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Blue Line Buzz: Replacing the irreplaceable

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

Useless Senators

To all those dealing with having to replace Erik Karlsson on their roster, you won't be able to. Karlsson suffered a 70 percent tear to his Achilles tendon in Wednesday's loss to Pittsburgh following a freak accident involving  the Penguins' Matt Cooke.

Unless you're somehow able to convince an owner in your league to cough up Kris Letang or another blue liner capable of leading the NHL in shots on goal and putting up a point-per-game, you're facing the harsh fact of replacing a giant. Karlsson is about as irreplaceable as they come. Those in single season leagues will have to cut one of their first two picks, as Karlsson is likely to be ready for training camp, so he'll still carry value for those who were fortunate enough to draft him a few seasons ago in keeper leagues.

Karlsson is the latest blow for Ottawa, who are also without Jason Spezza. Craig Anderson can try to carry the team as he has been doing, but the Senators are without their two top playmakers. There has been much controversy surrounding the incident in which Karlsson was injured, primarily because the person who injured him was Matt Cooke, formerly the league's dirtiest player. Senator's owner Eugene Melnyk was slightly furious about losing his team's best player to an injury caused by a " player [who] should never be playing in this league," as reported by the National Post.

Melnyk's comments aren't without merit when you examine some of the hits laid by Cooke and suspensions levied against him in recent years, but to suggest Cooke did this intentionally is folly. It's a play along the boards and Cooke was trying to pin Karlsson against the boards when their feet got tangled. Was it on purpose? You be the judge. Cooke has changed himself as a player but he still has a reputation amongst people in the NHL. This isn't the Marc Savard hit from two seasons ago, a malicious late shot to the head. The incident with Karlsson was two players jockeying for position along the boards. If someone other than Cooke had been involved in this incident, it would be considered the accident it actually was.

Expect Sergei Gonchar to see an increase in offensive chances, not that he was lacking for them while Karlsson was on the ice. As for other options on the Ottawa blue line, expect Patrick Wiercioch to see some time on the power play as well. He has two points on the season through eight games.

Long Island Lube and Oil Change

He's back. Lubomir Visnovsky -- the defenseman that led all NHL blueliners in scoring two seasons earlier while playing with the Anaheim. The player that was an enigma of poor play and injuries last year, only to be summarily traded to the Islanders this past summer, setting off a legal battle about no-trade clauses. Visnovsky then hopped over to Europe during the lockout, but delayed his return from his native Slovakia, where he played for KHL club, HC Slovan Bratislava due to an illness with his son which required surgery.

Visnovsky is now back with the Islanders and has an impressive four points over four contests, all assists with three on the power play. Visnovsky looked like his old self during the last week of play, getting involved in numerous offensive rushes in Thursday's overtime win against the Rangers. Visnovsky might not be wild about playing for the Islanders, but he's giving what appears to be a solid effort. He's seeing close to four minutes of power-play time per game and he's not been shy about shooting either, putting up 10 shots over four games. If he's available in your league, he's definitely worth taking a flier on.

Other than Mark Streit, the Islanders don't have other defenders that can move the puck and provide an offensive spark like Visnovsky can. Sure, Travis Hamonic is a budding all-around defenseman, but he has more of a physical edge to his game than offensive flair. Visnovsky very well could get traded before the end of the season, but whatever ill will he had about suiting up for the Islanders appears to at least be put aside while earning his NHL salary.

For those owners looking to replace some semblance of the production lost by Karlsson or Enstrom, Visnovsky may be the only player available to snatch up, if he's still there, that can offer reliable offensive performance.  (We're not naive enough to equate Visnovsky with Karlsson or Tobias Enstrom, but it's only been two seasons since Visnovsky led all NHL blue liners in scoring.)

Jet on the Mend

Karlsson was not the only big-scoring defensemen to go down this past week at the hand of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tobias Enstrom of the Jets was run into the boards by Pascal Dupuis and sustained what appeared to be a significant shoulder injury, forcing him to leave the game. The Jets are still awaiting the results of an MRI on Enstrom's shoulder, but the outcome is not looking good for the team's leading scorer. Expect Paul Postma to see more offensive opportunities, but Dustin Byfuglien has returned from his nagging knee injury and will captain the Jets' power play with aplomb.

