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Blue Line Buzz: Fire sale in Buffalo?

by | Rotowire.com
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The New York Rangers seem to be understanding the market for free agent defensemen this coming summer will not be teeming with top pairing talent. A team already embroiled in rumors about the uncertain future of its captain, right winger Ryan Callahan, took a step in locking up a team leader on Friday in defender Dan Girardi. Regarded as one of the stronger two-way defensemen in the league (although his game skews much more to the defensive side of the puck), Girardi inked a 6-year, $33 million dollar deal ($5.5 AAV) to avoid a potential trade of one of their top defenders on a team battling for a playoff berth.

This deal likely signals the end of Ryan Callahan in New York, at least walking as a UFA if he is not dealt before Wednesday's deadline as Callahan's financial demands exceed what the Rangers want to pay him. While the Rangers did lock up Girardi, they don't have many puck moving blue liners with having dealt Michael Del Zotto (nicknamed Del Zaster by Rangers fans) outside of the up-and-coming Ryan McDonagh. Girardi is a strong defender and will continue providing support in front of Henrik Lundqvist.

Fire sale?

Buffalo kicked off the trading frenzy with their sending of Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to St. Louis for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, Wayne Carrier and two future draft picks (a first in 2015 and third in 2016). Buffalo general manager Tim Murray played everything rather coy and cool on Sportsnet's Hockey Central radio program Friday at lunchtime and many believe Murray, nephew of Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray, is not done dealing. Two names, Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers, come to light for our purposes here.

Both players have offensive upsides and could use a change of scenery. Ehrhoff still has seven years left on his $40 million deal but boasts a heavy shot, several 40-point seasons and he was a member of Vancouver's 2011 Stanley Cup runner-up squad. Ehrhoff scored twice in Buffalo's win over Carolina on Tuesday and figures to bring a solid all-around game to a team that can use a top-four blue liner. He has five points in the last four games and has already given the Sabres a list of teams to whom he would accept a trade.

Tyler Myers is younger and gives Buffalo more of a building block, albeit one that has been woefully inconsistent since his breakout rookie season. Myers' minus-23 rating isn't exactly appealing to most teams, but some of that is a product of the Sabres. Who moves out of Buffalo is anyone's guess, but things were shaken up a bit on Saturday with the resignation of Pat LaFontaine shortly after he arrived in Buffalo; LaFontaine will return to his role within the NHL.

Both of these players can be worth looks in deeper leagues if you can get your hands on them.

Something rotten In Stockholm

Those who were examining the box scores of the Phoenix Coyotes in the team's first two games after the Olympic break will have noticed that Swedish dynamo Oliver Ekman-Larsson had three points in those two games. True, OEL has had some quiet stretches, but he remains one of the league's top options in terms of young, mobile scoring defensemen not named Erik Karlsson or P.K. Subban. In Sochi, Ekman-Larsson had a different experience with ice time, as Sweden coach Par Marts used OEL rather sparingly in the team's final four games, playing just 23:34 over that span; that total is without playing a shift in the semifinal victory over Finland. This came after he logged close to 35 minutes in the team's first two games. Rumors pointed to favoritism and grudges held within the Swedish federation and a rift between Marts and Ekman-Larsson as to why he was essentially benched. Those worried about how OEL would readapt after being so misued in Sochi will not have to, as the blue liner played 27:45 and 29:18 respectively.

He's back ... again

Eric Gelinas used the time over the Olympic break to ply his trade in the AHL with the Albany Devils, but he has since rejoined the Devils. New Jersey scored 10 goals in its first two games after Sochi and the young, productive defender has a power-play goal and two helpers over that span. He seems like he's here to stay, but the Devils and coach Peter DeBoer have demonstrated rash behavior with the youngster's ice time; Gelinas has 25 points in 46 games. He's been one of the league's most productive rookie blue liners and on a per-game basis, he's been one of the league's better blue liners in terms of production, not all-around play. It'll be interesting to see where he's projected to go next fall, as the Devils will need to move some veteran weight out of the way for the likes of Gelinas, John Merrill and Adam Larsson, if they ever decide to play him.

