We’re just a few weeks from the trade deadline and this could be a big one. Although some teams will end up being neither buyers nor sellers, it’s worth noting that generally franchises have more flexibility when it comes to trading players than ever before. The new CBA allows teams to keep some of a player’s salary/cap hit when they part ways and it will be interesting to see how that impacts things and if we end up with more teams capable of taking on major players from struggling squads with big salaries.
Such moves are likely to alter many players’ fantasy values, but for now, let’s take a look at some of the moves you can make in the calm before the potential storm…
Justin Peters (G – Carolina Hurricanes) – When Peters was called up after Cam Ward sprained his MCL, it was assumed he would serve as Dan Ellis’ understudy. However, Peters took advantage of an illness to Ellis early on and now has a 2.35 GAA and .926 save percentage in three starts. Peters will turn 27 in August, so it would be a bit of a stretch to call him a prospect, but he has been solid in the minors and in brief past NHL stints. Carolina is a strong team offensively this season, so it’s worth it to grab Peters and see if he’ll end up splitting the goaltending duties evenly with Ellis during Ward’s absence.
Joffrey Lupul (LW/RW – Toronto Maple Leafs) – Lupul is a bit of a special case. He’s owned in 49% of Yahoo! leagues, which makes him more popular than the guys I typically like to feature in this column. However, I consider Lupul a special case because he really should be owned in just about every standard league, so if he’s floating around in the free agent market, now is the time to grab him. At the time of writing, he’s probable for Saturday’s game after missing nearly two months with an arm injury. Even if he doesn’t end up playing on Saturday, he should return very soon. Lupul had 67 points in 66 games last season, in part because the Leafs gave him a chance to play on their top line with Phil Kessel. The fact that they felt Lupul was worthy of a five-year, $26.25 million extension suggests he’s going to continue to get plenty of ice time in Toronto. Don’t hesitate to take a chance on him as he could give you a nice boost at the end of the season. And if you do already own him and are like me, who likes to pick up a new player to stash your IR slot before you’re forced to activate the current occupant, I suggest Vladimir Tarasenko if he’s available. He’s concussed, but the reports lately have been very encouraging.
Brent Burns (D – San Jose Sharks) – Here’s an even bigger head scratcher for me: Burns is only owned in 30% of Yahoo! leagues. Granted, Burns has missed significant parts of this season, but he’s healthy now – and playing as a forward! Let’s put it this way: If the Sharks move him to back to the blueline, he’ll be one of the better offensive defensemen in the league now that he’s healthy. If he gets to continue playing as a forward while retaining eligibility as a defenseman, he’s a steal.
Brad Boyes (C/RW – New York Islanders) – At this point, Boyes has to be one of the best overlooked players out there. He’s only owned in 19% of Yahoo! Leagues, despite having seven goals and 23 points in 27 games. It’s not hard to see why that is. Most people have forgotten his success in St. Louis and remember his disastrous 2011-12 campaign with the Buffalo Sabres. However, the Islanders have a knack for giving deserving forwards an opportunity to shine and Boyes is the latest to reward that trust. He’s been given playing time with John Tavares and that’s helped his resurgence. If you’ve been scared to pick him up because you assume he’ll eventually cool off, don’t be.
Adam Henrique (C – New Jersey Devils) – The Devils needed Adam Henrique to be a big part of their offense this season and for the most part, he hasn’t let them down. He has nine goals and 13 points in 23 games, which are solid, but not glowing numbers, hence the fact that he’s only owned in 21% of Yahoo! leagues. However, his point-per-game rate has been dragged down by a terrible stretch in late February that corresponded with the worst of the Devils’ slump (he had just one point in eight games). He’s bounced back in a big way with five goals and six points in eight games this month. He’s worth taking as a short-term option if nothing else, but it certainly wouldn’t be shocking if he ends up recording 0.7-0.8 points per game for the rest of the season as the Devils battle fiercely for a playoff spot and positioning.
