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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
Tom Gilbert
Habs' Gilbert Scores First NHL Playoff Goal
Tom Gilbert, D, MON
12:27 PM
News: Tom Gilbert scored his first career NHL playoff goal in Friday's Game 5 loss to Ottawa.
Analysis: While it was a nice milestone for Tom Gilbert, the Habs are in trouble, having lost two straight games. The 32-year-old isn't a big offensive producer, having registered just one point in these playoffs, but he's logging decent minutes and has posted a 45-point season in his past. Don't expect many more goals, but he does play on the second power-play unit, so he could rack up a few more points if the Habs make it out of the first round.

Mika Zibanejad
Sens' Zibanejad Dishes Out Two Assists In Game 5
Mika Zibanejad, C, OTT
12:15 PM
News: Mika Zibanejad contributed a pair of helpers in Friday's Game 5 win over Montreal.
Analysis: It was the second multi-point outing of the playoffs for Mika Zibanejad, who has collected four points in five games. Trailing the Canadiens 3-2 in their first-round series, the Senators will be looking to Zibanejad's line with Bobby Ryan to have another strong showing in Game 6 Sunday in Ottawa. With linemate Bobby Ryan snapping a 16-game goalless drought Friday, Zibanejad's production could increase as a result.

Mike Hoffman
Sens' Hoffman Collects Two Assists
Mike Hoffman, LW, OTT
12:10 PM
News: Mike Hoffman collected a pair of assists in Friday's Game 5 win over Montreal.
Analysis: After scoring the game-winner in Game 4, Mike Hoffman got right back to the offense Friday. The 25-year-old has turned it up in these last two games, firing seven shots on goal and recording three points to help the Sens fend off elimination. With Ottawa now trailing Montreal 3-2 in the first round, look for Hoffman to have another strong outing in Game 6 Sunday at the Canadian Tire Center.

Craig Anderson
Sens' Anderson Will Start Friday
Craig Anderson, G, OTT
12:29 AM
News: Craig Anderson will be between the pipes for Friday's Game 5 against the Canadiens, TSN 1200's Gord Wilson reports.
Analysis: It's hardly a surprise, as Craig Anderson was phenomenal in Game 4, turning away all of the 28 shots he faced en route to a shutout. He'll likely need to turn in a similar performance on Friday in order to give the Senators a chance to gain some ground in their series with the Habs, in which they currently trail three games to one.

Jake Allen
Blues' Allen Will Start Friday
Jake Allen, G, STL
12:14 AM
News: Jake Allen will be between the pipes for Friday's Game 5 against the Wild, Lou Korac of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Jake Allen didn't have to do too much in Game 4, as Minnesota only managed to fire a total of 18 shots on goal. However, he was still solid, turning away 17 of the 18 shots he faced. He'll look to build on that strong performance on Friday.

Bobby Ryan
Sens' Ryan Breaks Goal-Scoring Slump In Game 5 Win
Bobby Ryan, RW, OTT
4/24/2015
News: Bobby Ryan ended a 16-game goalless drought Friday, netting a pair of goals in a Game 5 win over Montreal.
Analysis: A much-needed two-goal outburst from Bobby Ryan, who hadn't found twine since March. 16. The Senators are now trailing the Canadiens 3-2 in their first-round series, so if this slump-busting performance from Ryan is a sign of things to come, Ottawa could find themselves completing a reverse sweep. With 18 goals and 54 points in the regular season, Ryan is an elite sniper who can be the difference when he's on his game. Now that the monkey's off his back, watch out.

Carey Price
Habs' Price Allows Five Goals In Game 5 Loss
Carey Price, G, MON
4/24/2015
News: Carey Price gave up five goals on 25 shots in Friday's Game 5 loss to the Senators.
Analysis: Not a good showing from Carey Price, who failed to help Montreal close out their series against Ottawa. With the Sens having won two straight games and the series now 3-2 in favor of the Canadiens, Price and the Habs could be in some trouble. Aside from Game 5, the 27-year-old goaltender has been excellent this postseason, posting a .923 save percentage, so if he can turn in a great outing Sunday, the Habs could eliminate Ottawa in six games and move on to the second round.

Derek Stepan
Rangers' Stepan Scores PP Goal In Game 5 Win
Derek Stepan, C, NYR
4/24/2015
News: Derek Stepan opened the scoring with a power-play marker in Friday's series-clinching Game 5 win over the Penguins.
Analysis: It was the second goal of the playoffs for Derek Stepan, who finishes the first round with three points in five games. The second-line center has looked dangerous this postseason, firing 24 shots on goal and helping the Rangers eliminate the Penguins in five games. New York will be awaiting the winner of the Capitals and Islanders series, so look for the 24-year-old to carry his strong play from the opening round into the second round.

Carl Hagelin
Rangers' Hagelin Crushes Penguins' Cup Dreams
Carl Hagelin, LW, NYR
4/24/2015
News: Carl Hagelin scored the series-clinching overtime-winning goal Friday against Pittsburgh in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.
Analysis: A clutch performance from Carl Hagelin, who scored his first career NHL playoff game-winning goal. The 26-year-old is now riding a three-game point streak, helping the Rangers eliminate the Penguins in five games and move onto the second round. Skating on a line with Martin St. Louis, Hagelin, who had 17 goals in the regular season, will likely continue being a key contributor throughout the Rangers' postseason run.

Marc-Andre Fleury
Pens' Fleury Sensational In Game 5 Loss
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, PIT
4/24/2015
News: Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 34 of 36 shots in Friday's Game 5 overtime loss to the Rangers.
Analysis: While Fleury played sensational, the Penguins couldn't get more than one puck past Henrik Lundqvist, leading to their elimination from the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the Penguins only lasted five games against the Presidents Trophy winners, it wasn't due to a lack of effort from Marc-Andre Fleury, who was exceptional throughout the series, posting a .927 save percentage and 2.12 GAA. Fleury, who has struggled in the playoffs in the past, can exit the postseason knowing he played his best and gave the injury-riddled Penguins a fighting chance against arguably the best team in the NHL.

 
 
 
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