Random observations

-Columbus youngster David Savard had a goal and an assist in Saturday's win over Florida, but he has seen little production this season to warrant consideration. In the last 10 games, he has seen 38 total seconds of power play time. With the presence of James Wisniewski, Jack Johnson, Nikita Nikitin and Ryan Murray, Savard won't see many chances. He might see a slight uptick in ice time with Fedor Tyutin injured, but nothing much.

-Nick Holden still is seeing ice time with Colorado's top power play unit, grabbing an assist in one of the two games since the NHL has resumed. He logged 5:02 on the man-advantage in their loss to the Kings and then saw 2:54 on Friday in a win over Phoenix. He's skating with the likes of Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. He did have an eight-game scoring drought prior to the Olympic break, but Holden is worth a look in very deep leagues simply because of his position on the team's power play.

-Considering the injury to Paul Martin and the scary situation involving Kris Letang's stroke, rookie Olli Maatta will see an even larger opportunity to produce with the Penguins' elite forwards. After a strong Olympics with Finland and a two-point night against Montreal last Thursday, Maatta should figure much into the team's plans. Consider giving Matt Niskanen a look too in deep leagues.

-No one in the Eastern Conference seems to want to stake a claim to being the conference's best team. Boston has dropped games to Buffalo and Washington since Wednesday while the Penguins were embarrassed by Chicago in Saturday's Stadium Series tilt at Soldier Field. True, it was snowing rather heavily, but the Blackhawks managed. Pittsburgh's only goal came from Brent Seabrook putting the puck into his own net and Marc-Andre Fleury has allowed 10 goals on 69 shots in his two starts since the hiatus.

Video Clip of the Week

New Jersey iced its 5-2 win over Columbus on Thursday with a shorthanded goal in the dying seconds of the second period from Adam Henrique, making the score 4-2. Henrique beat Sergei Bobrovsky five-hole on the breakaway, but it was Patrik Elias who made the play happen after he stripped Jack Johnson of the puck with this tremendous lob pass.

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Player News
Kimmo Timonen
Flyers' Timonen Unlikely To Play This Season
Kimmo Timonen, D, PHI
12:46 AM
News: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots) in leg confirmed Thursday that the chances of him playing this season are "really slim," Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Analysis: Though he didn't announce his retirement as some expected Thursday, Kimmo Timonen acknowledged that the blood clots in his lungs and right leg will keep him out multiple months, putting his career in jeopardy. Timonen will have to wait until January to see if his medical tests reveal any dissipation from the blood clots, but it sounds entirely possible that we've seen the last of the respected defenseman in the NHL. Even in the deepest of leagues, it's tough to justify stashing him on the bench until he returns to health, since it's certainly far from a given that that will happen by the end of the season.

Darcy Kuemper
Wild And Kuemper Negotiations Stalled
Darcy Kuemper, G, MIN
12:06 AM
News: Other than a couple of text messages, the Wild and Darcy Kuemper have not had substantial negotiations over a new contract and he may not report to training camp, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: With Josh Harding out several months with a broken foot, the Wild would appear to be highly motivated to sign Darcy Kuemper. However, the two sides are having a dispute about his guaranteed status on the NHL roster and Kuemper's agent has said he's exploring playing overseas. The Wild are offering a two-way deal while Kuemper wants a one-way deal. With Kuemper's status in doubt, the Wild have reached out to Ilya Bryzgalov about coming to training camp. It's still possible Kuemper could sign at the last second, but his status for the NHL season remains uncertain.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Suspended For Off-Ice Injury
Josh Harding, G, MIN
9/18/2014
News: Josh Harding (broken foot) has been suspended by the Wild since he suffered a broken right foot while kicking a wall after an off-ice altercation with a teammate, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: He won't be paid a prorated portion of his $2.1 million salary and he won't count against the Wild's salary cap while suspended. Josh Harding is expected to miss at least two to three months with the broken foot and it's assumed his suspension will end when healthy.

