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Neutral Zone Wrap: Keeper league options

by | Rotowire.com
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One of the most exciting trade deadlines in recent years is in the books and the attention now shifts from transactions to the playoff races. Same goes for you and your team, where the following few weeks will determine your Fantasy fate. But if you happen to participate in one of those keeper leagues and are already looking forward to next season, then you have your eye on who could be of service down the road.

With that said, let's look at who has been moved recently and recommend a few who can help now, who will help later, and who should be avoided. No one either directly or indirectly affected in the trades have been considered. And we'll forego the obvious selections, but that probably depends on what your definition of 'obvious' is. Hmm, guess that doesn't leave many options ahead. Oh well, here goes nothing:

Goalies

Today: Michal Neuvirth, Sabres

In his short career, the Czech keeper has discovered a knack for being overshadowed by a younger teammate. That says something since Neuvirth is only 25 and still sufficiently skilled. Turns out circumstances haven't changed in Buffalo, with Jhonas Enroth the patiently waiting successor for Ryan Miller's vacated throne. If you consider Enroth has only accumulated 79 NHL appearances and that the struggling Sabres are essentially holding auditions for the #1 spot, then Neuvirth could easily outshine his adversary (stopped 42 of 44 in his debut start).

(Honorable mention: Jaroslav Halak, Capitals)

Tomorrow: Jacob Markstrom, Canucks

Once considered the next great thing in Florida since the $5 early bird dinner special, Markstrom's career hit a few roadblocks. A few injuries, an influx of veteran competition, and an average resume in the AHL will not help one stick around at the top level (although a lifetime .917 SV% ain't terrible), so perhaps a stint with a less experienced netminder (countryman Eddie Lack) will wake up the supine Swede. It's no surprise the Canucks are undergoing a form of rebuild, so there's no reason Markstrom should be prevented from earning a regular role in the near future.

(Honorable mention: Viktor Fasth, Oilers)

Never: Tim Thomas, Stars

After a short sabbatical, Thomas was signed by the Panthers in September to continue the team's trend of frustrating their prospects by inserting over-the-hill talent for the purpose of stunting progress. The 2011 Conn Smythe winner hasn't exactly impressed in Florida (2.87 GAA, .909 SV% in 40); but to his credit, neither has anyone else in town. Even with Kari Lehtonen indefinitely dazed and confused in Dallas, there's no reason to trust the soon-to-be 40-year old freethinker from reclaiming old glory. But I guess if you need to fill a goaltending hole in your roster, then Thomas is better than a doorstop. Probably.

(Honorable mention: Ilya Bryzgalov, Wild)

Defense

Today: Andrew MacDonald, Flyers

Best known from his Long Island days for his multitude of minutes (regularly skated 23-plus a night), MacDonald could use the change of scenery to advance his Fantasy position. The ice time will undoubtedly decrease in Philly but he's set to earn just as many offensive opportunities. At many times this season for the Islanders, he had been asked to serve as the #1 option. On the Flyers, MacDonald isn't under all that pressure and may end up maintaining his steady numbers (24 points in 63 games for NYI). If nothing else, he can only boost his plus-minus (-19).

(Honorable mention: Andrej Meszaros, Bruins)

Tomorrow: Brayden McNabb, Kings

The Sabres possess so much young blueline talent that they were willing to swap McNabb out to the West Coast (albeit for University of Minnesota wunderkind Hudson Fasching). There's no denying the 2009 third-rounder's attacking prowess (95 in 145 in three seasons with Rochester) or his size (6'4", 210) but there's also no need for the Kings - who own a solid blueline contingent - to rush him into the lineup.

(Honorable mention: David Rundblad, Blackhawks)

Never: Rostislav Klesla, Buffalo Czech'd out

The only logical response to minor-league assignment on a suffering organization is to retire from North American play and announce an upcoming European farewell tour. Hey, the same thing happens to all of us at some point in our lives. So when the 31-year old Klesla is ready to swim back across the ocean begging for some NHL team to sign him, he probably shouldn't expect a long lineup of suitors.

