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Neutral Zone Wrap: Down the stretch we come

by | Rotowire.com
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Even though the holiday season has long gone, presents can still be received in various ways. And like the definition suggests, many of them are unexpected providers of joy. Whether it is as minor as a day off work or as important as a wedding proposal (hi, honey!), everyone likes a good old-fashioned gift.

The same goes for Fantasy Hockey, especially in the Rotisserie format. With a maximum position allocation, contenders may shed decent starters to ensure quotas aren't exceeded. Or perhaps someone wants to gain or maintain their standing in a certain category but must give up ground in other stats. In a competitive league, either of these scenarios occurs often and leads to a higher quality of free agents.

If you still hold aspirations of winning or finishing well this season, then you must be sure to keep a close eye on league transactions. For the player you don't acquire could be the one who lifts your rival to glory. Although a better talent pool generally means any individual will not influence the whole thing. Unless that individual is someone who has magically returned to the NHL after ditching his contract many moons ago for the opportunity to play closer to home. But enough about Marty Turco.

As always, be sensible in your activity. Remember to figure out the best path for your squad, even if that means day-by-day roster planning. The games are dwindling, but your chances of doing well shouldn't. And on that note, here are a few not-so-hidden gems from five teams who may be of service:

Dallas may lead the Pacific today, but could very well be on the outside in two weeks. Heading into the weekend, the Stars sat third in the conference but were only one point out of 9th place (and only three out of 11th). It's nice to have captain Brenden Morrow on the ice again, even if the points (two in seven games, with a minus-5 but 15 PIM) are delayed. No matter how much others hate him, Steve Ott (eight in 12, 25 PIM, 38 hits) will keep proving naysayers wrong. It's been a long, cold winter for Eric Nystrom (two in 24) and little warmth has been bestowed upon Adam Burish (three in 15, only 16 PIM). Hard to gauge Sheldon Souray's performance (three in 14) when he's essentially hurting and being phased off the man-advantage; enter Trevor Daley and his moderately positive numbers (six in 14).

Bet you didn't expect Florida to keep up this pace, especially with Washington and Winnipeg close behind. Credit Tomas Fleischmann (six in seven, tied for team lead with 53) for being both consistent and healthy up front. No time missed for Tomas Kopecky, but the stats (four in six) are slowly catching up. Gotta love having a veteran like Mikael Samuelsson (five in five, including three power-play points) to spur the offense. Even defensive-minded Marcel Goc (four in six) has joined the party. He's usually good for a few shots, but it's been a while since Sean Bergenheim (three -- all goals -- in 11) did anything on a regular basis. After killing it for the first two-plus months, Dmitry Kulikov (knee surgery) will need to restore his place on the point after two months away. It's been four weeks (and 12 outings) since Jason Garrison netted one on the power play but he'll continue to lay the minutes (over 23 a night) in all situations.

It's a shame Chicago plays in the Central Division because they'd be dominating any other group (ditto for Detroit or Nashville). Andrew Shaw (seven in four, plus-6) has been the freshman find of 2011-12. Viktor Stalberg (six in six) has switched back to relevance at the perfect moment. Best known for flattening opponents, Bryan Bickell (five in four) has also contributed where it counts. All Marcus Kruger needed was a boost (four in seven) and a pat on the back. The whereabouts of Michael Frolik (healthy scratch for most of February and March) are murky at best. When the Hawks picked up Johnny Oduya (five in seven), few anticipated he'd be getting it done at the other end too. A little slowdown for Nick Leddy (two in 10), but expect another boon with the impending suspension of Duncan Keith.

With their playoff dreams crushed and tossed into the ocean, Anaheim can now focus on showcasing their youngsters. Cue Devante Smith-Pelly (two in three, 10 SOG) and his ascension to the top unit. Nick Bonino (three assists on Monday) has also been asked to step up his effort, along with former US junior standout Kyle Palmieri (five in five). Meanwhile, the old guard including Saku Koivu (two in 15, minus-4), Niklas Hagman (two in 15, minus-2), and Jason Blake (two in 16, minus-3) have disappointed of late. No doubt Cam Fowler (five in six, including two PPGs) would regain his magic touch. If only Luca Sbisa (one in 12) could manage anything close to even mediocre stats.

If Edmonton continues to draft well, then they'll be postseason regulars in no time. But alas, at least some truth exists in defense winning championships (and the club find themselves in 26th overall in goals against). Devan Dubnyk has looked promising recently (seven wins in 11, no more than three allowed per start) but is he the Oilers' long-term solution in net? No injury lag for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (10 in 13 since returning) and no new contract hangover for Ales Hemsky (scored four in two games since re-signing). We all realized Sam Gagner wouldn't hit Gretzky-like numbers every night, but the drop off (four in 14) has been dramatic. Nothing terribly exciting from Shawn Horcoff (four in 14, although three of them are PPPs), but there's a glimmer of promise from Teemu Hartikainen (three in three after 30 in 48 with the AHL affiliate). Corey Potter's decline (one in 10) becomes Jeff Petry's gain (four in three).

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Player News
John Moore
Devils Give Moore Three-Year Deal
John Moore, D, ARI
7/2/2015
News: John Moore signed a three-year, $4.8 million contract with the Devils on Wednesday, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Analysis: After he was surprisingly non-tendered by the Coyotes on Monday, John Moore didn't take long to latch on with a new team in unrestricted free agency. The 24-year-old Moore offers a left-handed shot and ideal size (6-foot-3, 202 pounds) for a Devils defense that already has a good young core in place. The blueliner tallied two goals and 11 points across 57 games with the Rangers and Coyotes last season.

