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Neutral Zone Wrap: Worth another look?

by | Rotowire.com
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Following up on last week's underappreciated player review, we now turn to those overlooked on the waiver wire. Alas, there will be no list. But hopefully, you will still learn something. (There will be a quiz after, so pay attention).

As your league's trade deadline has either passed or is reaching its conclusion, you need other sources to fill your roster requirements. And since you can't forcibly steal property from any of the other owners (as detailed in Section 1.2.92 of the Geneva Convention), then what better way to replace/upgrade than wading in the free agent pool. This idea may elicit chills, but you will warm up to it…when you realize you have no other choice.

If you currently stand as a contender (and why wouldn't you be?), then here are a couple waiver tips to provide that extra boost:

• Grab the best player available. This may sound obvious, but many are easily attracted to recent performance. While a hot streak may signal an ice-time increase or an advanced line situation, it sometimes hides the fact others exist that carry better pedigrees but may have either returned from injury or were just dropped due to unknown circumstances.

• In a year-long rotisserie-style league using position maximums, it may become necessary to mix and match your pickups. Projected to be low on LW but high on C? Then find a winger and dump the center (more of the latter will be available). But don't always follow these trends, especially when it comes to goaltending. Even if their appearances are approaching the upper threshold, it's often better to retain as many ‘tenders as possible – unless you really need to substitute in another area. Remember goalies generally comprise two-fifths of the standing categories, so maintaining the best nightly options in net may just be the solution to push you up the standings.

• If your league involves head-to-head, then take a look at upcoming weekly schedules. A skater who will see action four times in the next seven days is often preferred to one who will only go out twice (exceptions obviously apply). As well, it may pay off to scout your opponent and seek out available linemates to counteract. But at the same time, don't do so if it significantly worsens your overall production.

And now that you have absorbed this material, perhaps you can apply the knowledge to one of these NHL clubs:

After a brief lull, Nashville has turned into the latest league model (12-2 in 2012). He always gets lost in the shuffle, but Martin Erat (10 points in 11 games) continues to be reliable. Welcome back to prominence, Mike Fisher (14 in 11). Way to rebound, Sergei Kostitsyn (12 in 13, including seven goals). You're not bad either, Colin Wilson (five in seven). And don't tail off too drastically, Craig Smith (four-game point streak helps). Roman Josi has been entrusted with significant minutes in the last six weeks (12 of 16 at 20-plus) but hasn't exactly shone (only five assists during that stretch), while Ryan Ellis gets short-shifted (never seen anything above 19:25) but comes out more valuable (seven, including four on the power-play).

The Islanders have showed promise (back-to-back road victories versus Washington and Philly), but you won't see much of it outside their core group. Re-enter Kyle Okposo (14 in 15, plus-six) into the mix, but that's where the offense ends. Frans Nielsen (two in 10) can claim a spot on the Isles' top PP unit, but no would be able to tell. All Michael Grabner has done lately is score goals (four in 10), but the rest (no assists in 11) isn't even close to last year's pace. Beyond the great Mark Streit, the blueline is pretty bare. None of Andrew MacDonald (three in 14), Travis Hamonic (two in 12), or Milan Jurcina (pointless in 23 games!) has been able to make a sound. At least Evgeni Nabokov (recent owner of a four-game winning streak) is reclaiming his role as fantasy regular.

Something is still amiss in Washington, but the Capitals are slowly pulling the pieces together. There was no doubting Alexander Semin (13 in 15) and Marcus Johansson (nine in 13) would step out of their ruts. Troy Brouwer (six in nine, 27 hits, 11 PIM) maintains his underrated status. Anyone who saw Mathieu Perreault (seven in six, including a hat trick) jumping up to benefit, hey, good for you. Everyone who realized the reign of Jason Chimera (four in 17) wouldn't last, well, brave call there. Waiting for Mike Green to return (from his perma-groin strain) is like pulling teeth. But hoping John Carlson (two in 15, minus-12) can fill a significant portion is similar to doing that nail scratching thing on the blackboard.

Can Los Angeles continue to stay afloat (hanging on to a playoff berth in the West) even if they have trouble producing (last in the NHL at 2.11 goals/night)? Don't tell Justin Williams (he of the nine-match point run) about the offensive drought. Please keep Dustin Penner (four in nine) away from fluffy breakfast foods. You've got to give us more, Kyle Clifford (like something more than 15 minutes to go with four in nine plus 24 PIM), before we can pull the trigger. You still with us, Jarrett Stoll (three in 12, hasn't tasted a PPP since December)? Andrei Loktionov (four in 30) doesn't appear to be ready for the show. Slava Voynov displayed a bit of spark to start (few recall his three-point moment in October), but that's quickly burning out (one in eight).

And what can one really say about Carolina? They've been awful, but at least their prolonged slump is allowing their role players extra chances. This is your moment, Brandon Sutter (six in 12), so don't mess it up. The world has been handed to Jiri Tlusty (four in 12), as he now finds himself between Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner. Even a late-blooming journeyman like Tim Brent (five in eight) can earn a living. Cherish that 2009 playoff stardom, Chad LaRose, because your number is almost up. Without Joni Pitkanen (concussion/knee surgery) and Jaroslav Spacek (now back from facial injuries) manning the point, not-so-young Jay Harrison (eight in 13) and definitely fresh-faced Justin Faulk (dismiss the scoreless in six and focus on the six in eight immediately before) have reaped the rewards.

