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.
(Originally posted by The Hockey News, ESPN.com and MSN.ca)
New York Rangers
Gone – Michal Nylander, Karel Rachunek, Matt Cullen, Kevin Weekes, Jed Ortmeyer and Brad Isbister.
Arriving – Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Andrew Hutchinson.
Looking to Add - The Rangers may want a checking center, but for the most part they are focused on re-signing Sean Avery and Marcel Hossa, both of whom looked fantastic in the latter half of last season.
Ready for full-time - There are several players to look at here. Ryan Callahan has earned a full-time roll with his fantastic play at the end of last season and in the playoffs. He also makes an excellent dark horse.
Nigel Dawes made the team out of training camp, but couldn’t get into the lineup and was eventually sent down. He bounced back in the American League with a strong season and he will get another look.
The team signed Artem Anisimov to an entry-level deal. He is likely not ready, but will get a look nonetheless.
Finally, Alexei Cherepanov is ready to play in the NHL right away. His arrival would push Dawes and Anisimov back to the minors. However, indications are that he will remain in Russia for one more year in the RSL.
Fantasy Outlook - On one hand, it’s worrisome that Jaromir Jagr will lose his pivot (Nylander). He doesn’t react well to change that he doesn’t like. On the other hand, Gomez and Drury make a nice upgrade. The team is better than they were a year ago and they have a lot of promising kids. They could go a couple of rounds in the playoffs, too.
Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B)
New York Islanders
Gone – Ryan Smyth, Jason Blake, Alexei Yashin, Tom Poti, Mike Dunham, Viktor Kozlov, Randy Robitaille, Andy Hilbert (they didn’t qualify him, but may still re-sign him).
Arriving – Mike Comrie, Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko, Sean Bergenheim and Jon Sim.
Looking to Add - This team needs an elite player, at any position they can get him. There really isn’t one out there on the free agent market, so if they do add a player it will be done via trade. They have a lot of cap space.
Ready for full-time - Bergenheim over-estimated his worth last year and when the Isles wouldn’t budge on a contract, he went back to Europe. This time around, he meekly signed a contract that players with 46 games of NHL experience are worth and he is back on board. Given the depth on the wing on this team, he’ll have a pile of ice time and could surprise.
Fantasy Outlook - The Isles are starting to get a sense of direction. A little. It seems that they are going to rebuild, while relying on coach Ted Nolan and a free agent here or there to keep them in playoff contention. The problem is, their prospects aren’t the greatest and they gave up their good picks for this past draft to rent Ryan Smyth.
Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was C-)