Greg Pateryn
Habs Extend Pateryn
Greg Pateryn, D, MON
7/2/2015
News: Greg Pateryn signed a two-year contract extension with the Canadiens on Wednesday, CTV Montreal reports.
Analysis: "Greg is a young defenceman who has developed very well. He enjoys the physical play and brings more depth to our defensive group," GM Marc Bergevin noted of the blueliner. In 17 regular season games with the Canadiens this past season, Greg Pateryn did not record a point, though the 25-year-old defender did manage three helpers in seven playoff games.

Barret Jackman
Preds Sign Jackman To Two-Year Deal
Barret Jackman, D, STL
7/2/2015
News: Barret Jackman signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Predators on Wednesday, Adam Vingan of The Tennessean reports.
Analysis: After 12 years in St. Louis, Barret Jackman will join another franchise for the first time in his career. As was the case during his final few seasons with the Blues, Jackman will be suiting up for one of the league's deeper defensemen ranks, as he'll join a Predators roster that includes All-Stars Shea Weber and Roman Josi and promising youngsters Ryan Ellis and Seth Jones. Those four players figure to shoulder most of the offensive burden from the blue line, leaving Jackman to do what he does best -- agitating opposing forwards and providing sound decision-making in front of his own net.

P.A. Parenteau
Parenteau Signs With Leafs
P.A. Parenteau, RW, MON
7/2/2015
News: The Maple Leafs signed P.A. Parenteau to a one-year deal on Wednesday, TSN.ca reports.
Analysis: P.A. Parenteau, whose contract was bought out by the Habs, notched 22 points in 56 games for Montreal last season. He'll look to bounce back with the Leafs and if he secures a more prominent role with his new team -- a plausible outcome -- the 32-year-old forward is capable of a bounce-back in 2015-16.

Cody Hodgson
Predators Ink Hodgson To Low-Cost Deal
Cody Hodgson, C, BUF
7/2/2015
News: Cody Hodgson signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Predators on Wednesday, Adam Vingan of The Tennessean reports.
Analysis: Last season, the Predators cashed in on a low-risk, high-reward signing in Mike Ribeiro, and it looks like they're hoping on following that template again with Cody Hodgson. Once viewed as a key member of the Sabres' rebuild, Hodgson was never able to get on the same wavelength with coach Ted Nolan last season, resulting in a stark decline in his ice time and offensive productivity (six goals, 13 points in 78 games). After having his contract bought by the Sabres a day earlier, Hodgson will now look to rehabilitate his value in Nashville, where he should have the good fortune of playing next to a far greater pool of talent than in Buffalo. This deal could be a steal for the Preds.

Michael Frolik
Frolik Inks Five-Year, $21.5M Contract With Flames
Michael Frolik, LW, WPG
11:48 AM
News: Michael Frolik signed a five-year, $21.5 million contract with the Flames on Wednesday, Bob McKenzie of TSN reports.
Analysis: The Flames' top line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Jiri Hudler was as good as any in the league, but the team's lack of secondary scoring prompted them to go out and lure Michael Frolik away from Winnipeg. Frolik, who has produced back-to-back 42-point campaigns for the Jets, figures to slot in at one of the wing spots on the second line for Calgary alongside up-and-coming center Mikael Backlund.

Mark Letestu
Oilers Sign Letestu
Mark Letestu, C, CLB
11:47 AM
News: Mark Letestu signed a three-year contract with the Oilers on Wednesday, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Mark Letestu, whose deal is worth an average of $1.8 million per season, is coming off a campaign in which he notched 13 points in 54 games for Columbus. With the Oilers, the 30-year pivot brings a veteran presence to the table in his role as a bottom-six forward.

Brandon Prust
Canucks Trade For Prust
Brandon Prust, RW, MON
11:39 AM
News: The Canucks traded Zack Kassian and a fifth-round draft pick to the Canadiens on Wednesday in exchange for Brandon Prust, TSN.ca reports.
Analysis: Brandon Prust, who scored four goals and added 14 assists for the Habs in 82 games this past season, will give the Canucks some added grit up front, while retaining some value in PIM-friendly fantasy formats. In 451 career NHL contests, he's racked up 977 penalty minutes.

Zack Kassian
Kassian Traded To Habs
Zack Kassian, RW, VAN
11:34 AM
News: The Canucks traded Zack Kassian and a fifth-round draft pick to the Canadiens on Wednesday in exchange for Brandon Prust, TSN.ca reports.
Analysis: Zack Kassian, who notched 10 goals and 16 points in 42 games with the Canucks this past season to go along with 81 PIM, bolsters the Habs' depth and size up front. His fantasy upside, however, hinges on who his 2015-16 linemates end up being, but the 2009 first-rounder still has some untapped potential.

Jori Lehtera
Blues Extend Lehtera Three Years
Jori Lehtera, C, STL
11:26 AM
News: Jori Lehtera signed a three-year, $14.1 million extension with the Blues on Wednesday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Jori Lehtera was already under contract for 2015-16 at a cap hit of $2.25, so the extension will take his term with the Blues to the end of the 2018-19 season. An under-the-radar import from the KHL a season ago, Lehtera shined as the Blues' second-line center next to Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, as he racked up 14 goals, 30 assists, and a plus-21 rating over 75 regular-season matches.

 
 
 
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