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Neutral Zone Wrap: No time to quit

by | Rotowire.com
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Don't ever give up. Even if you believe there isn't any chance for you to win or even make the playoffs in your league, there's still an incentive to keep up the fight. Rolling over was made for odometers and discount retailers, not Fantasy sports.

And what entails making an effort? Well, doing something is a great start. To be more specific, anything involving following trends and news and applying them to transactions counts as work. Got some dead weight to drop? Junk overboard! See the hottest player on the waiver wire? Yup, he's now yours. Hey, they may never end up helping but it probably makes you feel better to prevent others from owning then. So go out there and spoil it for the other guys (and gals).

Check the following flier material to see what's in stock and what isn't even fit for clearance:

(Stats as of Monday January 13)

Instead of leading with the main attraction, let's change it up and start from the bottom. And what better place to begin than Buffalo. It's amazing to see how competitive the Sabres have been of late, seeing how terrible they are at scoring (league-worst 1.58 goals per game). This column has already tabbed Tyler Ennis (17 points in 44 games with a minus-12) for an upswing and you expect Matt Moulson (one in six, minus-six) will turn it around. Once known as a better producer, Steve Ott isn't even posting enough penalty minutes (43 in 44) to justify a pickup. Much promise was bestowed on Marcus Foligno (scoreless in eight) but his dreams of becoming a top power forward have faded away. And if you're hoping for Ville Leino (one in 12) to break out, then the fates predict disappointment.

Philadelphia freedom. Gives peace of mind. Maybe not to the Flyers but it sure sounds like a good idea. No Matt Read (concussion, imminent return) means the likes of Michael Raffl (12 points on the first line) and Tye McGinn (three goals in eight and a temp job on the second power-play) see their chances to shine. It also allows Sean Couturier (20, over 19 minutes) greater opportunities to grow. Try to recall Steve Downie (zero in eight and a scratch) as a promising overall fantasy option and then quickly forget about it. Don't be fooled by the recent play of Andrej Meszaros (like those three assists last Wednesday), as his better fantasy days are long gone. Be confident in Steve Mason (despite allowing five goals in 40 minutes Saturday), since the alternative -- Ray Emery -- isn't exactly taking advantage of his chances (two wins in seven starts).

The specter of doom surrounds Minnesota but that hasn't stopped them. Without their top two forwards (Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu) and their breakout goaltender (the all-world Josh Harding), the Wild have introduced an almost never-ending forward supply. All their accumulated young talent is paying off, with Charlie Coyle (four in two), Justin Fontaine (four in three, including a hat-trick), and Jason Zucker (three in six) the newest examples. The Islanders have to be kicking themselves for giving up on Nino Niederreiter (eight in eight). Welcome back, Dany Heatley (five in five). Temper your expectations on Jonathon Blum (17 in 31 while in the AHL), since he's only in there due to injuries.

Like the previous paragraph, the Sharks have lost a lot of personnel of late. And while San Jose doesn't own as many experienced pieces to fill in, that hasn't prevented them from maintaining their strength. Logan Couture (broken hand, out a few weeks) will sorely be missed and Tomas Hertl (knee surgery, maybe a few months away) can still be a fine secondary performer, but the remaining offense still functions properly. Kudos to anyone not in a keeper league or from the Bay Area who heard of Matthew Nieto (four in seven skating on the second line) and Bracken Kearns (four in nine following 18 in 27 with Worcester) before this season. A knock (of the upper-body variety) to Matt Irwin has provided Jason Demers (nine in 11, including four PPPs) with a prime position.

A club's fate should never be dependent on one player. While Alexander Steen (concussion, give him a few more days) does not yet fit in the elite category, his absence hurts the team. But anyone who has followed St. Louis in recent years realizes their superb depth. Vladimir Tarasenko (12 in nine), come on down. Patrik Berglund (five in four with a plus-five) looks natural in an expanded role. Look out for Vladimir Sobotka (11 in nine). Chris Stewart (two goals in eight) may not be the most active skater (between 13-14 minutes) but he should do better. And yes, there's more on the Blues blueline (try saying those two words 10 times fast) as Jordan Leopold (three in four) has shown.

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Player News
Mike Hoffman
Hoffman Awarded One-Year Deal In Arbitration
Mike Hoffman, LW, OTT
12:54 AM
News: Mike Hoffman was awarded a one-year, $2 million contract Monday after going to arbitration with the Senators.
Analysis: It's a bargain deal for the Senators, especially when considering Mike Hoffman was reportedly seeking a $3.4 million contract, while Ottawa countered with $1.75 million. Hoffman was certainly justified in requesting the larger amount. The 25-year-old racked up 48 points (27 goals, 21 assists) over 79 games in what was his first full-time NHL campaign in 2014-15. He will return as a top-six forward for the Senators this season, and could take his production up a notch if he can stay healthy.