Another Leaf in the Pile

Cody Franson has been quietly productive in his 12 games this season, notching eight points including a recent stretch where he notched five assists over four games. However, of Franson's eight points, just one has come on the man advantage. While Franson has been productive of late, the most scrutinized captain in the NHL, Dion Phaneuf has shaken off his early- season slump. Phaneuf posted an assist on opening night, but then went 10 games without a point. However, Dion is back in the fold, notching five points over the Leafs' last four games, including a well-placed slap pass delivered to Tyler Bozak in Saturday's win over the Senators.

Things I Had Forgotten

Adrian Aucoin is still in the NHL. Aucoin was activated from injured reserve by Columbus for Friday's loss at Los Angeles. He's a minus-5 for the Sport Coats this season with no points through eight games. Aucoin hasn't been a relevant fantasy hockey player in most leagues for a number of years, last cracking 30 points for two consecutive seasons during his days in Calgary from 2007-2009. He once notched 23 goals back 15 years ago while playing with Vancouver. He'd been a serviceable player for Phoenix the last few seasons, but he is now one of a bevy of blue liners whom the Blue Jackets employ. Odds are Aucoin won't rake in points any more, but it's impressive for a 39-year old still be grinding away in the NHL.

It Can Only Get Better

-Through 13 games, the Colorado Avalanche do not have a goal from any of its defensemen. Erik Johnson. Ryan O'Byrne. Ryan Wilson. Nothing. In fact, through 13 games, the eight defensemen the Avalanche have used this season own a combined 12 points. Not helping matters is that Stefan Elliott is playing Lake Erie of the AHL, a defender with definite offensive upside who snagged 13 points in 39 games last season. Tyson Barrie, another budding blue liner with offensive flair, had been quiet this year prior to the team's last two games, where he posted three assists, including two in Saturday's loss to Edmonton. Odds are Barrie is one the best bets for offensive production on the Avalanche blue line. Each passing season is also making it abundantly clear that Erik Johnson likely won't hit the offensive potential he's been rumored to have. If you must employ a Colorado defenseman, Tyson Barrie is seeing 3:24 of power-play time and has a track record of producing in junior at Kelowna (WHL).

The Best Deception

Phoenix's puck-mover Keith Yandle has solid numbers on the season at first glance, with nine points and 24 penalty minutes through 15 games. These seem in line with what one would expect from Yandle, arguably one of the top 12-15 defensemen taken in recent drafts. A closer look at his numbers reveals a startling lack of consistency.

Of Yandle's nine points, six have come courtesy of two three-point games. Yandle was active Saturday, notching three primary assists in the Coyotes' 5-3 win over Columbus. His other three-point effort came on January 28 with a goal and two assists against Nashville. Subtracting those two games from Yandle's stats give you three assists over 13 games. If someone other than Yandle had produced at a similar rate, they likely would have been jettisoned from your team. Yandle's talented, but a bit more consistency from him and several other high-priced blue liners would be ideal.

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Player News
Evgeny Kuznetsov
Caps' Kuznetsov Seeking Short-Term Extension
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WAS
7/6/2015
News: Evgeny Kuznetsov's agent said that his client and the Capitals are exploring a two to three year contract extension, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Evgeny Kuznetsov remains a restricted free agent and his re-signing is a top priority for general manager Brian MacLellan and the Capitals. After a slow start to his sophomore campaign, Kuznetsov was a mainstay as the team's second-line center by season's end, finishing with 37 points in 80 regular season games, as well as five goals and seven points in 14 playoff games. With outstanding offensive skills, Kuznetsov figures to be a fixture on the Capitals for many years to come, but appears willing to accept a bridge deal rather than sign a long-term extension at this time. Keep an eye on the situation as it unfolds, but all signs point to Kuznetsov staying in DC for now.

Marcus Johansson
Caps' RFA Johansson Files For Salary Arbitration
Marcus Johansson, C, WAS
3:20 PM
News: Marcus Johansson filed for salary arbitration on Sunday, and will have his hearing heard during the arbitration period from July 20th to August 4th, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: If the case goes before the arbiter, Marcus Johansson will take a contract extension with a maximum of two years. While the filing is indicative of disagreement between Johansson's camp and the Capitals about a new contract, there is still a very good chance the two sides will get a deal done before the case is heard. A fixture in the Capitals top-six last season, Johansson has a career-high of 20 goals and 47 points in 82 games. The arrival of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams may complicate Johansson's deployment in next season's lineup, but general manager Brian MacLellan has made it clear he wants to keep Johansson with the team beyond next season. Keep an eye on the situation as it unfolds.

