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Kalman: Atlantic Division Teams Still No Threat To Bruins

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Patrice Bergeron (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Patrice Bergeron (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) - The frenzy of free-agent movement opened Tuesday and trickled into Wednesday. Really, the offseason movement period began at the draft last weekend.

There are still about 40 or 50 more shopping days before NHL teams will set their rosters for training camps. A lot can happen in that time.

Of course, we know the Bruins have done nothing since free agency opened, except lose their leading scorer, Jarome Iginla, and backup goaltender Chad Johnson. If you count seventh (or is it eighth) defenseman Andrej Meszaros leaving as a loss, well then you’re just looking for a reason to skewer general manager Peter Chiarelli.

Although the Bruins weren’t active in the past 48 hours, many of their closest Atlantic Division rivals were overheating the phone lines and flipping their lineups like Mohegan Sun dealers. Here’s a quick peek at the Bruins’ rivals moves and how much of a threat those teams are now to the Bruins’ supremacy in the division:

Tampa Bay

2013-14 season series: Bruins won 4-0

The Lightning finished second last season despite their struggles against the first-place Bruins and spending a lot of the season without Steven Stamkos. They did the most among Atlantic teams to improve themselves prior to and during the start of free agency. They traded for Jason Garrison and signed Anton Stralman to become more mobile on their back end. They retained free-agent forward Ryan Callahan and replaced Nate Thompson with Brian Boyle for their fourth line (which is probably a lateral move). The Lightning wanted Iginla, and Stralman was their fallback after missing on Dan Boyle. Still, they’re going to be a threat in 2014-15, especially if they can add one more top-six forward.

Chances to overthrow Bruins (on a scale of 1 to 4 Iginlas): 3

Montreal

2013-14 season series: Bruins were 1-2-1 in regular season, 3-4 in playoffs

After coming one round shy of the Stanley Cup Final, the Canadiens are getting younger. They moved out veteran defenseman Josh Gorges to clear cap space and open playing room for younger D-men, including Nathan Beaulieu. They shipped out Daniel Briere to bring in the more efficient P.A. Parenteau. Signee Manny Malhotra gives them a better bottom-six faceoff option. Brian Gionta’s departure also gives younger players a chance to thrive. Most important to Montreal’s fortunes, they re-signed Andrei Markov and so far it doesn’t appear there will be any problems with the Canadiens getting restricted free-agent defenseman P.K. Subban back in the fold.

Chances to overthrow Bruins: 2 Iginlas

Detroit

2013-14 season series: Bruins were 1-3-0 in regular season, 4-1 in playoffs

Free agents are doing what most Americans do: looking at Detroit and then getting as far away as they can. The Red Wings thought they had a chance at Matt Niskanen, Christian Ehrhoff or Dan Boyle. They wound up re-signing defenseman Kyle Quincey. Also in the market for a top-six forward, the Red Wings came up empty. And Daniel Alfredsson won’t decide if he’s returning until late August. Of course, this time next year Detroit will probably be coming off another playoff appearance. But it looks like the Red Wings are in decline in terms of championship chances.

Chances to overthrow Bruins: 1 Iginla

Ottawa

2013-14 season series: Bruins were 2-2-0

They don’t use the word rebuild in Ottawa, but I can. The Senators shipped out Jason Spezza for younger center Alex Chiasson and prospects. They let Ales Hemsky head to Dallas with Spezza. Re-signing Milan Michalek is no reason to celebrate. CapGeek.com has Ottawa listed 27th in cap payroll with 22 players signed. Mediocrity is ready to take over in Canada’s capital.

Chances to overthrow Bruins: 0 Iginlas

Toronto

2013-14 season series: Bruins were 2-1-1

Once upon a time the Maple Leafs were coming off their first playoff appearance in forever and they seemingly “won” free agency by signing David Clarkson last summer. Now players are holding their nose while either rejecting or departing the so-called capital city of hockey. Gorges said no thank you and picked Buffalo as a trade landing spot. David Bolland decided one year in Leafs Land was enough and bolted to Florida. Stephan Robidas is a solid depth pickup on the back end and Leo Komarov’s return bolsters Toronto’s bottom six, but the Maple Leafs are lacking proven high-end talent down the middle and in their top four. Despite their 2013 playoff collapse, that series with the Bruins might be a shining moment of this decade for Toronto.

Chances to overthrow Bruins: 0 Iginlas

Florida

2013-14 season series: Bruins were 5-0-0

They’re doing it again. The Panthers spent like drunken sailors on a bunch of free agents to build a team that jelled just enough to get into the playoffs in 2012. After two more years on the sidelines, the Panthers are spending again. Bolland, Willie Mitchell, Jussi Jokinen and Shawn Thornton will provide veteran guidance to a ton of young talent. Of course, the Panthers will only go as far as goaltender Roberto Luongo and those young talents (like Jonathan Huberdeau and No. 1 overall pick Aaron Ekblad) take them, which probably won’t be very far. But they might be more fun to watch.

Chances to overthrow Bruins: 1 Iginla

Buffalo

2013-14 season series: Bruins were 3-1-1

Somehow the last-place Sabres earned two wins against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins. Considering how hard they were going after the No. 1 overall pick that they didn’t get, the Sabres probably didn’t even want those standings points against the Bruins. What they wanted this summer was to get to the cap floor after making wholesale changes last season. And after buying out Ehrhoff they replaced him with Gorges. They brought back Matt Moulson and imported Gionta. No. 2 overall pick Sam Reinhart should add some legitimacy to the Sabres’ chances of scoring. But still this is a glorified expansion-team roster with no proven NHL goaltending. Odds are good they’ll be gunning for that No. 1 overall pick again next spring.

Chances to overthrow Bruins: 0 Iginlas

So while you’re pulling your hair out about the Bruins not improving, and maybe even declining, in terms of overall talent, be grateful they’re in a weak division in a weak conference. Most of the best players, like Iginla, are heading to the Western Conference, which will be a brawl next season just like it was this past season.

As of today, the Bruins look like a cinch to repeat as Atlantic Division champions.

Matt Kalman appeared on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Johnston & Flynn Thursday to discuss the Bruins offseason:

Kalman: Salary Cap Limiting Bruins Offseason Plans

98.5 The Sports Hub

Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.

MORE BRUINS COVERAGE FROM CBS BOSTON

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