James Reimer
Leafs' Reimer: "Open Competition" In Net At Camp
James Reimer, G, TOR
8/3/2015
News: James Reimer will enter training camp with the opportunity to seize the number one role or at least a platoon, according to Toronto Star. "I think that right now I have a total open mind [to both goalies], and certainly I know Mike has the same," said new general manager Lou Lamoriello.
Analysis: James Reimer started 27 games in 2014-15 and delivered a meagre 9-16-1 record with a 3.16 GAA and .907 save percentage. He sure didn't do enough to earn starter's minutes, but will enter camp in an open competition with Jonathan Bernier. It's the third straight season with Reimer and Bernier splitting goaltending duties.

Jonathan Bernier
Bernier Not Guaranteed Leafs' Starting Job
Jonathan Bernier, G, TOR
8/3/2015
News: New general manager Lou Lamoriello envisions the Leafs' goaltending job as an open competition and indicates that head coach Mike Babcock feels the same way, according to the Toronto Star. "I think that right now I have a total open mind, and certainly I know Mike has the same," Lamoriello said. This will be the third straight season with Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer splitting goaltending duties.
Analysis: Lamoriello did indicate that Jonathan Bernier "has the ability, no question" to be a number one goalie in the NHL, but the twinetender hasn't shown the consistency in his game to take that job. And it's that inconsistency that has prevented him from getting a long-term deal with the Leafs. He just inked a two-year contract with the hope he can show the team he deserves a long-term, big-money deal. "Hopefully he has a year that pushes us, that is the organization, to speak to him next summer and looking for long term," continued Lamoriello.

Louis Domingue
Coyotes' Domingue Bound For Europe In 2015-16
Louis Domingue, G, ARI
8/3/2015
News: Louis Domingue will head to Europe for the 2015-16 season after opting not to sign his two-way qualifying offer with the Coyotes, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: With the Coyotes adding Anders Lindback to presumably serve as the backup to starter Mike Smith next season, Louis Domingue determined that playing overseas would be preferable to spending another year in the minors. The Coyotes will still retain his rights for the next four years, and with Lindback set to become a free agent next summer, it's quite possible that Domingue will be brought back in as one of Arizona's two goalies in 2016-17. The 23-year-old fared reasonably well in limited duty with the parent club last season, going 1-2-1 with a 2.73 GAA and .911 save percentage over seven appearances.

Aaron Dell
Dell Inks One-Year Deal With Sharks
Aaron Dell, G, SJ
8/3/2015
News: Aaron Dell signed a one-year contract with the Sharks on Monday.
Analysis: The 26-year-old goaltender was solid in 26 games with AHL Worcester in 2014-15, posting a 2.06 GAA and a .927 save percentage in those contests. He will likely serve as the Sharks' primary AHL goaltender this season.

Brooks Orpik
Caps' Orpik Likely Ready For Opener
Brooks Orpik, D, WAS
8/3/2015
News: General manager Brian MacLellan indicated Monday that he expects Brooks Orpik (wrist) to be ready for the beginning of the season, Dan Rosen of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Brooks Orpik is expected to begin full workout activities within a week or two, barring a setback, so it should provide him plenty of time to recover before the season begins. Assuming that's indeed the case, he should open the season among the top two pairings, and could pick up a fair number of assists while working with the likes of Alex Ovechkin and offseason addition T.J. Oshie.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom Starts Skating
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
8/3/2015
News: General manager Brian MacLellan indicated Monday that Nicklas Backstrom (hip) recently began skating again, Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom's status for the beginning of the season remains in doubt after offseason hip surgery, but he's at least progressing. The Capitals haven't released an official timeline for the top-line center, but it should clear up as the season draws near. If Backstrom is unavailable to begin the campaign, Evgeny Kuznetsov seems the likely candidate to center the top line, which would give him a significant increase in fantasy value.

Erik Haula
Wild, Haula Reach Agreement On New Deal
Erik Haula, LW, MIN
8/2/2015
News: Erik Haula signed a two-year, $2 million contract with the Wild on Sunday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Rather than take their contract dispute to court, Erik Haula and the team were able to come to terms on a new agreement before the arbitration case was slated to be heard. Haula, who was the last of the Wild's unrestricted free agents, is now expected to be penciled in as the team's fourth-line center to open the upcoming campaign.

Brandon Sutter
Canucks, Sutter Closing In On Big Deal
Brandon Sutter, C, VAN
8/1/2015
News: Brandon Sutter and the Canucks are closing in on a contract extension that could be worth more than $20 million over five years, reports Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada.
Analysis: Orca's general manager Jim Benning wasn't kidding when he described Brandon Sutter as a 'foundational' piece for his club. At that cash, the Orcas must believe Sutter is the solution for their second-line woes. He's been a No. 3 guy through his career, but could step up playing alongside scoring wingers. Monitor this heading to camp.

Marcus Johansson
Johansson Inks One-Year Deal With Capitals
Marcus Johansson, C, WAS
7/31/2015
News: Marcus Johansson signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Capitals on Friday, James Mirtle of TSN 1050 Radio reports.
Analysis: Marcus Johansson was a solid offensive contributor for the Capitals in 2014-15, racking up 47 points (20 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games, good for fourth best on the team. He will return to his role as a top-six forward with Washington this season, and will likely continue to be a part of the Capitals' top power-play unit. The 24-year-old is a versatile winger who, barring injury, should be similarly productive this season.

 
 
 
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