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Fantasy Mailbag: Take your pick, E. Staal or Lupul?

by Pete Jensen fantasy insider Pete Jensen has you covered all season long with the weekly Fantasy Hockey Mailbag. The most compelling questions posed each week will be answered in an effort to provide you with the best chance to succeed in your particular league.

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is in a keeper league that factors in goals, assists, plus-minus, PPP, SHP and GWG. He can retain four keepers from his current squad for next season. He is planning on keeping Corey Perry, Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews, and Jonas Hiller, but is wondering if it would be worth the risk to instead keep Joffrey Lupul over one of those four players.

Staal and Lupul are having very different seasons based on the context of their careers, but hold similar value as point-producing forwards entering next season. I would agree that Perry, Toews and Hiller are untouchable keepers. Toews has missed 11 straight games with a concussion, but is a top-five fantasy skater when healthy and is nearing a return as the Chicago Blackhawks gear up for the playoffs. Hiller and Perry were simply not themselves early on this season, but have shown positive signs of production recovery over the past two months. With a clean slate to work with, each should be in line for a bounce-back season.

Lupul, who is currently out with a separated shoulder, is in the midst of a career year despite the Toronto Maple Leafs being in position to miss the playoffs for the seventh straight season.
Joffrey Lupul
Left Wing - TOR
GOALS: 25 | ASST: 42 | PTS: 67
SOG: 191 | +/-: 1
With 12 games remaining in the regular season, Lupul has already surpassed 100 hits and is three goals away from reaching the highest single-season goal total of his career. What's more, he's tied for 11th in the NHL in both assists and points -- shattering his previous career bests in both categories. Staal is on pace with Lupul as a distributor this season, but has dropped off substantially in goal-scoring from his career average (32) entering the season. Staal will likely eclipse 250 shots on goal by season's end, but he has the baggage of one of the worst ratings in the NHL (minus-18). On a positive note, Staal showcased his capabilities with a 12-game point streak spanning from Feb. 8 to March 6.

In short, it would be in your best interest to keep Lupul over Staal. The plus-minus is a red flag with Staal, along with the difficulty in store for Carolina to bounce back from this disappointing season. Toronto has a phenomenal top line in place with Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel, with only a need of stability in net moving forward. Carolina, meanwhile, has struggled on both ends of the ice, so Staal's value could take a hit if his team's woes carry over into next season. Both are strong on the power play, with each forward seeing well over three minutes of action on the man advantage per game. There's no question that it's a tough call to choose between the two, but Lupul has put up great all-around numbers this season with dual-eligibility (LW/RW), distinguishing him as the more valuable keeper pick at this time.

DANIEL FROM TORONTO is in a 12-person head-to-head league that counts goals, assists, plus-minus, PPP, SOG and GWG. He owns Sidney Crosby and wants to activate him off IR before his return to the lineup. His forwards include Alex Ovechkin, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Brad Richards, Dustin Brown, Andrew Ladd, Alex Tanguay, Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Henrique and Derek Roy. He needs to drop a forward, and plans to part ways with Roy, Ladd or Henrique.
With Crosby set to return Thursday on a big stage against the New York Rangers, it’s important that you get him in the lineup as soon as possible, judging by the explosiveness he displayed in his last return from injury on Nov. 21, when he reeled off 2 goals and 4 points against the New York Islanders. It’s no secret Crosby could give your team an incredible lift from a fantasy standpoint despite his absence since Dec. 5, but by inserting him into your lineup, it’s also just as crucial to make sure you hang on to as many assets as possible to give your team its best chance at a fantasy title. Position eligibility should be a
Adam Henrique
Center - NJD
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 31 | PTS: 46
SOG: 111 | +/-: 10
major factor in this decision, mainly because Crosby is a center. Ladd (LW eligible / owned in 56 percent of Yahoo! leagues) scored twice Wednesday as the Winnipeg Jets snapped the Dallas Stars’ win streak, and has accumulated 7 goals and 6 assists over his last 11 games. The Jets are still vying for a playoff spot, so Ladd should be a mainstay on your roster, as he should post strong point and shot totals during the final weeks of the season.

