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Neutral Zone Wrap: Gifts that keep on giving

by | Rotowire.com
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The holidays are all about giving -- and investing substantial resources to make others happy. The gifts you've purchased this season will only improve your social standing for months to come. Unless, of course, you figured any one of a pair of socks, a sweater or that limited edition Phillipe Bozon bobblehead would make the perfect gift.

Like the presents we receive, a Fantasy trade can often be well-intended but sometimes ends up looking like last year's fruitcake. The thing was probably conceived quickly and without much thought, the ingredients remain questionable, and no one wants to go near it. So why is this type of transaction so frequent in leagues? Does one really believe they can sneak talent through and not consider the consequences? Or is it assumed the opening offer will always be the worst?

The first rule of negotiations is to deal with the other owners like you'd want them to treat you. And it doesn't matter if there's that one yahoo who always runs his/her mouth throughout the season. Most likely, everyone is playing because they hold some basic Fantasy knowledge. So don't insult others with lowball deals; it only reduces the overall level. And don't think including more players to the trade will increase the likelihood of completion. You can't sell a lemon even if you hide it behind a bunch of grapes.

Enough about gift- or food-related analogies. You want the Fantasy goods. So here are a few teams striving for the prize and others resembling bad apples:

It used to be said the secret to Nashville's success was balanced scoring. Now the Predators have nothing to hide and they're still competing well above payroll. If you believed freshman Craig Smith would slow down (seven points in nine games), then you would've lost a few bets. Although you could've recouped a bit of money on Sergei Kostitsyn (three in 13, minus-4). Nothing wrong with Martin Erat of late (nine in nine). Jordin Tootoo (10 in 12 to go along with 47 PIM and 64 hits on the season) isn't as one-dimensional as you'd think. For as much talent as Patric Hornqvist possesses, you'd think he could treat his Fantasy owners better (two in 18). Don't jump on Roman Josi just yet (netted his first NHL goal on the power-play last week), but the Swiss defender is worth a look in keeper leagues.

Unlike Nashville, everybody knew Calgary couldn't compete due to streaky shooters. The same holds true these days, but the situation could be worse. I mean, the Flames could be wallowing near the bottom of their division and fighting with their provincial rivals. Oh, right, they are. No one could have predicted Olli Jokinen as the Flames' leading scorer (28, including an amazing 14 points in his last 11 games). If you aren't already a fan of Curtis Glencross (seven in seven), then get ready to join the club. The ride was sweet while it lasted, right, Brendan Morrison (nothing in five after seven in three thanks a spot beside Jarome Iginla)? Thanks for the memories, Lee Stempniak (zero in six). Someone needs to jumpstart Mikael Backlund (three in 19) or else it's back to the AHL for him. And without Mark Giordano (torn leg tendons, return unknown), Derek Smith (five in six, including two PPAs) has fit in on D and contributed.

Fact: Columbus doesn't suck as much as the first report would've led you to believe. OK, so they won't be raising the Cup in June. But they're actually half-decent if given the chance. Like Jokinen on the Flames, Vaclav Prospal (26, with seven in December) is truly making the most out of his Blue Jacket revival. Try not to fall into the Derick Brassard trap, even if he's recovered a bit (two in the Jackets’ last outing). And Derek Dorsett may have added a few goals to his resume (adding seven to his career total of 19), but don't be fooled. Besides the cool spy name, Nikita Nikitin (all 12 of his points have come since arriving from St. Louis) is also a stealth scorer. And somehow, Steve Mason (3.52 goals-against average, .880 save percentage, dismal 4-14-1 record) has earned a couple starts while Curtis Sanford (2.42 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in 15) waits for the next chance to strike.

If Montreal can string a few wins together, then it doesn't matter what language the head coach speaks. Of course, when you've lost four in a row and have to go without three key regulars, none of that makes a difference. After some early trepidation (one in seven to start), Erik Cole (seven in seven) has no issues finding the scoresheet. Same goes for David Desharnais (five in five). As a result of others' struggles, first-year center Louis Leblanc (two in four) has been asked to assume more responsibility. So much for P.K. Subban (14, with only four PPPs) stepping up as the top defenseman. Don't expect newcomer Tomas Kaberle to assume that role, even if the opening returns (five in six) are encouraging.

With all the injuries in Colorado, you could say the Avs are being held together by glue and hope. But that hasn't stopped the club from winning four of their last five. Or having Jean-Sebastien Giguere (1.87 goals-against average, .931 save percentage in 13, winner of three straight) wresting the #1 mantle from Semyon Varlamov (3.14 goals-against average, .896 save percentage). Ryan O'Reilly (leading the team with 23) is enjoying a career year. Daniel Winnik (four in seven) has been promoted to the top unit thanks to his hard work. The numbers may not be spectacular for Gabriel Landeskog (15, 22 PIM, 93 hits), but the rookie is sticking and - more importantly - learning on the job. Kyle Quincey has served as top blueliner (17, but only one in eight), although he was surprisingly scratched Wednesday. Thanks to a couple missing defenders, Stefan Elliott (three in five) is once again getting the opportunity to do his thing.

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Player News
Jesse Winchester
Avs' Winchester Has Concussion
Jesse Winchester, C, COL
10/2/2014
News: Jesse Winchester sustained a concussion in Tuesday's preseason tilt against the Kings, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Coach Patrick Roy suggested Jesse Winchester could be out a while, as he'll be subjected to the league's concussion protocol before returning with the ice. With the regular season just over a week away, there's a good chance Winchester could land on injured reserve if he fails to make much progress.