Derek Roy
Preds' Roy Enjoying New Linemates In Camp
Derek Roy, C, NSH
9/18/2014
News: Derek Roy has been skating with Craig Smith and Colin Wilson so far in training camp, the Tennessean reports. "They're both good players with the puck and real smart," Roy said of his new linemates. "Smitty's an offensive dynamic with a great shot. Colin is a great passer and has great vision around the ice. I'm looking forward to playing with those guys and seeing where it goes."
Analysis: With Mike Fisher out until at least late November with a ruptured Achilles, new coach Peter Laviolette has to decide who will be centering his top two scoring lines. At this stage, Derek Roy appears to be right in the mix, while Mike Ribeiro and Olli Jokinen - the Preds' two other free agent acquisitions earlier this summer - will also get a look. A second line of Wilson-Roy-Smith seems like a pretty decent second line possiblity, assuming the trio shows some chemistry together. However, it's still just the first week of camp, and there's sure to be a lot more line juggling to come, so don't assume anything is written in stone just yet.

David Perron
Perron To Open Camp On The Right Side For Edmonton
David Perron, LW, EDM
9/18/2014
News: David Perron will open up training camp playing right wing, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Analysis: David Perron is slated to play on a line with Benoit Pouliot and rookie Leon Draisaitl. This line could be broken up however if Draisaitl doesn't make the team out of camp. The Oilers don't have another playmaking center on the roster so Perron's offensive numbers could take a dip this season.

Nail Yakupov
Oilers' Yakupov To Start On Third Line
Nail Yakupov, RW, EDM
9/18/2014
News: Nail Yakupov will open up training camp on the third line, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Analysis: Nail Yakupov played mainly on the right wing last season but will be moved to the left side this season playing on a line with Mark Arcobello and Teddy Purcell. This is obviously not good for fantasy owners but this is also not written in stone. A productive camp could see Yakupov bumped back up to the second line.

Johnny Oduya
Blackhawks' Oduya (Foot) Cleared For Training Camp
Johnny Oduya, D, CHI
9/18/2014
News: Johnny Oduya (broken foot) has been cleared for full activity during training camp, Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Analysis: Johnny Oduya suffered the broken foot in the Blackhawks' Game 7 loss to the Kings in the Western Conference Finals, after it was struck by a shot from the opposition. A summer of rest allowed the foot to heal without too many complications, and he should be on track to reprise his role on the second pairing with Niklas Hjalmarsson when the new season begins.

Ryan Johansen
Jackets Receive New Offer From Johansen's Agent
Ryan Johansen, C, CLB
9/18/2014
News: Ryan Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt, has sent a new two-year contract proposal in to the Blue Jackets, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: The two sides were reportedly about $3.5 million per year apart when Ryan Johansen left camp, so while this latest offer likely didn't close the gap much it's encouraging to see that there's at least some movement.

Rich Peverley
Stars' Peverley Cleared To Work Out
Rich Peverley, C, DAL
9/18/2014
News: Stars GM Jim Nill said that Rich Peverley has been cleared to work out, but not to go on the ice, according to Mark Stepneski of NHL.com.
Analysis: Earlier this summer Rich Peverley was told he should be able to play this season, which had previously been in question after he suffered a cardiac incident during a March 10 game against the Blue Jackets. There is not yet a timetable for his return.

Dustin Byfuglien
Jets Confirm Byfuglien To Open Season As Forward
Dustin Byfuglien, RW, WPG
9/18/2014
News: Jets coach Paul Maurice reiterated Thursday that Dustin Byfuglien would "start and finish" training camp as a forward, Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports.
Analysis: This was to be expected after Dustin Byfuglien played exclusively at forward when Maurice replaced Claude Noel as coach in January, and it should only help Big Buff's fantasy value in leagues where he retains eligibility as a defenseman. Byfuglien racked up 10 goals and 12 assists over 32 games on the wing last season, scoring at a rate actually lower than what he provided at the blue line. However, with a full offseason to prepare for a role at forward, Byfuglien stands a good chance at boosting his per-game point totals, but perhaps only if he's able to land a spot on the first or second line.

 
 
 
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