As far as Henrique and Roy, age should come into play regardless of whether or not your league has a keeper format. Henrique (C eligible, 28 percent) leads all NHL rookies with 31 assists and is tied for the lead in points among first-year players (46) with Gabriel Landeskog. He's a fundamentally sound player with center eligibility, and has posted a plus-10 rating this season. He may be mired in a 13-game goalless drought and hasn’t been much of a factor on the power play, but his ability to mesh with his star linemates, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, makes him a reliable option for any fantasy team. Roy (C eligible, 52 percent), meanwhile, is 28 and has shifted lines all season long for the Buffalo Sabres. He's back on the team’s primary line with Thomas Vanek and All-Star Jason Pominville, but is leaving something to be desired as of late. Many believed Buffalo’s trade for Cody Hodgson would impact Roy’s value, but neither player has seen a boost in production since the deal. Hodgson has not registered a point in nine games since coming over from Vancouver, and Roy has continued to slump, posting only 1 goal and 2 assists since the swap. Both Henrique and Roy are top-line players, but with youth on his side and a more explosive offense around him, the Devils’ rookie has to be the guy you keep for depth on your roster behind Crosby, Getzlaf and Richards.

BEN FROM DELTA, BRITISH COLUMBIA has seven defensemen on his roster: Shea Weber, Victor Hedman, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Hamhuis and Matt Niskanen. He's looking to identify his roster's least valuable blueliner and drop him in favor of either Chris Neil or Colin Wilson. His roster is set from a point-production standpoint, so he's in need of plus-minus, hits, shots and blocked shots.

The best move here would be for you to drop Ehrhoff and add Neil, who would address your need of hits. Keeping Niskanen means you retain a player who has posted more than twice as many hits as Ehrhoff,
Matt Niskanen
Defense - PIT
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 20
SOG: 111 | +/-: 9
while staying in the vicinity of Ehrhoff's pace in both shots on goal and blocked shots. The Sabres blueliner may have 10 more points in the comparison, but Niskanen has logged over 21 minutes of ice time in each of his last three games, and also scored a goal in the Penguins' win over the Boston Bruins on Sunday. Ehrhoff, meanwhile, has posted a negative rating compared to Niskanen's plus-9 mark, while struggling from a goal-scoring standpoint with only 1 goal over his last 18 games for Buffalo.

As far as the other comparison, Neil's point total, shot output and rating may take a slight back seat to that of Wilson, but the Ottawa winger's performance in hits (third in NHL) and PIMs (13th) this season has been nothing short of sensational. Having a player to complement your point-producers with strong outputs in these categories can prove to be invaluable come playoff time.

RYAN FROM TORONTO is in a keeper league and is in the process of determining which players to retain next season. Out of the following six players, he can keep three: Jamie Benn, Teemu Selanne, Marian Hossa, Nicklas Lidstrom, Joe Thornton, and Patrice Bergeron. His league categorizes goals, assists, plus-minus, PIMs, PPP, SHG, GWG)

First off, Jamie Benn and Marian Hossa have posted All-Star seasons for Dallas and Chicago, respectively, and are sure-fire keeper picks in most fantasy leagues. Both have maintained their point-production all season long, and their recent stretches have been no exception as Benn has 4 goals and 3 assists over his last eight games, while Hossa has posted 3 goals and 7 assists in the same span. Concerning Teemu Selanne and Nicklas Lidstrom, their ability will never be questioned, but with each competing at age 41, there's always the looming concern of whether they will be back next season. It's especially enticing to
Patrice Bergeron
Center - BOS
GOALS: 19 | ASST: 36 | PTS: 55
SOG: 167 | +/-: 32
consider Selanne with him posting another 60-point season after notching goals in consecutive games to reach 1,400 points for his career. However, with both of these aging stars, it is simply not a sure thing to select them as fantasy keepers.

So that narrows the selection down to two centers, Sharks' top-liner Thornton and Bruins' secondary force Bergeron. Personally, Bergeron would be my pick, since he has the best plus-minus in the NHL and musters strong point production as well. Both Thornton and Bergeron play for star-studded rosters, but the Bruins stand out -- even through their recent struggles -- as a deep squad that should continue to enable him to post a stellar plus-minus. Thornton has the slight edge with PPP and is third in the League in assists (51), but with the Sharks sinking in the standings over the past month, it draws a concern for Thornton's value moving forward. Bergeron is still only 26 and has his best days ahead of him, while Thornton, despite remaining a premier distributor, is 32 and may never be the dominant goal-scorer he once was. Your best bets as keepers would be Benn, Hossa and Bergeron.

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