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Neutral Zone Wrap: The underachievers

by | Rotowire.com
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Olympic break, Shmolympic break. There is no rest for the contending Fantasy player the next two weeks, especially when just over a quarter of the season remains.

If you are looking for bargains, then this is the time to strike. Most owners seem to stop caring about their teams only because the actual NHLers have temporarily closed up shop.

On the flip side, your squad may contain one or two with a fast-approaching "use by" date. Or there are available players with great stats whose history, reputation and/or current situation suggest a decline in production.

This week, let's look at the latter example. If you got 'em, then you can either choose to trade them, bench them or hope they continue to shine. But if a decline appears imminent, then what value could you draw out of depreciating commodities when better ones exist?

Get your garbage bags ready and don't forget to leave them on the curb early so others can begin fighting over the contents:

Olli Jokinen, F, Jets: Off to represent Finland for his third consecutive Olympics, most likely in a similar second or third-line role. And while the month of December proved to be fruitful for Jokinen (11 points in 14 games), the latest stretch (one in 11) has been frustrating. At 35, he may not be asked anymore to serve as the focal point of the attack. But his age and the wear and tear from participating/traveling to and from Sochi will end up taking their toll. Looking at his last two seasons, the latter portion of each could be best described as disappointing (seven in 23, followed by three in 13). Best to cut your losses with the Finn before they get out of hand.

Nazem Kadri, F, Maple Leafs: The Leafs' 24/7 media darling has endured his share of flak for both on and off-ice activities but there's no denying the kid's talent. Kadri leapt into the forefront with a solid 2012-13 (44 in 48, plus-15), but struggled in the final regular season contests (five in 12, minus-5). Many have praised his improvement this year by supplementing his scoring with a nice physical game (116 hits, 59 PIM) and the ability to annoy opponents. Whether or not Kadri can interact positively with head coach Randy Carlyle will determine his ice time. And if you believe what you see on TV, then there's a reasonable chance the feisty forward will lose opportunities to more consistent teammates.

Clarke MacArthur, F, Senators: Little was known about MacArthur before 2010 but that changed when Toronto signed him that summer and he paid immediate dividends (career-best 62 points). After two more decent campaigns, Ottawa snapped him up this past offseason. And wouldn't you know it but the ex-Thrasher has earned a prime role and is on pace to break his pro points record (42 in 58, including 12 on the top power-play). A recent mini-slump mixed in with a foot injury may slow down MacArthur but at least he'll have a couple weeks to rest. His continued success may involve whether or not the Sens can stay in the playoff hunt. If they fall too far back, then expect youngsters like Mika Zibanejad and Cory Conacher to take away minutes from the older crowd.

Kris Russell, D, Flames: For years after being taken in the third round (2005), Russell lived with the stigma of being a slightly-undersized blueliner with shaky defensive skills. It wasn't until his move to St. Louis where the former WJHC standout rounded his overall game and was therefore treated more like an equal to his potential linemates. The Red Deer native has performed so well in his return to his home province (20 in 44, which includes seven PPPs and an average of almost 23.5 minutes) that management offered him a two-year extension over the weekend. Competing for offense with three other above-average defenders (Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman, and T.J. Brodie) and recent injuries will push Russell to the limit, a situation he has never faced in his pro career. Consequently, expect Russell's numbers to take a dip.

Ben Scrivens, G, Oilers: Like Russell, Scrivens grew up in Alberta and only recently came back to stake his claim. And boy, did he ever do this -- in his fourth appearance for Edmonton, no less -- when he set an NHL record by stopping 59 shots in shutting out the Sharks. Combine this effort with a sparkling stat line (combined 1.98 GAA, .937 SV%, and four shutouts in 25) and you have the makings of a promising career. For now, at least, the reality is he suits up for the dreadful Oilers and that hasn't worked out too well for any goalie since their Stanley Cup days. And even though Scrivens has excelled these last few months, getting traded twice since June may be a warning about his chances of becoming an everyday No. 1 keeper.

(Dis)Honorable mention: Brendan Gallagher, F, Canadiens; Anton Khudobin, G, Hurricanes; Andrew MacDonald, D, Islanders; Mike Ribeiro, F, Coyotes; Carl Soderberg, F, Bruins

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Player News
Jason Williams
Oilers Sign Williams To AHL Deal
Jason Williams, RW, PIT
7/29/2014
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
7/29/2014
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
7/29/2014
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
3:22 PM
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
3:17 PM
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
3:13 PM
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
1:22 PM
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
1:15 PM
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
1:08 PM
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
1:01 PM
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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