Jonathan Ericsson
Wings' Ericsson Iffy For Preseason Finale
Jonathan Ericsson, D, DET
10/2/2014
News: Jonathan Ericsson (hip flexor) isn't certain if he'll play in the Red Wings' remaining two preseason games, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Analysis: Though Jonathan Ericsson returned to practice Wednesday, he may not be operating at full speed when the Red Wings conclude their exhibition schedule Saturday. He does, however, feel that he will be 100 percent healthy for the Oct. 9 opener against the Bruins, especially after he gets in a few more hard skates. The blueliner is also returning from a broken finger that prevented him from playing in the final 14 regular-season contests and the playoffs, but that particular injury isn't expected to hinder him any further.

Maxim Noreau
Avalanche Place Noreau On Waivers
Maxim Noreau, D, COL
10/2/2014
News: Maxim Noreau was placed on waivers by the Avalanche on Tuesday, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reports.
Analysis: He has only played six NHL games in his career and has spent the last three years playing in Switzerland. If another NHL team does not claim him, Maxim Noreau will report to AHL Lake Erie. Noreau last appeared in the NHL during the 2010-11 season with Minnesota, where he only lasted five games with the team. There is a very low chance that he will see NHL action this season, minimizing his fantasy value.

Bruno Gervais
Colorado Places Gervais On Waivers
Bruno Gervais, D, COL
10/2/2014
News: Bruno Gervais was put on waivers by Colorado on Tuesday, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reports.
Analysis: He spent all of last season in the AHL where he played 59 games, scored 10 goals, and added 16 assists. Bruno Gervais who has played over 400 games in the NHL, will report to AHL Lake Erie if he goes unclaimed on waivers. The only way he could see time with the Avalanche is if the team falls victim to a rash of injuries. Otherwise, he will have very little fantasy value even in deeper leagues.

Niklas Backstrom
Wild's Backstrom May Be Trailing In Job Battle
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN
10/2/2014
News: Niklas Backstrom appears to be losing ground in the battle for the No. 1 goalie gig with Darcy Kuemper, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Niklas Backstrom was the frontrunner for the starting job entering camp, but after Kuemper reported to the Wild upon agreeing to a new contract with the team, the declining veteran looks on track to eventually settle into a reserve role. The 36-year-old has performed respectably in training camp with 29 saves on 32 shots over two appearances, but the memory of last season's 5-11-2 record, 3.02 GAA and .899 save percentage will probably make the Wild somewhat reluctant to use him regularly. Though some of his struggles could be attributed to injury, the youthful Kuemper posted far better numbers as a rookie and probably gives the Wild a better chance at ascending to the Western Conference's elite in 2014-15. Expect Backstrom's long tenure in Minnesota to allow him to cut into Kuemper's workload early in the season, but Kuemper should soon separate himself as the team's clear No. 1 option.

Scott Laughton
Flyers' Laughton Sent To AHL Lehigh Valley
Scott Laughton, C, PHI
10/2/2014
News: Scott Laughton was assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley on Tuesday, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News reports.
Analysis: The former first-round pick had a strong preseason thus far, but his performance was not enough to make the final roster. Scott Laughton is held in high regard as a prospect in the Flyers' system, and he's still young enough to stay in the AHL for the year to develop his skills further. Barring injury, he won't see much playing time in the NHL this year since the Flyers seem rather settled at center, but keeper league owners should still give him a look.

Duncan Siemens
Avs Send Siemens To Minors
Duncan Siemens, D, COL
1:33 PM
News: Duncan Siemens was reassigned to AHL Lake Erie on Wednesday, the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: The Avs' first-round draft pick in 2012, Duncan Siemens showed little that hinted at fantasy upside while with Lake Erie last season, as he recorded one goal and three assists over 45 games. Though still just 21 years old, it seems apparent he's not developing as quickly as the Avs might have hoped.

Jamie McGinn
Avs' McGinn Set To Return By Opening Night
Jamie McGinn, LW, COL
1:31 PM
News: Jamie McGinn returned to practice on Wednesday and should be ready for Colorado's season opener next week, Adrian Dater of The Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Jamie McGinn established career-highs in goals, assists, and points last season while only missing three games. When he returns to full health, he'll likely slot in on the third line, but coach Patrick Roy could drop him down if he feels the team needs more scoring talent in the bottom six. With Alex Tanguay back from injury this season, along with the Avs adding Jarome Iginla to replace the departed Paul Stastny, McGinn may have difficulty surpassing last season's point production.

Brenden Morrow
Bolts' Morrow Banged Up
Brenden Morrow, LW, TB
1:20 PM
News: Brenden Morrow was held out of Wednesday's practice with an undisclosed injury, Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: Coach Jon Cooper said that there was nothing new to report on Brenden Morrow's condition, other than that the forward is day-to-day with the injury. Signed to a one-year deal by the Bolts in the offseason, Morrow is clearly in the decline phase of his career, but should offer some depth scoring and leadership in the locker room. He's looking at a bottom-six role and could even be an occasional healthy scratch.

Mason Raymond
Flames' Raymond Skates Wednesday
Mason Raymond, LW, CGY
1:14 PM
News: Mason Raymond (lower body) was able to get in a skate Wednesday, Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: The Flames anticipate that Mason Raymond will be ready for the beginning of the regular season, despite his recent limitations. He's expected to see most of his duty this season on either the Flames' second or third line.

 
 
 
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