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Neutral Zone Wrap: Managing disappointment

by | Rotowire.com
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Disappointment just happens. Face it. You just can't be perfect all the time. There's no way to live up to unrealistic expectations when reality ends up blocking the way.

The same principles apply to Fantasy hockey. The history of a player could tell a story of awesome achievements and incredible intangibles, but certain factors may currently exist to diminish their value – whether it be a deteriorating body, decreased opportunities, or the unwanted appearance of Father Time.

You may be able to spot a few trends from the early returns, but we're way too early to base players' worth from these over a full season. I will use every attempt to leave out obvious statistics, but may be forced to do so if the numbers explain the insight. Look over the following fellows and try to hold back your hopes on their 2013-14 prospects:

(For related material on the same subject, check out Jan Levine's busts column.

Niklas Backstrom, G, Wild: Not to be confused with the Washington star forward of the extra 'c', this Finnish netminder has served as the Wild's backbone the last seven-plus seasons. At 35 and with a new three-year deal, Backstrom looks ready to continue his legacy. That may become difficult with backup Josh Harding waiting for his full-time break and prospects Darcy Kuemper and Johan Gustafsson excelling in other leagues. Even if the incumbent can hold on to No. 1, his stats could suffer as Minnesota seems to be built around an offense that looks like it will be regularly involved in high-scoring shootouts.

Daniel Briere, F, Canadiens: The Habs presumably signed Briere for his French Canadian heritage and/or his ability to seamlessly adapt to their vertically challenged lineup. The 36-year old was once known for his scoring touch but has lately been more associated with injuries. Philly deemed Briere buyout-worthy, but his arrival in Montreal looks to be leadership-based. He may be skating on the first line and earning significant power-play minutes, but try to be like the Flyers and stay away.

Jarome Iginla, F, Bruins: Yes, Iginla is really on the Bruins this time. No online trickery, no last-minute destination changes. Like Briere, he is 36. But unlike the diminutive winger, Iginla appears to have at least something left in the tank. The key issue to remember about the Edmonton native is that he isn't the power forward he used to be (although he did drop the gloves in Game 1). Teaming up with David Krejci and Milan Lucic may be one thing; keeping up with them (and other younger scorers) over the long haul is the problem.

Jaromir Jagr, F, Devils: By now, we're betting you can spot the trend. If you didn't notice 'ancient, past prime, and advance hospital reservations', then you can go ahead and skip to the next player. Jagr's career credentials are impressive and lengthy, so they need not be mentioned. As active players go, only Teemu Selanne (at 43!) is older. Recent point totals (35 points in 45 regular-season games split between Dallas and Boston) may suggest the Silver Mullet can still provide a significant offensive contribution. And especially since the Devils lost Ilya Kovalchuk to defection, it would seem as if Jagr would be the perfect fill-in to offset some of the missing production. But anyone who witnessed his struggles skating last postseason will easily be able to resist owning him.

Erik Johnson, D, Avalanche: How dare we include someone here who is only 25?! Well, if you were selected first overall in the 2005 draft and haven't lived up to the hype, then it's probably no surprise to be listed amongst these fossils well-preserved examples. Johnson topped out at 33 and 39 points in his first two years but the decline since has proved painfully obvious. The USNTDP alumnus still logs mega minutes (at least 20 a night, including top power-play billing), but the output has been lacking. So with Tyson Barrie in the background, Ryan Wilson soon to return from injury, and blueline bluechippers like Duncan Siemens and Chris Bigras next in line, there's enough talent to eventually supplant Johnson in the pecking order.

Honorable mention: Derick Brassard, F, NY Rangers; Troy Brouwer, F, Washington; Erik Cole, F, Dallas; Christian Ehrhoff, D, Buffalo; Kari Lehtonen, G, Dallas

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Player News
Jason Williams
Oilers Sign Williams To AHL Deal
Jason Williams, RW, PIT
12:52 AM
News: Jason Williams agreed to a one-year contract with AHL Oklahoma City on Friday.
Analysis: Jason Williams, 33, last appeared at the NHL level in 2011-12 with the Penguins. He spent the last two seasons with Ambri-Piotta in the Swiss Elite League, charting 34 goals and 30 assists over 79 total games. He'll attempt to parlay his AHL contract into a call-up to the Oilers, but his age will certainly work against him.

Nicolas Deschamps
Ex-Capital Deschamps Signs With Finnish Team
Nicolas Deschamps, C, WAS
12:39 AM
News: Nicolas Deschamps signed a one-year contract with Oulu Karpat of Finland's Liiga last week, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Nicolas Deschamps was non-tendered by the Capitals earlier this offseason, after scoring 15 goals and adding 25 assists over 65 games with AHL Hershey last season. The 24-year-old cited a desire to avoid the uncertain nature of a two-way deal as his primary reason for heading overseas, but he does hope to return to North America at some point later in his career.

