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Neutral Zone Wrap: Exceeding our expectations

by | Rotowire.com
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Looking at the current state of NHL clubs, it clearly appears as though the Eastern Conference is the weaker of the two. One could argue the four worst overall teams reside on the right side of the continent, unless you want to include perennial underperformer Edmonton somewhere in the mix.

But you probably don't care about that. You want the fantasy info and you want it without filler.

While we've previously discussed trying not to dwell on early stats and standings, trying to separate the reality from the illusion can be a difficult task. A bunch of players have already matched or exceeded expectations. So how can you tell which ones will stay on course and which ones will crash and burn?

Others have already warned about Tomas Hertl, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and other hotshots not on San Jose reaching ripe trade values, so here are a few different examples who have started on fire but history -- and fate -- say they will continue on a more molasses-like pace. Take note of the following:

Ben Bishop, G, Lightning: Pretty sweet early line from the ex-Senator/Blue (nine wins in 11, 2.15 GAA, .925 SV%), especially considering the Lightning defensive effort has sucked since, well, the 2004-05 lockout. And that last part is why you shouldn't expect to see this progression from the 6-foot-7 netminder for an entire season. Tampa has improved on the back end of late but not enough to claim Bishop as a yearlong top-5 (or even top-10) Fantasy goalie.

Mikhail Grabovski, F, Capitals: The career of Grabovski has been highlighted by the frequent alternation of hot and cold streaks. Just when you think he's holding it all together, the Belarusian flakes out and suddenly stops contributing. While these types of episodes happened at times during his Montreal and Toronto days, that by no means guarantees a repeat with the Caps. But at the same time, we've already just witnessed a minor lull (stretch of one point in six games, declining minutes) bookended by outstanding performances (hat-trick/four points opening night and three assists Friday evening). Tread lightly.

David Legwand, F, Predators: Perhaps you remember Legwand as the #2 pick of the 1998 draft. Or the guy who is now in his 14th full season with Nashville and leads the team in scoring (12 in 14). While he's not young (33), neither is his competition at center (Mike Fisher is also 33, while Matt Cullen is four years older). Not too many injuries over his career, although he never matched his junior offensive numbers (peaked at 63 in 2006-07). Even with the Preds' improved offense, hoping Legwand to top 60 points again is asking for too much.

Frans Nielsen, F, Islanders: While Kyle Okposo has also shot out of the gates (17 in 14), let's focus on the Islander forward who is more likely to take a dip. In his six full campaigns, the Danish center has excelled as a shorthanded skater (seven SHGs in 2010-11) and has firmly stuck his foot in on the power-play (no worse than eight PPPs per season). His hard work is finally paying off (eight goals, eight assists) and the Islanders may finally be experiencing a resurge. But I'm sorry, there is no way a healthy Nielsen will reach 80 points over an 82-game schedule. Don't even think about it.

Matt Niskanen, D, Penguins: The return of Kris Letang has rearranged the Pens' blueline ladder. Even though the two share time as a regular-strength pair, Niskanen will no longer see the big man-advantage minutes. Since Letang's first game back, the Minnesotan's production has slipped (one in five) as a result of losing his prime scoring role (lost almost two minutes of PP action a night). Any total over 30 points should be a bonus.

(Honorable mention: Mark Arcobello, F, Edmonton; Kari Lehtonen, G, Dallas; Mathieu Perreault, F, Anaheim; Chris Tanev, D, Vancouver; Antoine Vermette, F, Phoenix)

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Player News
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, VAN
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.

Nate Prosser
Blues Ink Prosser To Two-Way Deal
Nate Prosser, D, MIN
7/21/2014
News: Nate Prosser (finger) signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blues on Tuesday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: The Wild elected not to extend a qualifying offer to Nate Prosser this summer after he totaled a meager eight points, 22 hits and 83 blocks over 53 regular-season contests. He'll compete for a depth role with the Blues.

Vladimir Sobotka
Blues' Sobotka Awarded One-Year Deal By Blues
Vladimir Sobotka, C, STL
7/21/2014
News: Vladimir Sobotka was awarded a one-year deal with the Blues on Monday, which will take effect if he returns from the KHL, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reports.
Analysis: Vladimir Sobotka signed a three-year deal with the KHL's Avangard Omsk in early July, so this deal merely means that the Blues will retain his rights if and when he decides to return to the NHL. The team used club-elected arbitration to get the deal done, so Sobotka will be a Blue when he returns unless they trade his rights. According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he'll receive a $2.725 million salary in the season he makes his return. The 27-year-old center had nine goals and 24 helpers over 61 games with the Blues in 2013-14.

Cody Franson
Leafs Sign Franson To One-Year Deal
Cody Franson, D, TOR
7/21/2014
News: Cody Franson signed a one-year, $3.3 million deal with the Maple Leafs on Monday, Wayne Scanlan of the Ottawa Citizen reports.
Analysis: Cody Franson's new deal allows him and the team to avoid arbitration. The 26-year-old defenseman had 33 points (five goals) last season with the Leafs, logging 30 penalty minutes along the way. He skated with the team's third defensive pairing in 2013-14, and can expect a similar role in the upcoming season.

Ryan Johansen
Jackets' Johansen Inching Closer To New Deal
Ryan Johansen, C, CLB
7/21/2014
News: Negotiations between Ryan Johansen and the Blue Jackets have started up again after Johansen's agent proposed a two-year deal to the club, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: This is a big step, as the length of a new contract was the biggest stumbling block between the two sides. The actual dollar amount will still be an issue, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Ryan Johansen back in a Jackets sweater by the end of the week.

 
 
 
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