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Neutral Zone Wrap: It's time to flex your muscle

by | Rotowire.com
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The road to Fantasy success is rarely paved with good intentions.

You might not want to hurt someone else's team, but that's the price you pay for wanting to do well. So you improve your squad while taking away a key piece or two from a non-contender. Don't worry about it. Just think if the situations were reversed: Your roster would be gutted worse than a turkey before Thanksgiving.

There is no remorse in Roto.

Well, only when you have the chance to strike and you fail to pull the trigger. Now that's something that could haunt you down the line.

So go ahead and take the initiative. Be ruthless. Make that move now. Yes, now. Don't delay. C'mon, time is wasting. After all, being proactive worked for a few NHL clubs. Like, perhaps, one or more of the following:

You would expect a team to struggle after moving across the continent and enduring ridiculous travel schedules. But the Winnipeg Jets have been able to defy the odds to become a respectable outfit (10-4-1 since mid-November). Reason No. 1 for their success would be their top man in net. Ondrej Pavelec (3.11 goals-against average, .903 save percentage) has exceeded expectations by standing on his head most nights (top 5 in shots). Right behind him in importance are the trio of Evander Kane, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler (43 combined points in 13 contests). After a blistering beginning (nine points in nine games) Alex Burmistrov has fallen off the map (two in 10 and a minor injury to boot). Will Antti Miettinen (a double-digit goal scorer in each of his six full seasons) be able to add some offense? Tobias Enstrom (fractured collarbone) is still out, but Zach Bogosian (six points in 10 games, 23 PIM) has been able to carry a bit of the load. Ron Hainsey (back from consecutive maladies) can also add some stats if he feels like it.

The Blues are proving a coaching change and an awful power-play can spur anyone to greatness. (OK, maybe not the latter. But they've promised to improve. And we should take their word for it.) The dynamic duo of T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen top the charts (with 19 each). Poolies and hockey fans alike have cheered the return of David Perron (three points in four games). Grab Jason Arnott if you need someone who is only useful in one area (half of his 14 points have come on the man-advantage). Meanwhile, Chris Stewart (four-game point streak ended last week) is struggling less than usual. A similar state exists for Patrik Berglund (also had a four-game run halted), a perennial favorite of this column. Another player mentioned often here, Kris Russell, has surprised at times since coming from Columbus (although one point in nine games sounds more like the old Kris). And when will Brian Elliott (with a Parent-like 12-2 mark, 1.46 goals-against average, .947 save percentage and four shutouts) finally show weakness?

It’s good to see Dallas still up in the standings, even with a couple notable absences. When Kari Lehtonen (groin injury, probably gone until 2012) went down, many thought Andrew Raycroft (3.53 goals-against average, .897 save percentage in nine) would be the one to step in, but no one believed Richard Bachman (one goal allowed in three appearances) would turn it into overdrive. Brenden Morrow is back again from his latest training room sabbatical. No worries about Jamie Benn and his mini-slump (one in seven, minus-5). Michael Ryder has made a marked improvement after a slow start. Steve Ott will still earn you enough assorted goodies (68 PIM and 90 hits expected, 12 points added bonus). And where did all those goals from, Eric Nystrom (tied for team lead with 10)? Sheldon Souray (scoreless in 15) has been trending downward for weeks, but Trevor Daley (three in two, more special-teams minutes) deserves an uptick for his recent efforts.

Why can't Buffalo stay consistent (currently at two wins in seven)? Does Sabre life mainly revolve around Ryan Miller (team was 3-5-2 while he recovered)? Is Tyler Myers (broken wrist, close to practicing again) that big an influence? Can Ville Leino's undisclosed, potentially long-term injury be considered catastrophic if he was underperforming (10 in 29, minus-7)? Many questions remain, but there still is hope. Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford have the opportunities and tools to produce. Zack Kassian looks to be developing into a nice all-around winger. Without Myers, the blue line hasn't filled in adequately. Jordan Leopold isn't faring too poorly, although Marc-Andre Gragnani (three in 13) could be contributing a lot more.

And, hey, congrats to Detroit on completing our team tour this season. It's a shame there isn't more we could discuss, but they need more notables injured -- or at least rotate a couple different players in the lineup now and then. It's difficult to ignore Todd Bertuzzi slotted on the top line, although it's easier to discount his mediocrity (still out there between 13-14 minutes a night). Someone has lit a fire under Jiri Hudler (six in four) and Danny Cleary (five in five). The same spark may have transferred to Darren Helm (five in eight), but it was extinguished before reaching Justin Abdelkader. And with five power-play assists and a top-10 rating of plus-17, there’s no need to mention Ian White, right?

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Player News
Karri Ramo
Flames Re-Sign Ramo On One-Year Pact
Karri Ramo, G, CGY
8:04 AM
News: Karri Ramo re-signed Wednesday with the Flames on a one-year, $3.8 million contract, Darren Dreger of TSN reports.
Analysis: With two promising goalie prospects in the pipeline in Joni Ortio and Jon Gillies (the former of whom is signed to a one-way deal), it seemed unlikely heading into the summer that the Flames would find room to bring back Karri Ramo. In addition to Ortio and Ramo, the Flames also have Jonas Hiller under contract for 2015-16, which may force the team to trade one of the three goalies. Assuming Ramo sticks around, he should have a fair chance to compete with both Hiller and Ortio for regular starting duties, though it seems doubtful that he'll capture an overwhelming portion of any timeshare. Ramo went 15-9-3 with a 2.60 GAA and .912 save percentage over 34 appearances last season.

