As keeper league hockey pools increase in number each year, fantasy junkies become more active in the off-season as they prepare their team for the coming year. Rebuild? Retool? Tweak? Whatever your intentions, it helps to get all the information you can about your players.
Throughout the off-season, FPL will look at a pair of teams each week and give you the fantasy lowdown. Bucking the trend of past years, we will review alphabetically – in reverse. Just to be different.
(This article was originally submitted to and published by The Hockey News, ESPN.com and MSN.ca)
Potential UFA’s – Nils Ekman, Ron Petrovicky, Rob Scuderi, Jocelyn Thibault, Josef Melichar, Joel Kwiatkowski, Michel Ouellet
Potential RFA’s – Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Maxime Talbot, Ryan Whitney.
Looking to Add - The team is still in need of wingers to complement three of the best pivots in the game in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. Recchi and Roberts will likely be re-signed and partnered with Crosby or Malkin. Ouellet, Armstrong and Christensen have all shown flashes of talent on one of the big lines, but the team would benefit most by adding a legitimate sniper or two.
Ready for full-time - Nolan Schaefer is ready to step in and be the backup for Marc-Andre Fleury. Kris Letang is also ready and will inherit a top-two position when Sergei Gonchar’s contract runs out. For the next two seasons, expect Letang to tally somewhere between the high 20s to high 30s.
Fantasy Outlook - I warned you last year. Anyone who has been reading the FPL column for long knows how I feel about this Pittsburgh team from a fantasy perspective. Last year I said if you did not pick up Pens immediately, it would soon be next to impossible. That time is now. Try picking up a Penguin from a keeper-league owner, I dare you. This team is all offense, all the time. The players are young and only getting better. Very soon they will be playoff assets, as well. Any winger who joins the Pens could turn into instant gold, simply by being placed on the right line. There is no team in the NHL to build your keeper squad around more than this one.
Fantasy Grade: A+ (last year was A- )
Potential UFA’s – Owen Nolan, Curtis Joseph, Mike Ricci, Jeremy Roenick, Jeff Taffe
Potential RFA’s – Keith Ballard, Brendan Bell, Josh Gratton, Matt Jones, Bill Thomas
Looking to Add - The Coyotes desperately need a goaltender. Curtis Joseph will probably not be back and David LeNeveu has shown that he is just not ready. Mikael Tellqvist has really stepped up, but he is best suited as a 1A goaltender rather than an out-and-out No. 1 guy. The team may kick some tires for goalies, but what you may end up seeing is Tellqvist as the No. 1 and Josh Tordjman as his backup.
Tordjman thoroughly outplayed LeNeveu when he made the jump from the East Coast League to the American League last season. He will be worth keeping an eye on if he only has Tellqvist ahead of him on the depth chart. The team also could use an elite winger or two, but are more focused on rebuilding for the time being.
Ready for full-time - Peter Mueller will be on this team next season and will be a Calder candidate. The big center may even step right onto the top line. As stated above, Tordjman could also sneak on the roster as the backup. Martin Hanzal, another big, skilled center, also has a shot. Alexei Kaigorodov and Enver Lisin will also return from their ‘flight’ to Russia and take another stab at the NHL.
Fantasy Outlook - Finally, the Coyotes seem to be headed in a direction. Any direction. Yes, they are rebuilding, but it looks like they are doing it right. New GM Don Maloney will keep them on the right path. It will just be a couple more years before they pay heavy fantasy dividends.
Fantasy Grade: C+ (last year was C+)