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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
Mark Visentin
Coyotes' Visentin (Lower Body) Helped Off Ice
Mark Visentin, G, ARI
12:51 AM
News: Mark Visentin suffered a lower body injury during Sunday's training camp scrimmage.
Analysis: Mark Visentin was helped off of the ice, so it's possible the injury is something fairly serious, but it's too early to tell, as the report did not provide definitive details. Another update should be forthcoming once Visentin is evaluated by the team's medical staff.

Nathan Lieuwen
Sabres Start Lieuwen In Preseason Opener
Nathan Lieuwen, G, BUF
12:25 AM
News: Nathan Lieuwen will start and possibly play the whole game in their preseason opener Sunday against Washington.
Analysis: The Sabres are dressing their two AHL goalies with Nathan Lieuwen and Andrey Makarov. Lieuwen, a sixth-round pick, usurped the starting job from Matt Hackett in Rochester last year until a concussion shut Lieuwen down for the season, paving the way for Makarov to finish as Rochester's starter in the playoffs. Lieuwen finished his AHL season with a .922 save percentage and 17 wins in 32 appearances. Interesting to hear that head coach Ted Nolan will likely play Lieuwen the whole game, sending the message loud and clear that each goalie will get a fair shot and a fair look. It's open season in the organization right now as Lieuwen and Makarov vie for the starting job in Rochester while Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth battle for the big league gig.

Jon Merrill
Merrill To Sit Monday For Devils
Jon Merrill, D, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Jon Merrill (head) will not play Monday against the Rangers in the Devils' preseason opener after suffering a slight head injury Saturday.
Analysis: Jon Merrill collided with Ruslan Fedotenko on Saturday and appeared woozy. He will not play Monday simply as a precaution and will likely be limited in the coming week.

Cory Schneider
Devils To Rest Schneider Monday
Cory Schneider, G, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Cory Schneider will not play in Monday's preseason opener against the Rangers.
Analysis: Schenider's job as New Jersey's No. 1 netminder is massively secure, but the team needs to figure out who will be their backup netminder this season. That contest is between Scott Wedgewood, Keith Kinkaid and Maxime Clermont, two of whom will begin the season in the AHL. Schenider had some of the best peripheral statistics among NHL starting goaltenders last season despite just 16 wins in 45 games. He's a safe option after the netminders who will pile up wins are snagged.

Mike Cammalleri
Cammalleri Seeing Time On Devils' Top Line
Mike Cammalleri, LW, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Mike Cammalleri has been playing left wing on the team's top line alongside Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr, the Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti reports.
Analysis: Mike Cammalleri will be expected to challenge the 30-goal plateau and could have a decent shot if he is able to develop chemistry with Zajac and Jagr. The veteran sniper can also play center, but the Devils are starting him off on the wing where he will be expected to shoot often. Cammalleri had 26 goals in 63 games last year for Calgary, a season that saw him battle various nagging injuries.

Adam Larsson
Larsson Under Pressure At Devils' Camp
Adam Larsson, D, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Adam Larsson will need to earn the trust of the New Jersey coaching staff in order to secure a spot in the team's lineup.
Analysis: Adam Larsson has to have a strong camp in order to secure one of the open spots on the team's roster. With him on a one-way, one-year contract now, he'll have to pass through waivers if he is sent down, so he has a roster spot in theory. The fourth-overall pick of the 2011 draft has seen sparse ice time the last few seasons and will need to have a strong training camp along with fellow youngster Eric Gelinas in order to earn the trust of the team's coaching staff.

Eric Gelinas
Gelinas Needs To Impress Devils' Coaches
Eric Gelinas, D, NJ
9/21/2014
News: Eric Gelinas will need to earn the trust of the New Jersey coaching staff in order to secure a spot in the team's lineup.
Analysis: Eric Gelinas had a rather up-and-down rookie season, with the bulk of his 29 points coming early in his 60 games. He spent several stints in the minors and will need to play well in preseason games to earn a regular spot on the roster. He offers a ton of offensive upside, especially on the power play where he snagged 17 points, but him receiving regular ice time will come down to how he plays in his own zone. The Devils' coaching staff love their veterans and Gelinas had a rather short leash last season. He's worth a risk, just don't make it a sizable one in most leagues.

Erik Haula
Wild's Haula (Jaw) Back To Full Speed
Erik Haula, LW, MIN
9/21/2014
News: Erik Haula, who suffered a broken jaw at the World Championships in Belarus in May, is back to full strength at the start of training camp, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Erik Haula looks set to center the Wild's third line. Huala had a strong showing in the playoffs with four goals and seven points in 11 games and looks set to build on that performance with a set job in the NHL this season.

Andre Burakovsky
Caps' Burakovsky Scores First (Unofficial) Goal
Andre Burakovsky, LW, WAS
9/21/2014
News: Andre Burakovsky scored the only goal in the Capitals' 1-0 over Buffalo on Sunday night.
Analysis: Andre Burakovsky scored a nice wrist shot from the face-off circle, and continued to build on his impressive offseason. While Burakovsky is likely destined for AHL Hershey for the balance of the season, the 19-year-old Swede has impressed his coaches throughout the summer. With the leg injury to Tom Wilson and Burakovsky's emerging skills as a potential scoring line center, Burakovsky might be able to secure a roster spot if he keeps this level of play throughout preseason. Keep an eye on him, as Burakovsky has some burgeoning sleeper potential in single-season leagues, and is a must own in keeper leagues.

Joel Ward
Caps' Ward Tallies Assist In Sunday's Win
Joel Ward, RW, WAS
9/21/2014
News: Joel Ward had an assist and two PIM's in 17:25 of ice time during the Capitals' 1-0 win over Buffalo on Sunday.
Analysis: Joel Ward played with Jason Chimera and rookie Andre Burakovsky at even-strength. Like Chimera, Ward had a banner year last season. Although the two have great chemistry, it wouldn't be surprising to see his production regress some this season. Keep an eye on him, but he's probably only worth drafting in deeper leagues.

 
 
 
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