We’re less than a week away from the trade deadline, but there’s already been plenty of madness. The Pittsburgh Penguins have added Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, and Jarome Iginla, making their team enviously deep and talented. They might go with a line of Iginla, James Neal, and Evgeni Malkin, which would arguably be the most dangerous unit in the NHL – with the possible exception of the Penguins’ other projected top line: Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, and Chris Kunitz. Crosby and Kunitz are the first and third top scorers in the NHL, respectively, and Dupuis is tied for sixth place in goals at the time of writing. Morrow is the real X-factor, though, from a fantasy perspective. If he somehow finds his way on either of those lines, due to an injury for example, he’ll be worth taking a chance on.
With that said, let’s take a look at this week’s Waiver Wired picks:
Jared Spurgeon (D – Minnesota Wild) – The Wild are fiercely battling for the Northwest Division lead and seem to finally be clicking after some initial issues. Spurgeon has been a big benefactor of the Wild’s rise with three goals and 10 points in 13 games this month. As long as the Wild stay hot, Spurgeon should, too, and with every game critical, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team and player have a strong April.
Troy Brouwer (RW – Washington Capitals) – Since being traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Washington Capitals, Brouwer has grown from a decent secondary scorer to a top-line talent. After getting off to a slow start, Brouwer has scored 10 goals and 21 points in his last 25 games. He’s averaging a career high 18:39 minutes per game, including 3:34 minutes with the man advantage. He’s still available in 64% of Yahoo! leagues and you shouldn’t be afraid to grab him.
Guillaume Latendresse (LW – Ottawa Senators) – Latendresse has endured far more than his share of injuries over the years but, for now at least, he’s healthy. Since returning from a neck problem, Latendresse has averaged 16:24 minutes per game and he’s made the most of that playing time. He has five goals and seven points while firing 23 shots on goal in nine contests this month. Latendresse is clearly a high-risk option given his injury history, but if he can stay healthy, he’s not a bad bet to record about 0.7 points per game for the rest of the season.
Radim Vrbata (RW – Phoenix Coyotes) – Vrbata is a pretty easy recommendation. He broke out last season with 62 points in 77 games and has proven it wasn’t a fluke by scoring six goals and 11 assists in 20 contests in 2013. He’s still only owned in 36% of Yahoo! leagues, likely because of a combination of owners not trusting his breakout performance and the fact that he missed a month due to a foot injury. However, Vrbata picked up right where he left off upon his return, scoring two goals and five points in five games. Grab him if he happens to still be available in any standard leagues.
Tomas Fleischmann (LW – Florida Panthers) – Fleischmann bounced back from an injury-shortened 2010-11 campaign by setting new career highs with 27 goals and 61 points in 82 games last season. He’s been solid all season, but has been particularly effective lately, with three goals and five points in his last seven games. He’s not as exciting as some of the other players on this list and he doesn’t have as much upside, but he is a safe bet to record 0.6 to 0.7 points per game for the rest of the season. However, he also has a minus-13 rating and it’s likely to dip further, so take note of that if your league values plus/minus.
Nikolai Khabibulin (G – Edmonton Oilers) – Khabibulin is finally healthy, although he’s been a bit of a mixed bag since his return. He posted a 43-save shutout and followed it up by allowing four goals against the Columbus Blue Jackets before getting yanked. All the same, if you have a spare roster spot and are looking for a gamble, Khabibulin is as good a bet as any. If a team like the Carolina Hurricanes, who are still weeks away from getting Cam Ward back, trades for Khabibulin before the April 3 deadline, then his fantasy value will skyrocket. Just don’t pick him up unless you’re willing to dump him next week if the Oilers decide to keep him.
Artem Anisimov (C/LW – Columbus Blue Jackets) – Anisimov got off to a slow start with the Columbus Blue Jackets after joining the team over the summer as part of the Rick Nash trade. However, he’s been hot lately with three goals and seven points in his last five games. He’s more of a short-term option, but with Columbus still very much in the race for a playoff spot, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Anisimov finish the 2013 campaign on a high note.
Shawn Matthias (C – Florida Panthers) – Matthias has never been much of a fantasy option, but then he’s never gotten much playing time either. Still, with the Panthers devastated by injuries, Matthias has averaged 16:12 minutes per contest in March. He’s taken advantage of the opportunity with 11 points in his last 15 contests. Matthias is only owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues, but he’s worth holding onto as long as the Panthers continue to give him top-six minutes.
Martin Havlat (RW – San Jose Sharks) – Havlat’s more of a guy to take a chance on in deeper leagues. He hasn’t consistently logged over 15 minutes per game, which makes him less desirable than most of the other players on this list and probably not worth the trouble in standard leagues. However, he’s been economic with his playing time lately. He has a goal and five points in his last six contests and that hot streak might not have run its course yet. There’s always a chance that this is the start of a bounce- back, too, given that the 31-year-old is not far removed from his better days.
Martin Erat (RW – Nashville Predators) – Erat has been nothing if not consistent throughout his career. Over his previous eight seasons, he has recorded between 49 and 57 points per campaign. That streak will end because of the lockout. At the time of writing, he’d have been on pace for 51 points if this had been an 82-game season. So in the long run his current pace looks maintainable, but odds are if you’re picking him up, it’ll be in the hopes of short-term gains. The Predators’ offense has woken up recently and Erat has been a big part of that, with a goal and eight points in his last four contests.
Tyler Johnson (C – Tampa Bay Lightning) – Johnson went undrafted, but he signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning because he was tearing up the competition in the WHL. He then proceeded to score 31 goals and 68 points in 75 AHL contests in 2011-12 as a rookie. After averaging roughly a point per game in the AHL this season, the Lightning have called him up and so far he has three goals and six points in nine NHL contests. He’s a gamble, as all rookies are, but given his offensive upside, he’s a great player to take a chance on in standard leagues.
Jakob Silfverberg (RW – Ottawa Senators) – Silfverberg had just one point in January, but he was also averaging 14:33 minutes per game at the time. His responsibilities with the Senators have gradually grown and so has his output. Silfverberg has five goals and eight point in his last 10 contests. Rookies tend to be more prone to hot and cold streaks than your average player, but as long as he’s performing, he’s worth taking a chance on.