07 April 2006: Simon Gagne of the Philadelphia Flyers during the game versus the Buffalo Sabres at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo, NY. The Flyers defeated the Sabres 4 - 2.

As NHL keeper 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.

 

(also posted at thehockeynews.com, espn.com and msn.ca) 

 

 

Philadelphia Flyers

Gone Mike York, Robert Esche, Todd Fedoruk, Joni Pitkanen, Geoff Sanderson

Arriving Jason Smith, Joffrey Lupul, Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timonen, Daniel Briere…not to mention the late-season acquisitions of Scottie Upshall, Martin Biron and Braydon Coburn.

Looking to Add - The Flyers have done everything they wanted to and are ready to roll now.

Ready for full-time - Coburn is finally going to have a full-time job as the No. 2 man on the power play and he will learn under the tutelage of Timonen, Nashville’s captain last season. Steve Downie, a future energy winger who will eventually play on the second line, has a shot at a fourth-line spot.

Fantasy Outlook - My, how things have changed. With a top line of Briere, Mike Knuble and Simon Gagne followed by a second line of Jeff Carter, Hartnell and Upshall, this team is set up to be an offensive force.

Briere will boost Gagne’s numbers right back up into the 80s.

With Mike Richards, Lupul and Sami Kapanen manning the third line, the team will be tough to contain.

Defensively, with Derian Hatcher, Denis Gauthier and Smith keeping the opposition honest, goalie Biron should flourish.

Don’t count out backup Antero Niittymaki either. He is now fully healthy and is an excellent fill-in if Biron gets hurt.

A young, dynamic team on the rise.

Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B- and at one point they probably slipped as low as a D over the course of the season)

Ottawa Senators

Gone Mike Comrie and Tom Preissing

Arriving – (insert sound of crickets chirping here)

Looking to Add - As always, the Sens are looking to upgrade their second line. However, they will be unable to do so unless they can relieve some cap pressure. Goaltender Martin Gerber and defenseman Wade Redden are both mentioned heavily in trade rumors, but don’t look for a trade to happen. This team is probably going to stay put.

Ready for full-time - The loss of Preissing opens up a spot and Brian Lee – arguably Ottawa’s top prospect – is signed and hungry for an NHL job. Lee will be brought along slowly, but eventually he could be the No. 2 guy on the power play.

Fantasy Outlook - Don’t count the Sens out in any way. This is essentially the same team that made it to the Cup final in the spring with a new coaching philosophy.

Their Big 3 will continue to produce, while Oleg Saprykin and Patrick Eaves will see more ice time with the departure of Comrie.

However, the pipeline is pretty dry in terms of offensive prospects and the Sens will likely lose some key UFAs next summer.

Fantasy Grade: C+ (last year was B)


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