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Semyon Varlamov has an 8-1-0 record for the Caps this season. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Semyon Varlamov has an 8-1-0 record for the Caps this season. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NHLI via Getty Images)

Just a month-and-a-half into the fantasy hockey season and with all the surprises we’ve seen so far, poolies are using up a lot of their transactions. That’s the leading symptom of panic, but help is on the way. Let’s get to some letters!

Hey Dobber, I am in a single-season pool where we are only allowed five free agent pickups each year. In goal I have Carey Price and I’m wondering what you think of Pekka Rinne or Jon Quick? I only have two free agent moves left, but am stuck in the middle of the pack (12 teams). Are either of these guys worth enough points more than Price for the rest of this year to go out and get them?
Steve, Toronto


No, it’s not worth it. Hang onto those two moves until after Christmas if you can. Price has been playing much better lately and he’d actually have some W’s if the Habs were scoring goals in front of him.

Hi Dobber, I have heard your praise for both Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. I hold Varlamov in my 12-team keeper league and it does not look like I am going to come close to winning. Should I look at picking up Neuvirth for next season? If Jose Theodore is not signed, will these two split time? Or will it be all Varlamov? Thanks.
Dave, Ancaster, Ont.


That’s the million-dollar question. The Caps will definitely go into next season with the two kids – they are both far too good to have it any other way. Injuries and hot streaks will definitely impact this answer, but for now I believe it will be a 70/30 split in Varlamov’s favor.

A 13-team keeper pool. Regular season and playoffs. Highest two at each of LW, C, RW, D, G count. We are trying to improve our goalie situation. We have Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), Chris Mason (STL), and Jaroslav Halak (MTL). Lots of questions:
1. What odds do you give St. Louis to make the playoffs?
2. Antero Niittymaki (TB) is available as an FA, should we drop a RW to get him? (RW: Alexander Semin, Loui Eriksson, Bill Guerin, Kyle Okposo)
3. We might offer Semin and Halak to get St-Louis and Brodeur.
4. What if they counter with only St-Louis and Turco?
5. Do you have any far-off guesses with who might be the goalie for Philadelphia in 2010-11?
Cale, Atlanta


1. Before the season I would have said 95 percent. With this rough start, combined with Colorado making a surprise charge, I have to take that down to about 45 percent.
2. No. Keeping Semin and Eriksson is a no-brainer and you may need Guerin for the playoffs. Okposo is a great long-term keeper.
3. Yes – that would be a good deal; lots of gas in St-Louis’ tank.
4. That would be fine as well – solves your goalie problems and gives you a great replacement for Semin who, let’s face it, is a Band-Aid Boy.
5. I do – Ray Emery. They’ll re-sign him.

Hello Dobber, I have Claude Giroux in my league and am wondering if David Perron, Mike Fisher, Evander Kane or Mikhail Grabovski will produce more points this season? I have used half of my 10 drops. Would you make the switch for someone like Perron or do you think Giroux will pick it up?
Jose, Melbourne, Australia


I would hang onto Giroux. At worst he’ll be within a dozen points of the players you listed. But what really makes this a straightforward decision is the fact you have already used half of your drops. Save them for when you need them.

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Hey Dobber, I am in a H2H one-year league. I recently picked up Dennis Wideman. Is he going to rebound after his terrible start? Should I swap Wideman for Braydon Coburn, James Wisniewski, or Stephane Robidas? I also dropped Paul Kariya for Tomas Fleischmann, was this the right choice? Will Kariya have a great second half?
Allen, Vancouver


Hey Allen, I think Wideman was playing over his head last season. That being said, I think he’s currently playing well below his potential. I think he should fit in that 42- to 46-point range, so, yes, you can expect a rebound and that definitely puts him ahead of Robidas.

As for Kariya, I am happy to see he is – finally – back on the St. Louis power play, but he has been completely snake-bitten. It’s hard for me to believe he’s washed up already, so I do expect a big improvement over the next 60 games. However, taking Fleischmann over Kariya was the right move because ‘Flash’ is going to have a breakthrough campaign.

Would you drop Tomas Plekanec and pickup James van Riemsdyk in a straight-up points pool?
Trevor, Coaldale, Alta.


I sure would. In both a one-year and a keeper league I would do that swap.

Hey Dobber, In last week's Fantasy Mailbag, Tomas Plekanec was listed three times by GM's posting on who to pick up from their respective FA lists. You did not recommend him once! Why is that? So far, he has been on fire with 19 points in 21 games! Also, what is with all the talk surrounding Jamie Benn? He is nothing compared to James Neal! Plekanec and Neal have me sitting atop my league, so what is your issue with both players?
Evan, Oshawa, Ont.


Hey Evan, nice observation! First, Plekanec: I didn’t believe his 69-point 2007-08 season was the real deal. That was about where I had his career upside and couldn’t believe he reached it so early in his career. Last season, he swung the opposite way and went far too low (39 points). At this stage, despite the hot start, I think he should be in that 60-65 range. If I recommend a different player it is because that player’s range is either higher or his potential is higher and his current range is close enough to Plekanec’s.

Regarding Neal: he is awesome and I am a big fan. In 20 years, when you look back on the careers of these two future stars, my guess is Benn’s average point totals during his 10 most productive seasons will top Neal’s by between five and 10.

Note regarding the Fantasy Mailbag – it is important to indicate whether or not your league is a keeper league or a one-year league. Also note whether the league is “points only,” “standard roto league,” or if there are any uncommon rules that are important to know. This will help in advising you on the right course of action.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Mailbag will appear every Wednesday throughout the season. To send the Dobber your question, click HERE.

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