With the trade deadline looming, no team wants to get burned the way the Oilers did when they overpaid for 19 games of Sergei Samsonov’s service in 2006.
The trade deadline (it’s Wednesday, so mark your calendar) can be great for fantasy teams, since sometimes a player just needs a change of scenery or a different situation to blossom. Sadly, trades often turn solid players into total duds. It seems that for every Joe Thornton to San Jose there’s a Sergei Samsonov to Edmonton. That’s just the way it is.
The first big deadline deal was Penguin defenseman Ryan Whitney to Anaheim for forwards Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi (a minor leaguer). Whitney missed the start of the season and never really found a rhythm. After putting up almost 100 points in the last two seasons, he has just two goals and 11 assists so far this year. A less prominent role in Anaheim might actually open up his game, although I’m not sure I would necessarily dump a successful player for Whitney. At least not yet. Kunitz has basically been a 20-goal scorer his entire career, but he already had accumulated 16 goals and 19 assists for the Ducks this season. If he winds up on a line with Sidney Crosby, which is expected, he could presumably end the season with 30 goals. He’s definitely worth a look if he’s available.
Of course, trades aren’t the only agent of change in the NHL. There are a lot of factors. For instance, the return of goalie Martin Brodeur to the Devils sent shockwaves through the fantasy world, as Scott Clemmensen, who filled in ably for Brodeur and as a fantasy goalie (2.39 goals against, .917 save percentage) was unceremoniously sent down to the AHL, ruining not just Clemmensen’s day, but also many rosters. Brodeur put up a shutout his first game back, so if he’s still available, you might want to mirror real life and use him to replace Clemmensen.
A new coach can also be a huge change. For instance, earlier this week the New York Rangers fired coach Tom Renney and hired coach John Tortorella. If you have any Rangers on your roster, you know they’re not scoring, which was a symptom of Renney’s hyperdefensive style. Now, with Tortorella, you can expect a much more aggressive, uptempo style with important players getting major minutes. Fantasy duds like Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, and Nikolai Zherdev might actually start performing. It won’t be instantaneous, but it’s worth keeping an eye on these guys to see how they do under Tortorella. And while you’re doing that, keep an eye on goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who should see a lot more action now that the guys in front of him won’t be playing five men back the entire game. His numbers might suffer because of it.
According to ESPN, Boston’s David Krejci, the NHL’s +/- leader, isn’t universally owned across leagues, so if he’s available, you need to grab him and his 20 goals and 39 assists.
Another guy that might not be owned is Jason Arnott, who, after potting two goals and an assist in the last two games, is on pace for his first 30-goal season as a Predator. He ripped home the game-winner Thursday as Nashville improved its playoff chances with a third straight win. The Preds are in 11th place in the West, but are just one point behind the Minnesota/Dallas/Edmonton/Anaheim logjam who are all tied with 65 points.
The Week Ahead
- Saturday, Anaheim plays Dallas, as the two teams fight to remain in the playoff picture. Anaheim is hoping Whitney will help, but it might need to make a few other moves to firm up a playoff position.
- Monday, the Avs play the Islanders. It just doesn’t seem fair that those teams have to play each other. It’s like making two sick chickens fight each other.
- Thursday, Pittsburgh plays Florida. The Eastern Conference playoff picture is so crowded, games like this — between teams that are so close together in the standings — are huge. So if you want to keep Crosby out of the playoffs, tune in and wish hard.