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Player News
Mike Hoffman
Hoffman Awarded One-Year Deal In Arbitration
Mike Hoffman, LW, OTT
12:54 AM
News: Mike Hoffman was awarded a one-year, $2 million contract Monday after going to arbitration with the Senators.
Analysis: It's a bargain deal for the Senators, especially when considering Mike Hoffman was reportedly seeking a $3.4 million contract, while Ottawa countered with $1.75 million. Hoffman was certainly justified in requesting the larger amount. The 25-year-old racked up 48 points (27 goals, 21 assists) over 79 games in what was his first full-time NHL campaign in 2014-15. He will return as a top-six forward for the Senators this season, and could take his production up a notch if he can stay healthy.

James Reimer
Leafs' Reimer: "Open Competition" In Net At Camp
James Reimer, G, TOR
8/3/2015
News: James Reimer will enter training camp with the opportunity to seize the number one role or at least a platoon, according to Toronto Star. "I think that right now I have a total open mind [to both goalies], and certainly I know Mike has the same," said new general manager Lou Lamoriello.
Analysis: James Reimer started 27 games in 2014-15 and delivered a meagre 9-16-1 record with a 3.16 GAA and .907 save percentage. He sure didn't do enough to earn starter's minutes, but will enter camp in an open competition with Jonathan Bernier. It's the third straight season with Reimer and Bernier splitting goaltending duties.

Jonathan Bernier
Bernier Not Guaranteed Leafs' Starting Job
Jonathan Bernier, G, TOR
8/3/2015
News: New general manager Lou Lamoriello envisions the Leafs' goaltending job as an open competition and indicates that head coach Mike Babcock feels the same way, according to the Toronto Star. "I think that right now I have a total open mind, and certainly I know Mike has the same," Lamoriello said. This will be the third straight season with Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer splitting goaltending duties.
Analysis: Lamoriello did indicate that Jonathan Bernier "has the ability, no question" to be a number one goalie in the NHL, but the twinetender hasn't shown the consistency in his game to take that job. And it's that inconsistency that has prevented him from getting a long-term deal with the Leafs. He just inked a two-year contract with the hope he can show the team he deserves a long-term, big-money deal. "Hopefully he has a year that pushes us, that is the organization, to speak to him next summer and looking for long term," continued Lamoriello.

Louis Domingue
Coyotes' Domingue Bound For Europe In 2015-16
Louis Domingue, G, ARI
8/3/2015
News: Louis Domingue will head to Europe for the 2015-16 season after opting not to sign his two-way qualifying offer with the Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: With the Coyotes adding Anders Lindback to presumably serve as the backup to starter Mike Smith next season, Louis Domingue determined that playing overseas would be preferable to spending another year in the minors. The Coyotes will still retain his rights for the next four years, and with Lindback set to become a free agent next summer, it's quite possible that Domingue will be brought back in as one of Arizona's two goalies in 2016-17. The 23-year-old fared reasonably well in limited duty with the parent club last season, going 1-2-1 with a 2.73 GAA and .911 save percentage over seven appearances.

Aaron Dell
Dell Inks One-Year Deal With Sharks
Aaron Dell, G, SJ
8/3/2015
News: Aaron Dell signed a one-year contract with the Sharks on Monday.
Analysis: The 26-year-old goaltender was solid in 26 games with AHL Worcester in 2014-15, posting a 2.06 GAA and a .927 save percentage in those contests. He will likely serve as the Sharks' primary AHL goaltender this season.

Brooks Orpik
Caps' Orpik Likely Ready For Opener
Brooks Orpik, D, WAS
8/3/2015
News: General manager Brian MacLellan indicated Monday that he expects Brooks Orpik (wrist) to be ready for the beginning of the season, Dan Rosen of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Brooks Orpik is expected to begin full workout activities within a week or two, barring a setback, so it should provide him plenty of time to recover before the season begins. Assuming that's indeed the case, he should open the season among the top two pairings, and could pick up a fair number of assists while working with the likes of Alex Ovechkin and offseason addition T.J. Oshie.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom Starts Skating
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
8/3/2015
News: General manager Brian MacLellan indicated Monday that Nicklas Backstrom (hip) recently began skating again, Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom's status for the beginning of the season remains in doubt after offseason hip surgery, but he's at least progressing. The Capitals haven't released an official timeline for the top-line center, but it should clear up as the season draws near. If Backstrom is unavailable to begin the campaign, Evgeny Kuznetsov seems the likely candidate to center the top line, which would give him a significant increase in fantasy value.

Erik Haula
Wild, Haula Reach Agreement On New Deal
Erik Haula, LW, MIN
8/2/2015
News: Erik Haula signed a two-year, $2 million contract with the Wild on Sunday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Rather than take their contract dispute to court, Erik Haula and the team were able to come to terms on a new agreement before the arbitration case was slated to be heard. Haula, who was the last of the Wild's unrestricted free agents, is now expected to be penciled in as the team's fourth-line center to open the upcoming campaign.

Brandon Sutter
Canucks, Sutter Closing In On Big Deal
Brandon Sutter, C, VAN
8/1/2015
News: Brandon Sutter and the Canucks are closing in on a contract extension that could be worth more than $20 million over five years, reports Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada.
Analysis: Orca's general manager Jim Benning wasn't kidding when he described Brandon Sutter as a 'foundational' piece for his club. At that cash, the Orcas must believe Sutter is the solution for their second-line woes. He's been a No. 3 guy through his career, but could step up playing alongside scoring wingers. Monitor this heading to camp.

Marcus Johansson
Johansson Inks One-Year Deal With Capitals
Marcus Johansson, C, WAS
7/31/2015
News: Marcus Johansson signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Capitals on Friday, James Mirtle of TSN 1050 Radio reports.
Analysis: Marcus Johansson was a solid offensive contributor for the Capitals in 2014-15, racking up 47 points (20 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games, good for fourth best on the team. He will return to his role as a top-six forward with Washington this season, and will likely continue to be a part of the Capitals' top power-play unit. The 24-year-old is a versatile winger who, barring injury, should be similarly productive this season.

 
 
 
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