This is a tricky time for fantasy owners. The Olympics have ended and the trade deadline is a little over a week away. Most players are considerable risks right now because of the unknowns that come with those two factors.
Who will be rusty after the time off? Which players will be motivated from their Olympic run and which will be exhausted? Which players will end up getting traded and, just as importantly, where will they go? How will that affect the value of every player around them?
We can’t hope to know the answer to all of those questions, but as always, we can make educated guesses with the knowledge that we can make further alterations should some of our theories prove to be wrong. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of players we think are worthy gambles at under these circumstances.
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Jhonas Enroth (BUF) – G – Owned in 3% of Yahoo! leagues
If you’re in the mood to be bold and need a goaltender, then Enroth is your guy. There’s a great chance that Ryan Miller will be traded soon and if that happens, Enroth will almost certainly take over as the Sabres’ starter. He hasn’t been particularly good this season with a 2.89 GAA and .905 save percentage in 20 games, but when given the opportunity to finally establish himself as the team’s number one goalie, he should rise to the occasion. Just don’t hesitate to drop him if the deadline passes without a Miller trade.
Michael Grabner (NYI) – RW – Owned in 7% of Yahoo! leagues
Grabner broke out in 2010-11 with a 34-goal campaign and he hasn’t been able to live up to that standard since. He gave fantasy owners a reason to be optimistic about his future though after he scored five goals and six points in four Olympic games with Austria. Grabner is hoping to return to the Islanders and use the confidence that he gained in Sochi as a springboard for a strong finish. The Islanders certainly have a massive offensive void that needs filling with John Tavares done for the season.
Ryan Strome (NYI) – C – Owned in 3% of Yahoo! leagues
Speaking of the Tavares injury, you’ll want to keep a close eye on Strome. Although he has just four points in 15 games with the Islanders this season, the 20-year-old has been dominant in the minors with 13 goals and 48 points in 36 contests. Tavares’ injury and the probable trade of Thomas Vanek means that the Islanders will shift their attention to their youngsters. There’s a good chance that Strome ends up spending the rest of the season as a top-six forward.
Martin Erat (WAS) – LW/RW – Owned in 3% of Yahoo! leagues
Erat didn’t mesh well with the Capitals early this season and got very little playing time as a result. It got to the point where Erat requested a trade and he didn’t even score his first goal until Feb. 8. That being said, he’s has been slowly finding his groove and his role with the team has increased with him averaging 18:39 minutes in the final four contests before the break. The stage seems to be set for him to have a big March.
Stephen Weiss (DET) – C – Owned in 19% of Yahoo! leagues
Weiss has been a disaster this season with just four points in 26 games and he has been plagued by groin problems. He hasn’t even played since Dec. 10, but he’s close to returning and because of the Olympic break, he’ll likely be more-or-less on the same page as all the other non-Olympians, who were forced to go weeks without playing. He’s likely to get plenty of ice time too because the Detroit Red Wings have to adapt to losing Henrik Zetterberg (back) for most if not all of what’s left of the regular season. It’s a rare opportunity to put everything that has happened this season in the past and finish his first campaign with Detroit on a positive note.
Mikael Granlund (MIN) – C – Owned in 8% of Yahoo! leagues
Typically we go out of our way not to mention the same player in back-to-back Waiver Wired reports – and usually we spread it out far more than that – but the last report was on Feb. 2 and Granlund is one that’s worthy of repeating. The 21-year-old (22 on Wednesday) has been progressing nicely this season and took a step up just before the Olympic break with two goals and eight points in his last seven games. Then he went to Sochi and got to play on a line with the legendary Teemu Selanne. He made the most of that opportunity, scoring three goals and seven points in six games to help Finland win the bronze medal. Coming off the high of a successful Olympic campaign, with the knowledge that he’s gained from playing alongside his nation’s greats, and with his team still fighting tooth and nail for a playoff spot, Granlund should be energized going into the stretch run.
Teemu Selanne (ANA) – RW – Owned in 12% of Yahoo! leagues
This is a tough one. At the age of 43, the Anaheim Ducks have been severely limiting Selanne’s role and it’s only gotten worse as the season’s gone on. Given that he’s averaging just 14:58 minutes per contest, his 20 points in 47 games is actually pretty respectful. But he showed that he’s still capable of doing more over the course of the Olympics and fresh off his MVP performance, you have to wonder if Anaheim will start using him a bit more. Certainly his point-per-game days are over, but maybe 15 points in the Ducks’ final 22 contests isn’t unrealistic. At the least, keep an eye on Selanne’s playing time over the Ducks first few games after the break. If it’s over 16 minutes per, he would be worth grabbing.
Nathan Horton (CLM) – RW – Owned in 31% of Yahoo! leagues
Horton made his season debut on Jan. 2 after missing the first three months of the season due to a shoulder injury. He’s been respectable since with four goals and 11 points in 18 games, but his conditioning wasn’t where he wanted it to be. Getting some time off during the Olympics has given him a chance to regroup and get some practices in. He should be on the same level as most of the league once play resumes and do everything he can to push Columbus into the playoffs.