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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
Ryan O'Reilly
Avs, O'Reilly: No Contract In Sight
Ryan O'Reilly, C, COL
7/12/2014
News: Ryan O'Reilly and the Avalanche appear destined for arbitration, reports the Denver Post.
Analysis: The two sides haven't had a substantive discussion on a new deal since the Avs filed for arbitration last month. The team made the move to try to save itself some cash, but Ryan O'Reilly and his agent aren't happy. Then again, this same scenario happened the last time they tried to ink a deal. This probably means a short-term deal for the center and then he'll walk away in two years when he is eligible to be a UFA. This could be ugly ... again.

Chad LaRose
LaRose Wants To Return To NHL: Carolina Possible?
Chad LaRose, RW, CAR
7/12/2014
News: Chad LaRose is interested in returning to the NHL after sitting out last season, reports the Raleigh News Observer, and may be signed to a professional tryout by Carolina.
Analysis: "I'd like to talk to him," said general manager Ron Francis. "He took a year off and obviously he'd need to earn his way back. There are some options. We could get him to camp on a tryout. He could start the season in Charlotte (AHL), show that he could still do it." Chad LaRose is a high-energy player whose petulant end to the 2012-13 saw him fail to get a contract from any team for last season. But he seems to have perhaps figured out what he needs to do to continue his career. Unfortunately, his fantasy value will be limited.

Alexander Semin
Canes' Semin (Wrist) "Progressing As Expected"
Alexander Semin, RW, CAR
7/12/2014
News: Alexander Semin is "progressing as expected" following wrist surgery, according to Hurricanes' general manager Ron Francis, and is on schedule for the start of training camp.
Analysis: He had 20 goals and 42 points in 65 games last season, but that was a far cry from his best production. And he has never played more than 77 games in any regular season. He'll need better luck to return to the point-per-game plateau, but a healthy wrist to start the season is better than we expected.

Cameron Gaunce
Stars Re-Sign Gaunce
Cameron Gaunce, D, DAL
7/12/2014
News: The Stars signed Cameron Gaunce to a one-year, two-way contract on Friday.
Analysis: The 24-year-old defenseman appeared in nine NHL games last season, totaling nine shots, seven penalty minutes, and a plus-1 rating. He spent most of the season with the AHL Stars where he led the team with a plus-15 rating to go along with three goals and 15 assists through 65 games.

Richard Panik
Lightning Sign Panik To One-Year, Two-Way Contract
Richard Panik, RW, TB
7/12/2014
News: Richard Panik inked a one-year, two-way deal with the Lightning on Friday, Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune reports.
Analysis: Richard Panik will rejoin the team that he tallied three goals and 10 assists for last season over 50 games. His level of production dipped from the previous season where he tallied nine points in half the games, but the Lightning likely believe they can get more out of the 23-year-old winger.

David Moss
Coyotes Sign Moss To One-Year Deal
David Moss, RW, PHO
7/12/2014
News: David Moss signed a one-year deal with the Coyotes on Friday, Sarah McLellan of The Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: David Moss had a week to sign with a NHL team after signing with a Swiss team on July 10, and it didn't take long to find one. The 32-year-old winger re-signed with the team he tallied 22 points (eight goals and 14 assists) over 79 games last season.

Jamie Devane
Leafs Ink Devane To Two-Year Contract
Jamie Devane, LW, TOR
7/12/2014
News: Jamie Devane signed a two-year contract with the Maple Leafs on Friday.
Analysis: Jamie Devane played in two games for the Maple Leafs, failing to record a point in either game. The 23-year-old spent a majority of the season with AHL Toronto and tallied four goals and four assists over 55 games while racking up a team-high 146 penalty minutes.

Brian Boyle
Bolts' Boyle Admits Leafs Offered More Money
Brian Boyle, C, TB
7/11/2014
News: Brian Boyle acknowledged he passed up more money from the Maple Leafs to sign his three-year, $6 million deal with the Lightning, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
Analysis: Part of the decision was the raving former -- and now current -- teammate Ryan Callahan had done about the Bolts, and part was the fact that his brand-new wife is from Orlando. But clearly, the Leafs have had yet another snub from an NHLer -- money isn't enough to draw them to the so-called center of the hockey universe. Wow.

Philippe Paradis
Bolts Re-Up AHLer Paradis
Philippe Paradis, C, TB
7/11/2014
News: The Lightning have re-signed Philippe Paradis to a one-year deal, reports TSN.ca. Terms were not released.
Analysis: He had six goals and 15 points in 56 AHL games last season and is expected to provide complementary scoring depth at that level in 2014-15.

Brenden Morrow
Lightning Ink Morrow To One-Year Deal
Brenden Morrow, LW, TB
7/11/2014
News: Brenden Morrow (foot) signed a one-year deal with the Lightning on Friday, Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press reports.
Analysis: Brenden Morrow scored 25 points (13 goals) for the Blues last season before an April foot injury sidelined him for the remainder of the playoff series against the Blackhawks. The 35-year-old will provide depth at the wings for Tampa Bay.

 
 
 
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