Andrew Cogliano (C/LW – Anaheim Ducks) – Cogliano scored 18 goals and 45 points in 82 as a rookie and from a purely fantasy production perspective, his career has been a largely downhill slope ever since. This year, though, he’s one of the causes of the Anaheim Ducks’ success. He has 10 goals, 17 points, and a plus-15 rating in 26 games this season and his numbers look even better in March (five goals, eight points, plus-nine in eight contests). You can’t count on him maintaining his season point-per-game pace, let alone his March level of production. Still, if you like to take a chance on guys who are riding a hot streak, you won’t find many available who have done better than Cogliano lately.
Jake Muzzin (D – Los Angeles Kings) – The Kings gave Muzzin a shot this season and he’s been running with it. Muzzin has five goals and 11 points in 23 games, with eight of those points coming this month. At worst, he’s a hot defenseman to take a chance on as a short-term pickup, but it’s worth remembering Muzzin put up solid numbers in the minors as well. He’s also averaging a respectable 2:09 power-play minutes per game with the Kings, making him someone you might end up hanging onto for the remainder of the season.
Lars Eller (C – Montreal Canadiens) – As the season progresses, the Montreal Canadiens have been putting more and more faith in Eller. He’s averaged 12:21, 14:17, and 16:17 minutes per game in January, February, and March, respectively. In turn, he’s rewarded the Canadiens with increased production, especially in March, when he’s scored two goals and six points in seven games. Eller is the type of player who will also provide you with a moderate number of PIMs, and – thanks to the Canadiens’ overall success – a solid plus/minus rating. So while we don’t expect him to get much more than 0.6 points per game for the rest of the season, he will still have some use to fantasy owners looking for a well-rounded forward.
Devin Setoguchi (RW – Minnesota Wild) – Setoguchi couldn’t have gotten off to a worse of a start this season. He had just two assists in his first 10 games and spent some time on the fourth line as a result. However, he’s put that behind him and for the first time in years, he’s living up to expectations with seven goals and 12 points in his last 16 contests. He’s been sharp for long enough now that we feel it’s worth taking a shot on him in the hope that he’ll provide you about 0.6 to 0.7 points per game for the rest of the season with half of them being goals. Just keep in mind he’s unlikely to get much playing time with the Wild’s big three of Dany Heatley, Zach Parise, and Mikko Koivu.
Patrick Wiercioch (D – Ottawa Senators) – Wiercioch is more of a mention for deeper leagues and particularly keeper leagues. He has quietly put up three goals and nine points in 23 games as a rookie. That comes after recording a strong 10 goals and 19 points in 32 AHL contests. Wiercioch also isn’t afraid to fire the puck, as evidenced by his 42 shots on goal in 23 games with Ottawa and that’s been paying off recently. Perhaps the most appealing stat is that Wiercioch is tied for the Senators’ lead in power-play points with six. Look for him to get about 0.3 to 0.4 points per game for the rest of the season as long as he keeps getting opportunities with the man advantage.
Sergei Bobrovsky (G – Columbus Blue Jackets) – I’m not a believer in the Columbus Blue Jackets. I think lately they’ve been hot as opposed to having genuinely turned a corner. Consequently, I have a hard time putting too much faith into Bobrovsky. I’ll say this, though: A hot goaltender on the free agent market is rare and they don’t get any hotter than Bobrovsky lately. He’s still available in 62% of Yahoo! leagues and if you need a goaltender – let’s face it, most do – then he’s at least worthy of a short-term pickup. Just don’t expect a ton of wins out of him.
Magnus Paajarvi (RW – Edmonton Oilers) – If you’re in the mood to take a chance on a youngster who might have turned a corner, Paajarvi is as good an option as any. The former 10th pick overall has been slow to establish himself with the Edmonton Oilers, but he held his own while playing in the AHL during the lockout and lately he’s made some positive strides. He has three goals and five points in six games this season. Part of that can be attributed to him getting paired up with Sam Gagner, who has been tied to Paajarvi’s last four points, but it might be more than that. If nothing else, he’s worth keeping an eye on to see if this hot streak can turn into something more.