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Blue Line Buzz: Back in action

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

We're back.

The Leafs are 2-0. Phil Kessel will be in Toronto until 2021 after signing an 8-year, $64 million contract. Stay tuned for news about the parade.

Meanwhile, in Washington, Toronto refugee Mikhail Grabovski is off to a red-hot start with five points through two games, including a hat trick on opening night in a loss to Chicago.

Marc-Andre Fleury was the first goaltender in the league to notch a shutout, stopping 27 shots on Thursday in the Pens' season-opening win against the Devils. Fleury, the netminder who was a sieve against the Islanders in the playoffs last year, denied New Jersey's collection of depth they call forwards.

Pekka Rinne, one of the first goalies taken in many drafts, lasted a mere 9:45 in the Predators' season-opener against St. Louis, surrendering three goals on six shots Thursday. St. Louis held on for a 4-2 win. There's some concern that Rinne's hip is still recovering from offseason surgery, but this was not a comforting sight for owners. Rinne was hung out to dry on at least one of the goals, but seeing the towering Finn wearing a baseball hat after barely 10 minutes of play is not a comforting sight. He's still potentially one of the league's best; now could be a time to dial up a panicked owner and get in on a goaltender who can anchor your roster if you believe Thursday was an aberration.

Troubador

Jacob Trouba of Winnipeg cemented his claim as the defenseman most fantasy leaguers ran to pick up on opening night. The Jets stormed back from a 4-2 deficit to defeat Edmonton 5-4. Yes, Edmonton had difficulty defending a lead. (Actually, you can just cut off the “a lead” part of that previous sentence.) Trouba played well in Team USA's run to the gold medal in last winter's World Junior Championships and seems poised to make an impact for the Jets.

Presently, he's on a blue line with two of the league's more productive-when-healthy blue liners in Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien. Will there be enough pucks and points to go around in Winnipeg's system? Yes, it's a system that has allowed offensively-gifted defenders to flourish, but will Trouba get his chances? He won't see the same amount of power-play time which will be bestowed upon Enstrom or Byfuglien, but he won't be entirely shut out of man-advantage time or scoring chances. Expectations always need to be tempered with young blue liners, but Trouba could be making a name for himself.

Burning For You

One of the hot questions heading into this season was San Jose's bearded wonder, Brent Burns. Burns is listed as a forward to start the season and is seeing time on the wing, yet is still eligible as a defenseman on many sites. Burns finished last season with 20 points in 30 games, with the bulk of his scoring coming after the switch to forward. While Burns isn't expected to light up the Pacific Division like teammate Logan Couture, Burns could still clock in around 40-50 points with double-digit goals, tremendous value if he's eligible at both positions in your league. As just a forward, Burns has some value, but 40-50 point forwards are littered all over most leagues' waiver wires.

Not that analysis of Burns' positional eligibility is news to fantasy hockey poolies, but you might want to think about acquiring him via a trade if the owner who drafted him begins to sour on Burns. He's bound to play some games on defense this season, so he may end up being a blue liner as well in most formats.

He's a player who has never been shy about shooting the puck and figuring he can hit 15-20 goals is a good bet considering he used to register double-digit goals on the back end as a formality. Burns notched San Jose's opening goal in Thursday's win over Vancouver.

Surprises? Not Too Many

Through Thursday, most teams have played at least one game, with a handful already playing two. The defensemen scoring list has a list of the usual cast of characters on it: Mike Green, Dion Phaneuf, Byfuglien, Alex Pietrangelo and Brian Campbell. A handful of players have two points already while Green and Buff have three points. Expect Erik Karlsson to be atop this list by the end of Saturday.

Despite Dallas' loss on Thursday to Florida, their bruising sophomore Brenden Dillon had a goal and an assist. He's a potential value in multi-category leagues as he delivered 133 hits and 69 penalty minutes in 48 games last season. He already has a quarter of the eight points he delivered last year. Dllion's value drops a bit in leagues that do not count secondary categories such as penalty minutes, hits and blocked shots.

Ending Note

One of the more entertaining videos released in the weeks leading up to the NHL season featured Patrick Kane in an advertisement for Bauer sticks. The stickhandling is incredible -- Kane has a serious set of hands. However, his teammates weren't about to let him get away with showing off his skill and not making fun of him. Kane's teammate, Brandon Bollig, admittedly not as skilled on the puck as Kane, had some fun shooting this parody video.

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Player News
Niklas Backstrom
Elbow Could Sideline Backstrom For Start Of Season
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN
12:40 AM
News: The agent for Niklas Backstrom (elbow) acknowledged that his client likely won't be ready to play at the start of training camp in September, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Niklas Backstrom underwent surgery in May to address nerve damage in his right elbow, an injury that was so severe that it prevented him from moving two of his fingers during the Wild's first-round series against the Blackhawks. Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper had surpassed Backstrom as the Wild's two preferred goalies by that point, which likely would have made the 37-year-old a buyout candidate for the team had he been back to full health this summer. Instead, it looks like the Wild will have to wait until the start of the season to make a decision on Backstrom, with his placement on the team's long-term injured reserve list seemingly the most likely outcome. Regardless of what the Wild end up doing with Backstrom, don't expect him to see the ice with the parent club next season barring an injury to one of the top two netminders on the depth chart.

