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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
Rasmus Rissanen
Rissanen Signs With Hurricanes
Rasmus Rissanen, D, CAR
1:36 PM
News: Rasmus Rissanen has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Hurricanes, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: The 23-year-old Rasmus Rissanen, who notched 10 points and 91 penalty minutes in 62 games with AHL Charlotte in 2013-14, is in line to reprise his role as an organizational depth blueliner for the Hurricanes.

Andre Benoit
Sabres, Benoit Agree To One-Year Deal
Andre Benoit, D, COL
8:44 AM
News: Andre Benoit signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with the Sabres on Wednesday, TSN's Aaron Ward reports.
Analysis: Andre Benoit, 30, logged 79 games with the Avalanche last season, accumulating 28 points and 26 PIM. The blue line was a major area of weakness in the Sabres' dismal 2013-14 campaign, and the additions of Benoit, Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros over the summer should only improve the team on that side of the ice during the upcoming season.

Ryan O'Reilly
Avs, O'Reilly Strike Deal
Ryan O'Reilly, C, COL
7:13 AM
News: Ryan O'Reilly agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract with the Avalanche on Wednesday to avoid arbitration, Darren Dreger of TSN reports.
Analysis: The Avs and Ryan O'Reilly had been far apart on a new deal in recent weeks, but with the prospect of an arbitration hearing closing in, both sides were motivated to strike a quick deal. Still, O'Reilly has been angling for a long-term deal with the Avs for quite some time, to no avail, so he could be motivated to join another organization when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016.

Chris Kreider
Rangers, Kreider Strike Deal
Chris Kreider, LW, NYR
7:06 AM
News: Chris Kreider was able to avoid an arbitration hearing by agreeing with the Rangers on a two-year, $4.95 million contract Wednesday, The Record's Andrew Gross reports.
Analysis: The 23-year-old reached the deal just before his scheduled 9 a.m. hearing, leaving the Rangers with approximately $6 million remaining under the salary cap. As a rookie last season, Chris Kreider produced 17 goals and 20 assists in 66 games before hand surgery in late March cost him much of the final quarter of the campaign. He ended up providing a big boost to the Rangers in the playoffs as they made their run to the Stanley Cup Finals, totaling five goals and eight assists in 15 contests.

Darren Archibald
Canucks Sign Archibald
Darren Archibald, LW, VAN
12:42 AM
News: Darren Archibald signed a new contract with the Canucks on Tuesday.
Analysis: Darren Archibald, who registered just three points in 16 regular season game for the Canucks last season, is far from fantasy relevancy at this point in his career. The 24-year-old spent most time with the American Hockey League's Utica Comets last season and could be developed similarly moving forward.

Mats Zuccarello
Rangers' Zuccarello Settles Arbitration Case
Mats Zuccarello, RW, NYR
7/22/2014
News: Mats Zuccarello settled Tuesday with the Rangers on a one-year, $3.5 million contract, TSN's Darren Dreger reports.
Analysis: The Rangers and Mats Zuccarello are still trying to reach an agreement on a long-term pact, but after Tuesday's settlement, a new deal cannot be reached until after Jan. 1. The forward is reportedly seeking a contract in the range of three or four years at about $4.5 million a season. He was one of the breakthrough stars of the 2013-14 season, tallying 19 goals and 40 assists over 77 games.

David Booth
Leafs Sign Booth To One-Year Deal
David Booth, LW, VAN
7/22/2014
News: David Booth signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: A 30-goal scorer for the Panthers back in the 2008-09 season, David Booth hasn't managed more than 23 goals in any campaign since, falling below double digits in the category on four occasions. While it's probably safe to assume the 29-year-old won't emerge as a primary offensive contributor for the Leafs, he'll offer some cheap veteran depth as a second- or third-line wing.

Joe Colborne
Flames Sign Colborne For Two Years
Joe Colborne, C, CGY
7/22/2014
News: Joe Colborne signed a two-year contract to remain with the Flames on Tuesday.
Analysis: Joe Colborne enjoyed his first full NHL campaign with Calgary last season, recording 10 goals and 18 assists in 80 games. The center, who was acquired from Toronto last September, offers modest fantasy value at the moment, but was once upon a time (that is, 2008) the No. 16 overall pick.

Thomas Vanek
Wild's Vanek Tied To Gambling Investigation
Thomas Vanek, LW, MIN
7/21/2014
News: Thomas Vanek made an appearance at the courthouse in Rochester on Monday in connection to a gambling investigation, News 10 NBC in Rochester reports.
Analysis: It's currently unclear just how Thomas Vanek is involved with the investigation, but he showed up voluntarily at the courthouse and left after a two-hour visit. His agent, Steve Bartlett, released a statement Monday that said Vanek is "not the subject of any investigation or prosecution." Rochester where the Sabres' AHL affiliate is located; Vanek spent eight seasons in a Buffalo jersey.

Jeremy Welsh
Blues Sign Welsh To Two-Way Deal
Jeremy Welsh, C, STL
7/21/2014
News: Jeremy Welsh signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on Monday.
Analysis: Jeremy Welsh logged 19 games for the Canucks last season, delivering a lone goal and six penalty minutes. The Blues have superior depth at forward compared to the Canucks, so it wouldn't be surprising if Welsh saw less action at the NHL level in 2014-15.

 
 
 
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