Ryan Dadoun

Fantasy Nuggets

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Fantasy Nuggets Week 9

Thursday, November 30, 2017


There was an interesting trade this morning as the New Jersey Devils acquired defenseman Sami Vatanen and a conditional third round draft pick from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Adam Henrique, Joseph Blandisi, and a 2018 third round pick.  There are potential fantasy implications from this trade, but not all of them will be made immediately apparent.

 

From the Devils perspective this move is obviously all about upgrading their defense.  For years Henrique has been a consistently solid, but not remarkable center and this season has been more of the same as he has four goals and 14 points in 24 contests.  What’s different now is that the Devils have an offensive leader in Taylor Hall and some emerging weapons in forwards Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt along with potentially Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha.  With that in mind, New Jersey found themselves in a position where they could afford to move a veteran forward for that defensive upgrade.  That was not the case even a year ago.

 

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However, while Vatanen will be a big boost for the Devils, it remains to be seen how relevant he’ll be in fantasy circles.  There was a time when Vatanen looked like an emerging offensive defenseman, but after recording 37 points in 2014-15 and 38 points in 2015-16, he was limited to 24 points in 71 games last season and has just four points in 15 contests in this campaign.  It doesn’t help that he missed most of the first month of the campaign due to a shoulder injury, but even with that acknowledged he’s been trending in the direction of being more of a defensive asset.  The move to New Jersey offers him a fresh start, but it’s not necessarily a great opportunity for him offensively.

 

Rookie Will Butcher has been the defenseman eating up the Devils’ power play time and so far he’s excelled in that role with 10 power-play points.  Damon Severson is a distant second in terms of power-play ice time in New Jersey with no other blueliner getting more than John Moore’s average of 27 seconds per contest.  Perhaps the Devils will stop using just one defenseman per power-play unit or maybe Vatanen will at least take over second unit duties over Severson, but neither scenario is a guarantee.  You’ll definitely want to keep a close eye on the Devils’ practices and games over the next week or so though, not just to gauge Vatanen’s value, but to see if Butcher or Severson will be hurt by this move.

 

For Anaheim, this trade feels a little bit odd to me.  Sure, they needed a center and Henrique fills that void, but it’s a short-term hole he’s filling.  The reason the Ducks are thin up the middle is because Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler are both sidelined, but Getzlaf is expected to be back in mid-December while Kesler should make his return before Christmas.  In other words, while Henrique might even get top line minutes in the short run, which in turn makes him a very appealing fantasy option right now, he might find himself on the third line in the not too distant future.

 

That’s not an ideal spot for Henrique, though at least his $4 million cap hit isn’t that egregious in the role.  It is possible of course that eventually Henrique and Kesler will end up on the second line together with one of them shifting to the wing, but it will be weeks before we know if that’s the case.

 

The third player in that trade is Blandisi and you don’t want to overlook him.  Blandisi never did too much offensively with the Devils as he has eight goals, 26 points, and 60 penalty minutes in 68 career games, but he’s been solid in the AHL this season with 14 points and 24 penalty minutes in 19 games.  The Ducks have called Blandisi up to the NHL so he’ll get an immediate opportunity with his new franchise and he might end up having some fantasy value depending on what role he gets.  I can’t recommend picking him up yet, but he’s someone to monitor.

 

Moving past that trade, it’s also worth talking about two recent goaltending injuries.  Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray is week-to-week with a lower body injury while Edmonton’s Cam Talbot will be sidelined for at least two weeks.  Both of those injuries are made more noteworthy by the fact that neither squad has established backups to fill the void.  Edmonton’s Laurent Brossoit only has 20 career NHL games under his belt while Tristan Jarry is at just five.  Personally, I’d be hesitant to grab either Brossoit or Jarry at this time unless I was absolutely desperate for starts.  Both of them are likely to put forth subpar GAAs and save percentages during their time as de facto starters, but Jarry could accumulate a decent number of starts given the Penguins’ offensive might.  The same might be true of Brossoit, but Edmonton’s actually struggled offensively this season so I’m not optimistic there.

 

Then of course there is also the question of the goalies summoned as a result of the injury.  Pittsburgh called up Casey DeSmith, 26, who has excelled in the AHL with a 2.29 GAA and .924 save percentage in 12 contests this season.  Edmonton promoted Nick Ellis, 23, who hasn’t been as impressive with his 2.82 GAA and .914 save percentage in 11 games.  Given that Jarry and Brossoit aren’t that established, it is possible that DeSmith or Ellis could end up taking advantage of the situation, but that’s far from a safe bet.  I think it’s worth keeping an eye on them and DeSmith in particular, but I don’t anticipate either of them having fantasy value.



Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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