed), home vs. Florida (Fri) and home vs. Toronto (Sun).

Thoughts: It hasn’t been a very happy 2011 for the Thrashers, unless you’re Dustin Byfuglien’s accountant. They only have five wins in 19 games since the new year began.

5. Florida Panthers (25-27-7 for 57 pts; 59 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: @ Ottawa (Wed), @ Atlanta (Fri) and home vs. New Jersey (Sat).

Thoughts: The Panthers aren’t totally out of the playoff run right now, but they shouldn’t be buyers during the trade deadline either. In fact, it would probably be wise if they tried to get something for Tomas Vokoun, unless they decide that he’s still their goalie of the (immediate) future.

Flames ink first-rounder Juuso Valimaki to rookie contract

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The Calgary Flames signed Finnish defenseman Jusso Valimaki to a three-year, entry-level contract on Friday.

Valimaki, 18, was the 16th overall pick of the 2017 NHL Draft. He was selected in that spot after a nice year with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, scoring 61 points in 60 regular-season games and then added an assist in four playoff contests. He also played for the Tri-City Americans in 2015-16, putting up 32 points in 56 games.

Apparently he’s capable of at least one nifty shootout move, too:

People are pondering how Valimaki may fit into the Flames at the end of a three-year window Johnny Gaudreau recently cited. That seems a little far-reaching, although this nugget makes you wonder if Calgary might want to drag a little extra value out of his rookie deal:

Interesting. Either way, the Flames locked up a future piece, whether he can make an NHL impact sooner or later.

Red Wings sign Tomas Tatar: four years, $21.2M


It turns out that Tomas Tatar‘s days are numbered with the Detroit Red Wings by almost 1,500.*

After a salary arbitration hearing and concerns that he might leave after a single season, “Band-Aid” sort of deal, a wide variety of reporters state that the two sides instead agreed to a four-year deal with a $5.3 million cap hit, which would total $21.2 million.

Those figures come from’s Ansar Khan, the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan, FanRag’s Craig Morgan, and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. The Red Wings confirmed that it was four years, but didn’t mention the financial details in their release.

Here’s the reported yearly breakdown (cue ominous music for that lockout-protection drop in 2020-21), via Morgan:

Again, this feels like a change in viewpoint, as even just yesterday it was reasonable to wonder if Tatar would only stick around for 2017-18. Now, it is possible that Tatar might get traded at some point, but a four-year deal is a bit surprising. The forward himself speculated that a one-year deal would be it.

This contract makes Tatar, 26, the Red Wings’ second-most expensive forward from a cap perspective, trailing only Henrik Zetteberg’s $6.083 million.

Even with this deal out of the way, Red Wings GM Ken Holland still has some work to do, including re-signing speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou. And the situation is tight.

* – Four times 365 is 1,460. Get it?

Wingels fractures foot, but should be ready for Blackhawks camp

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The good news is that Tommy Wingels is expected to be ready for Chicago Blackhawks training camp. The bad news is that he’ll be limited in his training regimen … although that very regimen caused him issues in the first place.

Dr. Michael Terry, the Blackhawks’ team doctor, released the following update regarding Wingels:

“Tommy Wingels sustained a left foot fracture during his off-season training. We anticipate a full recovery in six to eight weeks and in time for training camp. We do not anticipate any long-term issues.”

It’s unclear what caused the specific injury. Dropped weight? Unlucky fall? Perhaps a stress fracture? Without knowing the exact issue, it’s tempting to picture various painful scenarios.

(Probably because we’re in the dog days of the hockey summer, too.)

Wingels, 29, is on a one-year deal with Chicago, carrying a $750K salary and cap hit. He last played for the Ottawa Senators, though Blackhawks fans are most likely to remember him from his lengthy stay with the San Jose Sharks.

Six-to-eight weeks seems like it wouldn’t give a ton of room for error, so we’ll see if he’ll actually be ready for training camp.

Dahlin headlines Sweden’s roster for World Junior Summer Showcase

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Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, potentially the NHL’s first overall draft pick in 2018, will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.

Dahlin, who doesn’t turn 18 until April, has wowed scouts with his skating and puck-moving ability. At the 2017 World Juniors, he participated as a 16-year-old, garnering tantalizing reviews in the process.

Top-10 picks in the 2017 draft, Elias Pettersson (5th, Vancouver Canucks) and Lias Andersson (7th, New York Rangers), will also be in Plymouth representing Sweden.

Click here for Sweden’s and Finland’s Summer Showcase rosters. The tournament runs from July 29 – Aug. 5 and also features players from the United States and Canada.

Among the draft-eligible Finns to watch is 17-year-old forward Jesse Ylonen, who could be a late first-rounder in 2018.

Related: USA Hockey invites 42 players to World Junior Summer Showcase