(Honorable mention: Stephane Robidas, Ducks)

Forwards

Today: Shawn Matthias, Canucks

With the Canucks wounded down the middle (Daniel Sedin sidelined and Ryan Kesler at less than 100 percent), Matthias will be asked to help out in all areas. He's already seen action on the first power-play and has been singled out by head coach John Tortorella for his impressive two-way performance. And while the Red Wing draftee has never been known as an elite scorer (21 in 48 last season classifies as decent), there's a chance for improvement on a forward unit lacking depth.

(Honorable mention: Steve Ott, Blues; Tuomo Ruutu, Devils)

Tomorrow: Brandon Pirri, Panthers

It was a shame the former RPI standout never really received a fair chance in Chicago (guess there was no room for a 22-year old who puts up 11 in 28). Less than a week in his new surroundings, Pirri has already been offered a better position as he currently centers a line with Jonathan Huberdeau. The Florida coaching staff would be wise not to overwork the kid nor waste his exceptional abilities (pretty much a point-per-game scorer in the AHL) in the minors.

(Honorable mention: Calle Jarnkrok, Predators; Andrei Loktionov, Hurricanes)

Never: Dustin Penner, Captials

Penner wasted golden opportunities in LA and Anaheim with a supposedly lazy attitude, so there's not much hope he'll suddenly shape up in the nation's capital. If you are even considering picking up Penner, then this may be the only fact you need to read in order to curb your urge: there are over 40 IHOP locations within a 10-mile radius of the DC area.

(Honorable mention: Martin Erat, Coyotes; Marcel Goc, Penguins)

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Player News
Jeff Deslauriers
Deslauriers Heads To Kings Camp On Tryout Basis
Jeff Deslauriers, G, ANA
4:22 PM
News: Jeff Deslauriers will take part in training camp with the Kings on a tryout basis, Jon Rosen of LAKingsInsider.com reports.
Analysis: Jeff Deslauriers has little hope of claiming the backup gig for the NHL squad behind Jonathan Quick, but he does figure to merit consideration for the AHL affiliate in Manchester. The 30-year-old appeared in 40 games for AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season, going 20-15-3 with a 2.58 GAA and .895 save percentage.

Zac Rinaldo
Flyers, Rinaldo Agree To Two-Year Extension
Zac Rinaldo, C, PHI
1:42 PM
News: Zac Rinaldo agreed to a two-year, $1.7 million extension with the Flyers on Tuesday.
Analysis: Because Zac Rinaldo previously agreed to a two-year deal with the Flyers last April, the extension will keep him on the books through the next three seasons. He proved to be a key cog on the Flyers' checking line in 2013-14, totaling 231 hits and 153 penalty minutes while averaging just 7:41 per ice time. He's shown little scoring acumen during his time in Philadelphia, but few players in the NHL offer more physicality at the forward spot.

Sheldon Souray
Ducks' Souray Might Not Be Able To Keep Playing
Sheldon Souray, D, ANA
9/1/2014
News: GM Bob Murray said Sheldon Souray's career remains in jeopardy as a result of his season-ending wrist procedure in January, NHL.com's Curtis Zupke reports.
Analysis: With the beginning of training camp closing in on the Ducks, it sounds like the team is preparing for the possibility of life without Sheldon Souray for a second consecutive season. Souray hasn't received clearance to begin practicing in full, and his advancing age (he's 38 years old) certainly doesn't work to his advantage. Even if Souray is able to return to some semblance of health at some point this season, expect him to play much less than the 20:56 minutes per game he averaged in 44 contests during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.

John Gibson
Ducks' Gibson, Andersen To Battle For No. 1 Duties
John Gibson, G, ANA
9/1/2014
News: John Gibson will battle Frederik Andersen for duties as the Ducks' No. 1 netminder in training camp, NHL.com's Curtis Zupke reports.
Analysis: While Andersen, a fellow second-year goalie, probably has the advantage heading into camp since he played well in a larger sample of games than John Gibson, the 21-year-old certainly proved his mettle for the Ducks in the postseason. Thrust into action for the final four games of the team's second-round series with the Kings, Gibson saved 102 of 111 shots (.919 save%) and turned in a shutout in Game 4, convincing the Ducks to let veteran Jonas Hiller walk in free agency. With an outstanding showing in camp, Gibson could very well beat out Andersen, but there's an equally real possibility he could start the season in the minors. Both young goalies are best off playing regularly somewhere while they're still developing, so it wouldn't be surprise if veteran Jason LaBarbera ended up opening the campaign as the backup to the victor of the starting competition.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen (Knee) Likely No. 1 to Open Camp
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
9/1/2014
News: Frederik Andersen (knee) will likely be the Ducks' No. 1 goalie when training camp opens, NHL.com's Curtis Zupke reports.
Analysis: Both Frederik Andersen and fellow competitor for No. 1 duties John Gibson ended up surpassing incumbent Jonas Hiller on the depth chart for the Ducks during the postseason, but it was Andersen's MCL sprain in Round 2 against the Kings that allowed Gibson to leave the last impression. However, Andersen was nearly as good as Gibson over a much larger sample of starts last season, going 20-5-0 with a 2.29 GAA and .923 save percentage. The greater amount of experience confers an early advantage to Andersen in the job battle, but whomever opens the season as the No. 1 goalie will largely earn the gig based on training camp performance.

