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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
Cody Eakin
Eakin Agrees To Four-Year Extension With Stars
Cody Eakin, C, DAL
8/28/2015
News: Cody Eakin agreed to a four-year, $15.4 million contract extension with the Stars on Friday, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: The 24-year-old was a solid producer for the Stars in 2014-15, registering 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) in 78 games with the team. He will likely return to his role centering the Stars' third line this season, and should produce similarly barring significant injury.

Elias Lindholm
Lindholm Signs Two-Year Extension With Hurricanes
Elias Lindholm, C, CAR
8/27/2015
News: Elias Lindholm signed a two-year, $5.4 million contract extension with the Hurricanes on Thursday.
Analysis: Elias Lindholm was a solid contributor in his first full NHL season in 2014-15, registering 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 81 games with the team. He will return to his role as a top-six forward with Carolina this season, and should have a great shot at improving upon his offensive numbers from a year ago as he continues his development as an NHL forward.

Patrik Berglund
Blues' Berglund To Require Shoulder Surgery
Patrik Berglund, C, STL
8/27/2015
News: Patrik Berglund aggravated a dislocated right shoulder while working out and is set to undergo surgery Friday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. He'll require at least four months of recovery time.
Analysis: Patrik Berglund first dislocated the shoulder in 2013-14, and required surgery last offseason to address the issue. The center was able to recover in time from that procedure to play on Opening Night last season, but given how late in the offseason calendar the setback occurred this time around, it looks like Berglund won't take the ice again until the calendar flips to 2016. His extended absence could allow prospect Robby Fabbri to claim third-line center duties out of training camp, with veteran Scott Gomez also in the mix if coach Ken Hitchcock prefers a more experienced option for that role.

Scott Gomez
Gomez Signs PTO With Blues
Scott Gomez, C, NJ
8/27/2015
News: Scott Gomez accepted a professional tryout offer with the Blues on Thursday, Andy Strickland of FOX Sports Midwest reports.
Analysis: After failing to garner a contract in free agency for the second straight offseason, Scott Gomez will again head to training camp on a PTO, as he did last season in New Jersey. Though he wasn't able to crack the Devils' Opening Night roster, he continued to work out with the team after the tryout period ended and was eventually signed to the team when injuries opened up an opportunity in late November. Gomez would end the season as one of the more productive contributors on the offensively challenged Devils, finishing third on the team with 34 points. The Blues boast a far deeper roster of forward talent, but with the news surfacing after Gomez's signing that Patrik Berglund would miss at least four months following shoulder surgery, an opening on the third line could exist for the 35-year-old.

Max Pacioretty
Habs' Pacioretty Still On Schedule With Rehab
Max Pacioretty, LW, MON
8/27/2015
News: Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said recently that Max Pacioretty (knee) remains on schedule in the rehabilitation process, Arpon Basu of LNH.com reports.
Analysis: Max Pacioretty sustained the knee injury while working out in Florida in early July, and was given a projected recovery timetable of 10-to-12 weeks. Given the length of the timetable, Pacioretty is expected to sit out all of training camp, and while his availability for the Oct. 7 regular-season opener in Toronto remains possible, he'd likely be subjected to limited minutes in the early going as he looks to build endurance. Once back to full health, Pacioretty should reemerge as the Habs' most dangerous offensive option after he potted 37 goals and a career-high 67 points in 2014-15.

Ladislav Smid
Flames Expecting Smid Back For Training Camp
Ladislav Smid, D, CGY
8/27/2015
News: The Flames' front office believes Ladislav Smid (neck) will be ready to skate during the team's first on-ice session at training camp in September, the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Ladislav Smid's season came to an end last January when he required surgery on his neck, but his communication with the Flames to this point in the offseason suggests he has recovered well from the procedure. If healthy, Smid will compete in camp with Deryk Engelland for a spot as Calgary's sixth defenseman.

Sidney Crosby
Pens' Crosby Likely To Play Next To Kessel
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
8/27/2015
News: Coach Mike Johnston said earlier this week that Sidney Crosby is expected to play next to Phil Kessel to begin training camp, CBS Sports reports.
Analysis: The Penguins have cycled in a number of right wingers next to Sidney Crosby throughout his career, and while Patric Hornqvist proved capable in that capacity last season, he's not nearly as prolific at finding twine as Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer. With his health concerns beginning to fade away after missing only seven games over the last two seasons, Crosby once again looks like a reasonable choice at No. 1 overall in fantasy drafts, even after scoring only 28 goals in 2014-15, his lowest total in any year he's suited up for at least 60 contests. Crosby probably won't come close to approaching the 51-goal peak he reached in 2009-10, but a slight uptick in his anomalous 11.8 shooting percentage coupled with the likely increase in assist opportunities with Kessel blitzing the net could make a return to 100 points conceivable.

Mike Richards
Charges Announced For Ex-King Richards
Mike Richards, C, LA
8/27/2015
News: Mike Richards was formally charged with possession of a controlled substance while entering Canada stemming from a June 17 border stop by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Manitoba, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports reports.
Analysis: The Kings determined the incident gave them just cause to release Mike Richards for a "material breach" of his 12-year contract, a decision that prompted the NHL Players Association to file a grievance. The nature of the border stop likely won't affect the outcome of that legal battle, as both the NHLPA and the Kings were aware of the circumstances surrounding the incident. Currently a free agent, Richards is able to sign with any team while the grievance remains underway, but his steep decline in performance over the last few seasons coupled with this ongoing dispute probably has few organizations interested in his services.

Kyle Okposo
Isles Begin Contract Talks With Okposo
Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI
8/26/2015
News: Kyle Okposo and the Islanders have begun talks on a new contract, according to Islanders Point Blank.
Analysis: Both sides are hoping to get an agreement done before the start of the season but the parameters on a new deal could be difficult to negotiate. Kyle Okposo will make $4.5 million this season and could command a deal north of $6 million per year on the open market, a figure the Islanders may not be willing to approach at this time. If the two sides can't come to an agreement before the start of the season then Okposo's name will be one we will hear quite often in trade rumors.

Sami Aittokallio
Avs Re-Sign Aittokallio
Sami Aittokallio, G, COL
8/26/2015
News: Sami Aittokallio has re-signed with the Avalanche on a one-year, two-way contract, General Fanager reports.
Analysis: Sami Aittokallio appears to be the clear No. 4 goalie in the Colorado organization behind Semyon Varlamov, Calvin Pickard, and Reto Berra, so it's somewhat surprising he elected to commit for another year rather than bolt for Europe. Even so, Aittokallio's contract does at least include a clause for him to play overseas if he isn't guaranteed a roster spot with the Avalanche, potentially opening the door for him to leave the club if he's assigned to the AHL out of training camp, as expected.

 
 
 
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