As keeper league 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, we 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 submitted to and posted by The Hockey News, ESPN.com and MSN.ca on July 25)
New Jersey Devils
Gone – Scott Gomez, Brian Rafalski, Erik Rasmussen, Scott Clemmensen and Jim Dowd.
Arriving – Dainius Zubrus, Karel Rachunek, Jari Viuhkola and Kevin Weekes.
Looking to Add - The Devils still need a power play quarterback, as both Paul Martin and newcomer Rachunek both proved that they weren’t ready for the task last season. However, the free agent well is pretty much empty in that category, unless they take a chance on Bryan Berard and his ailing back.
Ready for full-time - David Clarkson is ready to step onto this team. If he cracks the squad, he’ll take ice time (and perhaps a roster spot) from Cam Janssen. His forte – for fantasy hockey leagues – is penalty minutes and lots of them. Viuhkola was one of the best set-up men in the Finnish League last season. With the Devils, he’ll chip in 13 or 14 minutes per game and post 35 to 40 points this season.
Fantasy Outlook - This team may recover from the loss of Gomez, however they will not recover from the loss of Rafalski. New Jersey is not as good as they were a year ago and their future only looks average at best. Zubrus is no Gomez, so don’t think for a second that he’ll get the same points that he posted on a line with Alexander Ovechkin last season. No, Gomez will be replaced by an emerging Zach Parise, who is ready to become a go-to guy.
The acquisition of goaltender Kevin Weekes is a signal the Devils are ready to finally lessen Martin Brodeur’s workload. While Brodeur should still approach 40 wins, his record 48 victories last season will be more than safe as his starts get rolled back to 70 or even 65.
Fantasy Grade: C (last year was C+)
Gone – Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Peter Forsberg, Paul Kariya and Tomas Vokoun.
Arriving – Radek Bonk, Jed Ortmeyer, Greg de Vries and Dan Ellis.
Looking to Add - The Preds need approximately $1.5 million tacked onto their payroll in order for them to reach the NHL salary floor. A trade or one more unrestricted free agent signing will happen before the end of training camp. To address what need? Couldn’t even hazard a guess…the team is still quite solid in all areas.
Ready for full-time - Besides future star Alexander Radulov and current pain-in-the-neck Jordin Tootoo finally getting a lot more ice time, the door is open for Dan Ellis to seize the backup role. Pekka Rinne’s two-year contract is one-way in 2008-09 but this year it is two-way, so Ellis could beat him out in camp. He is coming off an inconsistent season in the American League, but prior to that was money in the bank on that circuit.
Fantasy Outlook - When you look at the star-studded list that adorns the “gone” section, it is hard to imagine the Predators icing a decent team. But I have news for you – they will. Chris Mason was every bit as good as Vokoun was last campaign, if not better. Radulov alone will make up for a lot of the offense that left the team via free agency, while stud defender Shea Weber is ready for the next step. Nashville also has a few bright lights in their system, so the future – on the ice, anyway – looks fairly decent. They’ll still make the playoffs and likely finish in the top five.
Fantasy Grade: B (last year was A+)