Braden Holtby
Caps' RFA Holtby Files For Salary Arbitration
Braden Holtby, G, WAS
3:13 PM
News: Braden Holtby filed for salary arbitration on Sunday, and will have his hearing heard during the arbitration period from July 20th to August 4th, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: If he goes through arbitration, Braden Holtby will receive a contract with a maximum term of two years, the Capitals choice given that Holtby's camp chose to file for arbitration. An arbitration period certainly imposes a specific timeframe for the Capitals to work out a long-term extension for Holtby, who is coming off a career year in which he posted a 2.22 GAA and .923 save percentage en route to a 41-20-10 record over 73 games during the regular season. Rounding out a season worthy of Vezina consideration (although he was not a finalist for the award), Holtby turned in an outstanding post-season effort cut short by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, but not before winning six games with a 1.71 GAA and .944 save percentage. All signs point to a big pay day for Holtby who has emerged as one of the league's top goaltenders, and while the Capitals are unlikely to let him slip away, there does appear to be some roadblocks in getting a deal done at the moment.

Landon Ferraro
Red Wings Ink Ferraro To One-Year Deal
Landon Ferraro, C, DET
2:48 PM
News: Landon Ferraro signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Red Wings on Sunday, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports.
Analysis: Landon Ferraro has appeared in seven games over the last two seasons for the Red Wings as an injury replacement, but has otherwise yet to earn a full-time role at the NHL level. Expect him to again see most of his action this season at AHL Grand Rapids, where he compiled 27 goals and 42 points in 70 games in 2014-15.

Nazem Kadri
Leafs Ink Kadri To One-Year Deal
Nazem Kadri, C, TOR
1:22 PM
News: Nazem Kadri signed a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs Sunday that will net him $4.1 million, James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail reports.
Analysis: Nazem Kadri skated in 73 games with the Maple Leafs last season, posting 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) over that span. He'll have a good chance to crack the top six again in 2015-16, but that doesn't mean as much coming from a team that was near the bottom in goals per game played last season.

Jeff Tambellini
Lightning Ink Tambellini to One-Year Deal
Jeff Tambellini, LW, VAN
8:37 AM
News: Jeff Tambellini signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Lightning on Sunday.
Analysis: Jeff Tambellini spent the past five seasons playing in Switzerland, but has decided to attempt a comeback at the age of 31. He's played in 242 career NHL games, tallying 63 points and 27 goals. In his 2010-11 season with the Canucks, Tambellini recorded 113 hits, also posting nine goals and eight assists with the club over 62 games. He'll attempt to make the roster out of training camp, but could end up in the minors if he doesn't make the cut.

Dan Ellis
Ellis Inks Deal With Washington
Dan Ellis, G, WAS
7/4/2015
News: Dan Ellis signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Capitals on Saturday, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: The 35-year-old will provide Washington with additional goaltender depth at the AHL level, but likely won't get asked to make many NHL starts in 2015-16, as he'll probably slot in as the Caps' fourth string goaltender behind Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer, and Justin Peters. However, Dan Ellis was solid when called upon by the Panthers last season, going 4-3-1 with a 2.35 GAA and a .914 save percentage in eight games with Florida.

Jamie McBain
McBain Re-Signs With Kings
Jamie McBain, D, LA
7/4/2015
News: Jamie McBain re-signed Friday with the Kings on a one-year, two-way contract, Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Analysis: With Slava Voynov's status uncertain for 2015-16 following his jailing for domestic violence as well as an Achilles injury, Jamie McBain could have a shot at settling into a regular role on defense for the Kings. He provided better-than-expected results as a fill-in last season when injuries compromised the Kings' depth, contributing three goals and nine points in 26 games while seeing limited ice time.

Derek Smith
FA Smith Heads To Arizona On A Two-Way Deal
Derek Smith, D, ARI
7/4/2015
News: Derek Smith signed Friday with the Coyotes on a one-year, two-way contract.
Analysis: Derek Smith played in Switzerland last season for Zurich, recording five points and four PIM over 25 games. The 30-year-old will function as organizational defensive depth at AHL Portland.

Eric Selleck
Coyotes Re-Sign Selleck
Eric Selleck, LW, ARI
7/4/2015
News: Eric Selleck re-signed Friday with the Coyotes on a one-year, two-way contract.
Analysis: Eric Selleck will more than likely return to AHL Portland this season, after accruing eight goals and 23 points with them over 74 games in 2014-15. The 27-year-old isn't likely to be near the top of the list for the Coyotes as a potential forward call-up.

 
 
 
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