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Neutral Zone Wrap: Today, Tomorrow, Never

Evan Berofsky

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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:


Today: Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo

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, Washington)

Tomorrow: Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver

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, Edmonton)

Never: Tim Thomas, Dallas

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, Minnesota)


Today: Andrew MacDonald, Philadelphia

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, Boston)

Tomorrow: Brayden McNabb, Los Angeles

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, Chicago)

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, Anaheim)


Today: Shawn Matthias, Vancouver

With the Canucks wounded down the middle (Daniel Sedin sidelined and Ryan Kesler at less than 100%), 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, St. Louis, Tuomo Ruutu, New Jersey)

Tomorrow: Brandon Pirri, Florida

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, Nashville; Andrei Loktionov, Carolina)

Never: Dustin Penner, Washington

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, Phoenix; Marcel Goc, Pittsburgh)