Justin Hodgman
Hodgman Signs With Blues
Justin Hodgman, C, ARI
12:32 AM
News: The Blues agreed to terms on a contract with Justin Hodgman on Tuesday. The details of the contract have not been released.
Analysis: Justin Hodgman will provide the Blues with some depth at forward, but likely won't spend much time in the NHL, unless St. Louis suffers a slew of injuries at center. The 27-year-old tallied 35 points in 62 games with AHL Portland in the Coyotes' organization in 2014-15.

Trevor van Riemsdyk
Van Riemsdyk Signs With Hawks
Trevor van Riemsdyk, D, CHI
12:13 AM
News: The Blackhawks signed Trevor van Riemsdyk to a two-year, $1.65 million contract extension on Tuesday, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Van Riemsdyk, notched only one assist in 18 regular-season games with the Blackhawks last season, but impressed the team with his defensive responsibility at the back end. Unfortunately, he was the victim of some bad luck on the injury front, suffering a fractured left kneecap and then requiring wrist surgery before he finally returned to the Blackhawks midway through the Stanley Cup Finals. Now healthy, the 23-year-old will thus reprise his role as a depth blueliner for Chicago, with more regular ice time this year a plausible outcome if Johnny Oduya signs elsewhere as expected.

Vladimir Tarasenko
Blues Sign Tarasenko To Extension
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL
12:03 AM
News: The Blues signed Vladimir Tarasenko to an eight-year, $60 million extension Tuesday, ESPN.com reports.
Analysis: Vladimir Tarasenko is coming off a breakout campaign in which he racked up 37 goals -- many of the breathtaking variety -- and 73 points in 77 games for the Blues, to go along with a plus-27 rating. Thanks to his lucrative extension, the 23-year-old winger is now under contract with the team through the 2022-23 season, at an annual cap hit of $7.5 million. The deal makes him the highest-paid member of the Blues, but if Tarasenko remains among the league's scoring leaders the next few several seasons, the contract will probably go down as a bargain.

Corban Knight
Knight Inks One-Year Deal With Panthers
Corban Knight, C, CGY
7/7/2015
News: Corban Knight signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Panthers on Tuesday.
Analysis: The Panthers are shallow at forward, so this signing provides them with some much-needed depth up front. Corban Knight played in 58 AHL games last season, tallying 36 points over that span.

Garrett Wilson
Wilson Inks One-Year Deal With Panthers
Garrett Wilson, LW, FLA
7/7/2015
News: Garrett Wilson signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Panthers on Tuesday.
Analysis: The Panthers are shallow at forward, so re-signing Garrett Wilson provides them with some much needed depth at wing. Wilson played in 71 games with AHL San Antonio in 2014-15, tallying 23 goals and 15 assists over that span.

Mikkel Boedker
Boedker Signs One-Year Deal
Mikkel Boedker, LW, ARI
7/7/2015
News: Mikkel Boedker signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Coyotes on Tuesday, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Mikkel Boedker was on pace to register his second straight 50-point season in 2014-15 with 14 goals and 14 assists through 45 games, but a ruptured spleen ended his campaign prematurely. He will likely return to his role on the Coyotes' first line during the upcoming season, and could be in line for a moderate breakout if he is able to stay healthy.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom (Hip) Uncertain For Opening Night
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
7/7/2015
News: Head coach Barry Trotz said "all indications" have Nicklas Backstrom (hip) skating by training camp, but it's "up in the air" as to whether he will be cleared to play at the start of the season, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom underwent successful arthroscopic hip surgery in late May, but there have been rumblings since that he may not be cleared to play by Opening Night, including speculation from Backstrom himself that the timeframe for his recovery might extend into the start of the 2015-16 season. Backstrom's health is the biggest question mark for the Capitals this offseason, and should he miss the start of the season, Evgeny Kuznetsov should see a significant boost in fantasy value. Similarly, the uncertainty surrounding Backstrom could send him sliding on draft day, making him a better value pickup. Continue to monitor the situation as the offseason moves on.

Sonny Milano
Jackets' Milano Has Impressive Offseason
Sonny Milano, LW, CLB
7/7/2015
News: Sonny Milano added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame this offseason and feels that he can now both skate faster and shoot harder, the Columbus Dispatch reports. "Definitely one of the concerns last year was my weight and my strength, so I really focused on that this year," Milano said last week at the Jackets' development mini-camp. "I think when [training] camp comes along we'll see a difference this year."
Analysis: The 16th overall pick from 2014 is probably ticketed for AHL Lake Erie to open the season, even after the Jackets cleared away some roster competition in the Brandon Saad deal, but Sonny Milano is intent on making the decision to send him down a difficult one. After scoring 22 goals and 68 points in 50 games last season for OHL Plymouth, the highly skilled winger added five assists in 10 AHL games in his pro debut at the end of the regular season. It may take him a year or two to nail down a regular spot in the NHL lineup, but Milano figures to be a big part of a very bright future in Columbus.

Zach Boychuk
Canes' Boychuk Re-Signs For One Year
Zach Boychuk, C, CAR
7/7/2015
News: Zach Boychuk agreed to a one-year, two-way contract with the Hurricanes.
Analysis: The 25-year-old Zach Boychuk split 2014-15 between the NHL and AHL, tallying 30 combined points in 70 games, with just six of those coming in his 31 NHL appearances. He'll figures to compete for an NHL roster spot during training camp.

 
 
 
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