Patrick Eaves
Stars' Eaves Signed One-Year Deal
Patrick Eaves, RW, DAL
7:56 AM
News: Patrick Eaves re-signed Wednesday with the Stars on a one-year, $1.15 million contract, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Health issues limited Patrick Eaves to just 47 games last season, but he turned in some of the most productive hockey of his career, tallying 14 goals and 27 points. Eaves' fantasy relevance for the coming season will likely hinge on him seeing more frequent ice time with top-line stars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, but he'll probably have to hold off the likes of Valeri Nichushkin, Ales Hemsky, and Cody Eakin for those duties.

Mike Ribeiro
Preds' Ribeiro Re-Ups For Two Years
Mike Ribeiro, C, NSH
7:49 AM
News: Mike Ribeiro re-signed Wednesday with the Predators on a two-year, $7 million contract, TSN's Aaron Ward reports.
Analysis: The Predators were able to reach a deal with Mike Ribeiro shortly before he was set to hit unrestricted free agency, locking him back in as their No. 1 center. Skating alongside star rookie Filip Forsberg last season, the 35-year-old Ribeiro was able to revive his career, tallying 15 goals and 47 assists across 82 games. He should remain a useful fantasy commodity once again for what projects to be a strong Predators squad.

Kevin Bieksa
Ducks, Bieksa Agree To Extension
Kevin Bieksa, D, ANA
7:29 AM
News: Kevin Bieksa signed a two-year, $8 million contract extension with the Ducks on Wednesday, Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada reports.
Analysis: Kevin Bieksa, who was acquired Tuesday from the Canucks for a 2016 second-round draft pick, was already under contract for 2015-16 at a cap hit of $4.6, so the extension will keep him in Anaheim until the summer of 2018. The 34-year-old Bieksa is expected to serve as a direct replacement for top-four defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who isn't expected to be retained in unrestricted free agency.

Artem Anisimov
Blackhawks, Anisimov Reach Five-Year Extension
Artem Anisimov, C, CHI
7:23 AM
News: Artem Anisimov signed a five-year, $22.75 million contract extension with the Blackhawks on Wednesday, Darren Dreger of TSN reports.
Analysis: Artem Anisimov, who was one of five players the Blackhawks received back in Tuesday's stunning deal that sent Brandon Saad to the Blue Jackets, is expected to slot in as the team's second or third-line center following the expected offseason departures of Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette. The 27-year-old hasn't tallied more than 45 points in any of his seven NHL seasons, but his steady play in all facets of the game should make him a useful piece in Chicago. Anisimov still has one year remaining on his previous deal with a cap hit of $3.28 million before the extension kicks in next summer and runs through the end of the 2020-21 campaign.

Alex Biega
Biega Signs With Canucks
Alex Biega, D, VAN
12:43 AM
News: The Canucks re-signed Alex Biega to a one-year, two-way contract Tuesday, the Province reports. The deal is worth $600,000 at the NHL level.
Analysis: Alex Biega, who notched a goal in seven games with the big club in 2014-15, spent most of the season with AHL Utica, where he recorded 19 points in 62 games. The 27-year-old is thus slated to reprise his role as a depth blueliner for the Canucks' organization.

Drew Stafford
Jets Retain Stafford
Drew Stafford, RW, WPG
12:35 AM
News: Drew Stafford signed a two-year, $8.7 million deal to remain with the Jets on Tuesday, Sportsnet.ca's Elliotte Friedman reports.
Analysis: The 29-year-old Drew Stafford, who was acquired from Buffalo in February, finished up the 2014-15 season with 18 goals and 43 points in 76 games overall, but his production picked up with the Jets (19 points in 26 games), earning him a nice two-year payday with the team in advance of free agency. He'll likely be ticketed for a second- or third-line role this coming season.

Dougie Hamilton
Flames' Hamilton Signs Six-Year Deal
Dougie Hamilton, D, CGY
12:06 AM
News: Dougie Hamilton signed a six-year, $34.5 million deal with the Flames on Tuesday, Yahoo! Sports reports.
Analysis: Dougie Hamilton came over from Boston in a trade last week, and it appears he's viewed as a key part of the Flames' future. The 22-year-old, who showed flashes of promise as a member of the Bruins, notched 42 points in an average of 21:20 of ice time per game last season.

Martin Jones
Sharks, Jones Reach Agreement On Three-Year Deal
Martin Jones, G, SJ
6/30/2015
News: Martin Jones signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Sharks on Tuesday, Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area reports.
Analysis: Martin Jones has been a member of three different teams within less than a week, but in agreeing to the new contract, it appears he's finally settled on a permanent home. At a $3 million cap hit, Jones will be almost twice as expensive as holdover Alex Stalock ($1.6 million), but both goalies should have a legitimate chance at fighting for the No. 1 job. With the Sharks bringing in a new coach in Peter DeBoer, Stalock doesn't figure to be shown any loyalty as the incumbent, which should allow for the better of the two goalies in training camp to rise to the top of the depth chart to begin the season.

Craig Cunningham
Cunningham Re-Signs With Coyotes
Craig Cunningham, LW, ARI
6/30/2015
News: Craig Cunningham re-signed Tuesday with the Coyotes on a one-year, two-way contract.
Analysis: Though the Coyotes declined to tender a qualifying offer a day earlier to Craig Cunningham, a restricted free agent, it didn't take long for the team to find common ground with the winger on a new deal. The two-way deal will allow the Coyotes to demote Cunningham to AHL Portland without having to go through the waiver process, but given the lack of existing forward talent on the parent club's current roster that might be a moot point. The 24-year-old, who has recorded seven points in 53 career NHL games, could stick with Arizona for the bulk of the season.

 
 
 
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