Keaton Ellerby
Jets Re-Sign Ellerby To One-Year, Two-Way Deal
Keaton Ellerby, D, WPG
12:33 AM
News: Keaton Ellerby re-signed with the Jets on a one-year, two-way contract Thursday.
Analysis: The Jets didn't extend a qualifying offer to Keaton Ellerby after the season ended, but elected to bring the 25-year-old back in unrestricted free agency to shore up some depth on defense. The blue liner has dealt with much tumult on the personal front this season after three of his extended family members were murdered, which understandably explains why he took until late July to sign with a team. Ellerby is expected to be available once training camp starts, but the Jets will likely be willing to grant him additional time off he might need while coping with the tragedy.

Brandon Burlon
Devils Re-Sign Burlon To Two-Year, Two-Way Deal
Brandon Burlon, D, NJ
7/28/2014
News: Brandon Burlon re-signed with the Devils on a two-year, two-way contract Monday, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Analysis: Brandon Burlon saw the ice in 54 games at AHL Albany last season, charting five goals and six assists. He has yet to make his NHL debut, but the two-way contract will help better facilitate a promotion should it be warranted at some point.

Derek Smith
Former Flames D-Man Smith Signs With Swiss Club
Derek Smith, D, CGY
7/28/2014
News: Derek Smith signed a one-year contract with the Zürcher Schlittschuh Club of the Swiss National League A on Monday.
Analysis: The 29-year-old Derek Smith was non-tendered by the Flames in the offseason, after totaling one point and a minus-10 rating in 14 games with the parent club last season. The one-year deal will allow Smith to return to North America next season, if he so chooses.

Jake Dowell
Canadiens Sign Dowell To AHL Deal
Jake Dowell, C, MIN
7/28/2014
News: Jake Dowell signed a one-year deal with AHL Hamilton on Monday.
Analysis: Jake Dowell, 29, made one NHL appearance with the Wild last season, spending the bulk of his season with AHL Iowa. He registered 19 points and 56 PIM over 57 games with Iowa, and will function as organizational depth for the Canadiens.

Brandon Segal
Free Agent Segal Signs With KHL Squad
Brandon Segal, RW, WAS
7/28/2014
News: Brandon Segal has signed with Medvescak Zagreb of the KHL.
Analysis: Brandon Segal, 31, totaled 17 goals and 27 assists over 63 games with AHL Hershey last season. He's appeared in just 103 NHL games since he was selected in the fourth round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Predators.

Matt Watkins
Ex-Capital Watkins Signs With Austrian Club
Matt Watkins, RW, WAS
7/28/2014
News: Matt Watkins signed a one-year contract with the Vienna Capitals of the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga, the top league in Austria, Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post reports.
Analysis: After spending all of last season at AHL Hershey in the Washington organization, Matt Watkins will hop across the Atlantic to join a club that also bills itself as the Capitals. The 27-year-old totaled 27 points in 73 games with Hershey in 2013-14.

Ruslan Fedotenko
Ex-NHLer Fedotenko Ponders Return to North America
Ruslan Fedotenko, LW, PHI
7/28/2014
News: Ruslan Fedotenko, who signed a three-year, $9 million contract with HC Donbass of the KHL last summer, is looking to return to the NHL for the upcoming season, the Toronto Star reports.
Analysis: HC Donbass, the only Ukrainian team in the KHL, will go on a sabbatical for the upcoming season in light of the ongoing political tumult between Ukraine and Russia, which was recent escalated following the downing of a civilian jet on July 17, resulting in 298 deaths. While the rest of the KHL is expected to proceed operations as normal despite the increasing unrest in the region, several players from Donbass are expected to defect elsewhere, with Ruslan Fedotenko representing the most recognizable name on the roster. The 35-year-old, who scored four goals and nine assists in 47 games with the Flyers in 2012-13, has already had "discussions with multiple NHL teams," according to his agent. Fedotenko would likely be ticketed for no better than a bottom-six role with any NHL club, should he eventually find his way back in the league.

Dana Tyrell
Jackets Re-Sign Tyrell To One-Year, Two-Way Deal
Dana Tyrell, C, CLB
7/28/2014
News: Dana Tyrell re-signed with the Blue Jackets on Monday, inking a one-year, two-way deal.
Analysis: Dana Tyrell spent the bulk of last season in the AHL, splitting time between the Springfield Falcons and Syracuse Crunch. In 63 total games, he recorded 15 goals and 18 assists. Tyrell also made a brief cameo with the Tampa Bay Lightning, appearing in seven contests. Acquired from Tampa Bay in March, Tyrell figures to spend parts of next season in both the NHL and AHL.

 
 
 
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