Shawn Horcoff
Stars' Horcoff Primed For Bottom-Six Duty
Shawn Horcoff, C, DAL
9/1/2014
News: Shawn Horcoff is expected to see most of his action as a bottom-six forward for the Stars this season, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: Shawn Horcoff, 35, is entering the final campaign of a six-year deal and seems to have accepted his role as a depth player at this stage of his career. A former top scorer for the Oilers during his prime, Horcoff averaged just 12:51 of ice time over 77 games with the Stars in 2013-14, totaling seven goals and 13 assists. He'd do well to eclipse the 20-point mark again during the upcoming season.

Jordin Tootoo
Free Agent Tootoo Still Looking For Work
Jordin Tootoo, RW, DET
9/1/2014
News: Jordin Tootoo is unlikely to re-sign with the Predators, Joshua Cooper of The Tennessean reports.
Analysis: Jordin Tootoo, who became an unrestricted free agent in June when the Red Wings bought out his contract, is likely not a good fit to re-join the Preds, as the team has already made several free-agent pickups this summer to bolster depth. Tootoo recorded just a single assist in 11 games for Detroit last season, and spent most of his time in the AHL. His best days as an NHL forward - and viable fantasy option - are likely behind him at this point.

Nazem Kadri
Leafs' Kadri: Working To Improve Shot Release
Nazem Kadri, C, TOR
8/31/2014
News: Nazem Kadri has been working on his shot over the summer and is looking to put up a lot more points this season, reports Sportsnet.ca. "Every single year I like my production to go up and up, so I want to get better [in terms of] goals, points, assists, plus/minus, time on ice," he said. "These are all things I think about and can improve on."
Analysis: He's been in the gym working on wrist curls and strengthening his forearms and shoulders to improve his shot. "I've really been working on my shot and my release, knowing a lot of NHL goalies can't be beat without a quick release," said Nazem Kadri. "The power doesn't necessarily have to be there, but the release definitely does. I'm trying to score a few more goals and get more pucks on net." The center once potted 35 goals in 56 OHL games with the London Knights, but he will be hard pressed to replicate that scoring rate in the NHL. Still, he could certainly be in line for an improvement over his 20 goals from last season and 60 points could be in the offing.

Sheldon Brookbank
Flames Invite Brookbank To Training Camp
Sheldon Brookbank, D, CHI
8/31/2014
News: The Flames have extended a tryout to Sheldon Brookbank at their training camp in the fall, the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Sheldon Brookbank spent the past two seasons with the Blackhawks, and collected two goals and five assists in 48 games last season. He will get a shot at the sixth or seventh defenseman spot, and his experience may give him an early edge.

Eric Staal
Canes' E. Staal (Abdomen) Back On Ice
Eric Staal, C, CAR
8/30/2014
News: Eric Staal (abdominal surgery) was back on the ice Friday at an informal skate with the Hurricanes, reports the Raleigh News Observer
Analysis: He had surgery in late July for a core-muscle issue that was described more as an abdominal wall injury rather than a sports hernia. He had changed his offseason training approach after delivering his lowest offensive numbers in a full season since his rookie year. The injury was characterized as a training injury, but it's behind him now and he's been on the ice for 10 days. "It was frustrating," he said. "At the time of the injury I thought I was in the best shape I've ever been in." If that's the case and if he can get out of the blocks strong, Eric Staal could be in line for a fantasy rebound. But he's going to turn 30 in October, so don't expect his output to recover to his previous best.

 
 
 
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