Last week I touched on forward in news places in my Crashing the Net Piece. This week I will touch on the blue liners and keepers that have switched squads in addition to touching on some of the stories that are in the news.
Sidney Crosby (concussion) is likely to travel with the Penguins on their opening three-game trip to start the season, but at this point a return date has still not been established. He still hasn't been cleared for contact, so it's anyone guess when he will return to game action.
Antti Niemi (surgery to remove a cyst) has returned to the ice. It's no lock that he will be ready to play on Opening Night, the Sharks may have to turn things over to Thomas Greiss with Antero Niittymaki on the shelf with a hip injury that required surgery (he could be out up to 12 weeks). Feel safe in drafting Niemi as your #1 keeper. Even if he misses the start of the year, no one expects this to be an issue that lingers.
You can't read too much into preseason point totals, but they do show that a few players are certainly ready to rock for games that count.
Sergei Bobrovksy has faced 63 shots in the preseason. Do you know how many have found the back of the net? The answer is one, leading to a 98.4 save percentage. Cam Ward is close on his heels with 57 saves on 58 shots (98.2 percent).
Jaromir Jagr has four goals in three games. Don't overspend to add his services, but it is clear that the nearly 40 year old skater has some of his mojo left.
Evander Kane leads the league with 19 shots on goal in four games. Max Pacioretty seems healthy since he's fired the biscuit on net 17 times in just three games.
Mike Ribeiro had a five-assist outing on Thursday and he leads the NHL with eight assists this preseason, one more than Claude Giroux. Those two are also at the top of the leader board in points. Ribeiro leads the way with 10 points while Giroux, Mark Scheifele and Fedor Tyutin all have seven points. Don't count on ever reading a sentence like that, with those names as point scoring leaders, the rest of your life.
Old Faces, New Places - Defensemen
Brent Burns, Sharks
The Sharks already possess one of the top-10 scoring defenseman in hockey in Dan Boyle. So what did the Sharks do this offseason? They added another franchise type blue liner in Burns. The former Wild defender was limited in 2008 to 59 games and 47 in 2009, but check out his average effort his last two healthy seasons: 16 goals, 29 assists, 89 PIMs. Adding his shot from the point on the power-play should make the Sharks potent man advantage squad absolutely lethal. Look for his plus/minus mark (-21 for his career), to rise accordingly thanks to the Sharks overall strength. He's got a chance to be a top-10 defender this season.
Christian Ehrhoff, SabresThis fleet-of-foot skater from Germany owns a booming shot. Over the past two years he's scored 28 goals while averaging 47 points and a +28 for the Canucks as his game finally caught up to his skills. Christian hit the jackpot during the offseason signing a 10 year, $40 million dollar contract to be the man on the blue line for the Sabres for the rest of his career. What that means is that Ehrhoff will get all the ice-time his body can handle. He'll man the point on the first power-play unit as well, and while the Sabres aren't as strong a club as the Canucks, there's little reason to expect a major regression in the production of Ehrhoff this season, other than in the plus/minus department.
Ed Jovanovski, Panthers
JovoCop skated for the Panthers for the first four seasons of his NHL career. The club overpaid to add him back to the mix, a reported $16.5 million over four years, and as always the key to his effort will be his ability to avoid the trainer's table. The last two years the rugged blue liner has averaged 58 games played, and last year's total of 14 points was his lowest mark since 1998. He's being asked to lead a young club with a bunch of new parts, so don't expect his plus/minus to be pretty. A 35 point, 100 PIM season is possible, but there's not much left to get excited about with the vet of 1,019 NHL games.
Tomas Kaberle, Hurricanes
Joe Corvo recorded 11 goals and 29 assists last season as one of the main cogs to the Hurricanes' power-play last season. Well, Corvo is now with the Bruins, so the 'Canes decided to bring into the fold the former Bruin in Kaberle. Getting a chance to play for former Leafs' bench boss Paul Maurice, Kaberle should fine a comfort zone that eluded him in his time in Boston. Don't overlook Tomas in the fantasy game this season. He posted 47 points last season with 25 coming on the power-play, and only once in the past six years has he failed to better that overall point total (he recorded 31 points in 57 games in 2008). He's still a power-play ace.
Old Faces, New Places - Goalies
Ilya Bryzgalov, FlyersOver the past three years Ilya started at least 63 games each year for the Coyotes, and in three of the past four years his save percentage has been at least .920. The Coyotes played a tough defensive game in front of him, but he was often left scrambling to keep the team in games as they failed to provide much offense. That should be less of an issue in Philly. Bryzgalov won 42 games with a .920 save percentage and eight shutouts just two years ago. The only reason to think that his numbers won't approach those totals this season is that the Flyers might not run him out there 70 times with youngster Sergei Bobrovsky set to serve as his understudy. Bryzgalov should still be one of the first keepers off the board on draft day.
J-S Giguere, Semyon Varlamov, Colorado
Varlamov is the young up and comer while Giguere is the seasoned vet. Varlamov owns a 30-13-12 career record as a Capital, and his ratios were sterling (2.39 GAA, .917 save percentage). Obviously the team in Colorado isn't as accomplished as the one in Washington, and that dings his value a bit. Semyon has also never been a #1 keeper in the NHL with only 59 games played in his three year career. Third, though Giguere isn't the keeper he once was, J-S is still an efficient goalie when his body doesn't betray him as it has the past couple of years. Varlamov is the keeper you want here, he'll enter the year as the club's #1 netminder and is poised to ascend the mountain, but you would be wise to see if you could grab Giguere in the waning rounds of your draft, because if the youngster falters you have to think that the coaching staff in Colorado wouldn't have a problem turning the reigns over to a former Conn Smythe winner.
Jose Theodore, Panthers
Theodore was always slated to be the main man in net for the Panthers, but his outlook improved with the knee injury suffered by Scott Clemmensen. With Clemmensen likely out for the month of October after knee surgery, Jose will be backed up by Jacob Markstrom, which means Theodore should play almost every game. He only appeared in 32 games for the Wild last year, but Theodore posted a .916 save percentage, his best mark since 2003. He's a sneaky mid round gamble who could, with substantial playing time, end up being a solid second goalies in fantasy hockey if, and it's a big if, the Panthers defense can ably support him.
Tomas Vokoun, Capitals
The Caps have one of the best clubs in hockey. This offseason they added one of the best goalies in the league to the unit. Michal Neuvirth will see ample playing time, he did go 27-12-4 last year, but Vokoun is one hell of a goalie who merely needs to continue his play from the last few years to be a fantasy superstar. Vokoun has won 30 games only twice in the last six years despite posting a save percentage of at least .919 in each of those season - a feat no other keeper can match. Moreover, amongst keeper who have appeared in at least 100 games in that time, the only goalie with a better mark is Tim Thomas (both have a .922 rate, though Thomas is slightly ahead if you extend out the decimal places). Draft Vokoun as your goalie one and you won't be disappointed.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.