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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
Nathan Gerbe
Gerbe (Lower Body) Practiced Thursday
Nathan Gerbe, LW, CAR
10:37 AM
News: Nathan Gerbe skated Thursday in a no-contact jersey, Michael Smith of the team's official site reports.
Analysis: This is the first time Nathan Gerbe has skated at all since suffering the injury the previous Thursday. He is still considered day-to-day, however it appears doubtful that Gerbe will be able to play in either of the Canes' upcoming games Thursday or Friday.

Martin Havlat
Devils' Havlat Doubtful To Play Friday
Martin Havlat, RW, NJ
9:58 AM
News: Martin Havlat (face) appears doubtful to play Friday against the Stars, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Analysis: Though Martin Havlat returned to the lineup Tuesday after painful cuts on his face forced him to sit out the Devils' previous game, it sounds like the forward might have suffered a setback in his return. He's been absent for practice for each of the last two days, and barring some quick healing overnight, it looks like he'll be in the press box Friday night.

Cory Schneider
Devils' Schneider To Start Friday
Cory Schneider, G, NJ
9:53 AM
News: Cory Schneider will be back in the crease Friday against the Stars, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports.
Analysis: Cory Schneider has drawn all seven starts for the Devils thus far, but his first rest of the season could come on Saturday, when the team will complete the second half of their back-to-back set with a game in Ottawa. Though Schneider's overall numbers thus far haven't been inspiring (3-2-1, 3.13 GAA, .898 save percentage), the Devils are committed to giving him one of the league's heaviest workloads in the net, after inking him to a seven-year, $42 million contract extension in July.

Christian Folin
Wild's Folin Out With Illness Thursday
Christian Folin, D, MIN
9:50 AM
News: Christian Folin (illness) won't be available Thursday against the Coyotes, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Both Christian Folin and his usual defensive partner (Keith Ballard) were feeling sick Thursday morning, prompting coach Mike Yeo to tab Matthew Dumba and Nate Prosser for third-pairing duties. A day out of the lineup should be all Folin needs to clear up the illness, before a likely return to action Saturday against the Bolts.

Keith Ballard
Wild's Ballard Out Sick Thursday
Keith Ballard, D, MIN
9:45 AM
News: Keith Ballard (illness) will not be available for Thursday's game against the Coyotes, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Both Keith Ballard and his usual defensive partner (Christian Folin) were feeling sick Thursday morning, prompting coach Mike Yeo to tab Matthew Dumba and Nate Prosser for third-pairing duties. A day out of the lineup should be all Ballard needs to clear up the illness, before a likely return to action Saturday against the Bolts.

Pekka Rinne
Preds To Start Rinne On Thursday
Pekka Rinne, G, NSH
9:35 AM
News: Pekka Rinne will make the start in goal for the Predators on Thursday against the Blackhawks, Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago reports.
Analysis: Pekka Rinne dodged the Blackhawks over the past weekend when he was rested in favor of backup Carter Hutton, but he'll now get the opportunity to test himself against the Western Conference power. The Finnish netminder has been sensational this season (4-0-1, 1.55 GAA, .940 save percentage) in his five starts, but none of his outings have come against especially formidable competition. The Blackhawks will represent his toughest test to date.

Antti Raanta
Chicago Turns To Raanta On Thursday
Antti Raanta, G, CHI
9:31 AM
News: Antti Raanta will be in the crease Thursday against the Predators, Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago reports.
Analysis: With Corey Crawford (upper body) prepared to miss at least the next two games, Antti Raanta will make his second straight start in the net for the Blackhawks. He was sensational in his season debut Tuesday night, stopping all 32 shots he faced to blank the Flyers. Raanta isn't one of the more talented goalies in the league, but the Blackhawks' deep base of forward and blue line talent should put him in good position for a win nearly any time he takes the ice.

Colin McDonald
Isles' McDonald Clears Waivers
Colin McDonald, RW, NYI
9:27 AM
News: Colin McDonald cleared waivers Thursday, Tim Wharnsby of CBC reports.
Analysis: The Islanders dropped Colin McDonald from their 23-man roster Wednesday after he had seen only limited minutes on the fourth line for the team to start the season. He'll report to AHL Bridgeport, with Anders Lee likely to be recalled to take his spot on the Islanders roster.

Alexander Steen
Blues' Steen Skates On Own During Morning Session
Alexander Steen, LW, STL
9:24 AM
News: Alexander Steen (illness) was on the ice prior to Thursday's optional morning skate, but didn't take part in the team portion, NHL.com's Lou Korac reports.
Analysis: Alexander Steen was forced out of Wednesday's practice while battling the flu, so his return to the ice in some capacity Thursday would seem to show that he's made some progress. However, with coach Ken Hitchcock yet to announce if Steen will be available for Thursday's tilt with the Canucks, the forward should be viewed as a game-time decision at this juncture.

Ryan Wilson
Avs' Wilson To Miss 2-3 Weeks
Ryan Wilson, D, COL
9:19 AM
News: Ryan Wilson (shoulder) has been ruled out for two-to-three weeks, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports.
Analysis: Ryan Wilson sustained the shoulder injury Tuesday night against the Panthers, after he collided with an opponent. After opening the season as a healthy scratch for the Avs, Wilson had started to settle back into regular duty on the third pairing, but it now looks like he'll be forced to injured reserve. Nate Guenin and Zach Redmond will now be tasked with replacing him.

 
 
 
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