Hope you all are having a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and/or joyful end to 2011! My gift to you this year is, well, the same Waiver Wired report I would have written anyways, but hey, it’s the thought that counts right?
Before I go any further, a number of you might see Martin Havlat get dumped in your fantasy league, if you haven’t already. After all, he’s been disappointing this season and he’ll be gone for the next six-to-eight weeks due to a torn hamstring. That’s an awfully long time to wait on a player this deep into the season, but if you’re in a head-to-head league, you should give serious thought to picking Havlat up anyways. Odds are, even if he returns in six weeks, he’ll need about a week or so to shake off the rust, but, depending on your league’s rules of course, he should be back to his old productive self in time for the start of your league’s playoffs. That’s potentially a big boost at a critical time of the fantasy season.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere-G-Colorado Avalanche
The still developing Colorado Avalanche took a huge risk when they decided to surrender their 2012 first round pick and a second rounder in 2012 or 2013 for goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Fortunately, that’s not the not the only move they made over the off-season. While Varlamov hasn’t provided them with immediate dividends, Giguere has excelled with a 1.79 GAA and .934 save percentage in 14 games. Colorado would no doubt rather have Varlamov serve as their starting goaltender, but winning takes precedence, especially when you don’t control your first round pick. Giguere has shown that he provides the Avalanche with the best chance to win and we expect the two to at least split the goaltending duties moving forward.
Rich Peverley-C-Boston Bruins
We’ll admit the timing on this recommendation might seem a little weird, given that Peverley missed Friday’s game with an undisclosed ailment, but there’s a good chance he’ll return on Wednesday and if we wait much longer, he might not be available in most leagues. Rich Peverley was a late bloomer when he started to really make his mark in the NHL during the 2008-09 season at the age of 26. He’s now 29, but he’s a good bet to top his previous career-high of 55 points in 82 games. He has 21 points in his last 20 games and while he often plays on what is technically the Bruins’ third line, that distinction holds less weight when you factor in that he’s fourth among Bruins’ forward with an average of 16:59 minutes per game. Peverley is also third behind only Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron in power-play minutes per game. We don’t expect him to continue his current pace, but we do think he can surpass the 60-point mark this season.
Chris Kunitz-LW-Pittsburgh Penguins
Kunitz is another one of those guys that hasn’t really gotten better, he’s just gotten healthier. Kunitz has been limited to 116 of a possible 164 regular season contests over the Pittsburgh’s previous two campaigns, but he’s managed to avoid the injury bug that’s spread like wildfire in the Penguins’ locker room this season. When Kunitz is healthy, he’s a solid addition to almost any team, especially given his LW eligibility. However, if there’s one thing that has changed about Kunitz this season, it’s his eagerness to throw the puck at the net. He’s recorded 106 shots on goal in 35 games, which is enough to put him in a tie for 30th place. Considering he only got 133 shots in 66 contests last season, that’s a huge jump and a very noteworthy bonus for anyone playing in a league that uses that category.
Blake Wheeler-RW-Winnipeg Jets
Wheeler got off to a slow start this season, but he’s bounced back with 18 points in his last 17 games. At first it looked like Bryan Little was the difference maker. After all, nine of Wheeler’s 12 points from November 17th to December 13th were either assists off of Little goals or times that Little got the primary assist on a Wheeler goal. However, what’s really encouraged us is how Wheeler has done since Little went down with a foot injury during the Jets game on December 17th. Wheeler has two goals and four points in the three games that Little has missed while recently playing with Alex Burmistrov and Evander Kane. Wheeler also leads the Jets with a plus-10 rating this season. He’s not the safest bet out there, but he’s certainly worth taking a chance on, especially while he’s hot.
As a side note: Aside from being on this list, do you know what distinction Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Rich Peverley, Chris Kunitz, and Blake Wheeler all share? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not exactly something pleasant. I’ll let you see if you can figure it out on your own, but if you can’t or just want confirmation, I’ll post the answer on twitter in a day or two.
Kyle Turris-C-Ottawa Senators
When the Senators first acquired Turris, we weren’t ready to recommend picking him up. We still consider him a big risk, but at this point, we’re willing to roll the dice on him if the price is just a waiver wire pickup. There are a couple reasons for that. First and most obvious, he has registered an assist in all three of his games with Ottawa while posting a plus-three rating. Ottawa played those three games over the course of just four days, so we’ll take it as a decent indication that he’s not rusty despite having missed the first two months of the season. The other reason is that he logged 16:10 minutes in his debut, 17:21 minutes in game two, and 18:22 minutes on Friday. When talking about the Turris trade, the obvious comparison is Nikita Filatov, because Filatov is another young, promising, but thus far disappointing prospect that the Senators acquired. Filatov didn’t succeed in Ottawa this season, but he also never got this good of an opportunity. Filatov never got more than 15:07 minutes in a single game and he averaged just 9:49 minutes per contest with the Senators. Ottawa spent more to get Turris and it looks like they hold him in much higher regard. He’s being given every opportunity to succeed and after being given the fresh start he wanted, Turris might finally start to live up to the hype that’s surrounded him.
Carl Hagelin-LW-New York Rangers
Hagelin is someone only particularly active fantasy owners should pick up right now. Those are comfortable grabbing a player and then dumping him a few games later if things don’t go your way. Hagelin is a high-risk/high-reward player who has gone cold after starting his NHL career with a four-game point streak. Despite that, he’s been playing on a line with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan recently and he’s logged between 14:31 and 16:49 minutes of playing time in each of his last five contests. If he gets comfortable with Callahan and Richards, he could average 0.6-0.8 points per game going forward, but there’s also a very real chance that he’ll end up being dropped back to one of the bottom two lines. If you’re not comfortable taking that chance, we still recommend keeping a close eye on him.