Semyon Varlamov, Steven Stamkos

Southeast Division Watch (March 7)

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 (March 7 -March 13th)

1. Washington Capitals (36-20-10 for 82 pts; 66 Games Played)

Current streak: Four wins in a row.

Week ahead: Away vs. Tampa Bay (Monday) and two home games – vs. Edmonton (Wednesday) and Carolina (Friday).

Thoughts: In all the times we’ve published Southeast Division Watch posts, this is the first time that the Capitals are atop the division. Of course, that could change in tonight’s huge game in Tampa Bay. That’s not to say today is the only important one, as they face playoff desperate teams in Carolina and then Chicago next week.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning (37-21-7 for 81 pts; 65 GP)

Current streak: Three losses in a row.

Week ahead: Three home games – vs. Washington (Mon), Chicago (Wed) and Ottawa (Fri) plus a road game against Florida (Sat).

Thoughts: Again, the biggest game for both the Lightning and Capitals is tonight, but the match against the Blackhawks is big too. Tampa Bay still has an excellent chance to win the Southeast, but they need to turn around their recent slump.

3. Carolina Hurricanes (31-26-9 for 71 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: One loss.

Week ahead: Home vs. Atlanta (Wed), @ Washington (Fri) and home vs. Columbus (Sat).

Thoughts: The Canes earned a big overtime win against Buffalo last week, but that only gave them an extra point against the hard charging Sabres. They’re now one point behind Buffalo, with one less game remaining. To keep this a two-horse race for the eighth place spot, they need to win against the Thrashers on Wednesday.

4. Atlanta Thrashers (27-28-11 for 65 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: One win.

Week ahead: Away vs. Carolina (Wed), home vs. New Jersey (Fri) and @ Philadelphia (Sat).

Thoughts: It might already be too late, but if not, this will be a big week for the Thrashers to prove themselves as still viable. In the next two weeks, they play against Carolina and Buffalo once plus the Devils and Flyers on two occasions. The way things are going, it probably won’t work out, but they can make an impact on their situation in the next 14 days or so.

5. Florida Panthers (26-31-9 for 61 pts; 66 GP)

Current streak: Five straight losses.

Week ahead: Three home games – Chicago (Tues), Ottawa (Thurs) and Tampa Bay (Sat).

Thoughts: If you’re questioning the decision to put the Panthers in italics, try this on for size: they haven’t earned a regulation win in their last 12 games. The Panthers play their next six games in Sunrise, so maybe they can move them back into the convoluted Eastern Conference playoff bubble again after two weeks. So we’ll just have to wait and see.

Leafs avoid arbitration again, sign Corrado to one year, $600K deal

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 13: Frank Corrado #20 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shoots the puck in NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks on February, 13, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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Over the weekend, reports suggested that Toronto and RFA blueliner Frank Corrado were close to agreeing to a new contract.

On Monday, the two sides sealed the deal.

The Leafs announced they signed Corrado to a one-year contract, with Sportsnet reporting it to be a $600,00 pact, of the one-way variety.

Corrado, 23, was scheduled to go to arbitration tomorrow. His ask was $900,000, while the Leafs countered with a $625,000 figure on a two-way deal, and $575,000 on a one-way.

So Toronto was nearly spot-on with its valuation.

The former Canucks draftee took a while to make his Leafs debut last season — he sat 28 games after they claimed him off waivers — but when he did get into the lineup, he fared reasonably well. Corrado finished with a goal and six points in 39 games, averaging 14:27 TOI per game.

This marks the second player Toronto avoided going to arbitration with. Prior to signing Corrado, the Leafs inked center Peter Holland to a one-year, $1.3 million deal.

Flyers need Schenn to build on career year

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Brayden Schenn #10 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his goal in the second period against the New York Rangers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Philadelphia Flyers are hoping Brayden Schenn hasn’t finished improving. The former fifth overall draft pick signed a four-year, $20.5 million contract today, after posting career highs in goals (26) and assists (33) in 2015-16.

It took a few years for Schenn, 24, to start justifying his draft position. John Tavares, Victor Hedman, Matt Duchene, and Evander Kane were selected with the first four picks that year. Oliver Ekman-Larsson was taken sixth overall.

So there was pressure.

“I think sometimes when you draft a player top five you tend to think he’s going to develop a little quicker than other guys,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall said Monday, per Flyzette. “When you look at Brayden, has he been a fast developer? I would say probably no. Has he been a slow developer? I would say probably no. He’s probably been average.

“The good thing is he’s gotten better every year and he’s a hard worker. He’s starting to figure out the intricacies of the game. He obviously had his best year to this point so hopefully he continues to build on that.”

Hextall reportedly danced around a question about Schenn being part of the “core” group, so there’s still some proving to be done. The Flyers have already committed long-term to forwards Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Couturier. Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl have three years left on their deals, and Dale Weise signed a four-year agreement on July 1.

As for Schenn, he knows he needs to justify the Flyers’ trust in his ongoing development.

“I feel like I keep getting better and better,” he said. “I expect nothing else next year.”

Report: If the Sabres can sign Vesey, they could be more willing to trade Kane

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 03:  Evander Kane #9 of the Buffalo Sabres speaks with referee Kevin Pollock #33 during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on February 3, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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If the Buffalo Sabres can sign Jimmy Vesey, they may be more willing to trade winger Evander Kane.

That’s what TSN 1040 (Vancouver) radio host Matt Sekeres has been hearing, and what he’s hearing does make a lot of sense.

Kane, whose off-ice issues are once again making headlines, has two years left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. He plays the same position as Vesey, 23, who’s currently Buffalo property but can sign with any team he chooses on Aug. 15.

Even if the Sabres can’t convince Vesey to join them, Kane could still be traded. GM Tim Murray has already conceded that his patience is wearing thin with the 24-year-old that he acquired from Winnipeg not long ago. Alex Nylander, drafted eighth overall in June, plays the same position as Kane, and Murray has said it’s possible the teenager could make the jump to the NHL next season.

Buffalo, Boston and Toronto have generally been considered the favorites to land Vesey. Chicago and Pittsburgh have also been mentioned.

Related: Cue the Kane-to-Vancouver speculation

Leafs avoid arbitration with Peter Holland

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 11: Peter Holland #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates up the ice during NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre April 11, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs won’t require arbitration with forward Peter Holland. They’ve signed the 25-year-old to a one-year deal worth a reported $1.3 million.

Holland had a hearing scheduled for today. Last week, the Leafs sent a message by putting him on waivers, which he cleared.

Holland had nine goals and 18 assists in 65 games last season. With him signed, the Leafs have only defensemen Frank Corrado and Martin Marincin as restricted free agents. Corrado has an arbitration hearing scheduled for tomorrow; Marincin’s is next Tuesday.

Related: Corrado and Leafs aren’t that far apart