So much happened around the NHL last week that to effectively analyze the impact on fantasy-relevant players, I’m breaking it into three columns.
In Part 1, I looked at Ryan Callahan, Jaroslav Halak, Ales Hemsky, Matt Moulson, Martin St. Louis, Lee Stempniak, Tim Thomas and Tomas Vanek.
In Part 3 Thursday, I’ll run through the key prospects who changed organizations: Hudson Fasching, Sebastian Collberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Brayden McNabb, Chris Brown and David Rundblad.
It should have come as a shock to no one that the St. Louis Blues beat the Minnesota Wild in a shootout Sunday night. Because if the Wild had managed to beat the Blues in regulation, it would have accomplished a unique first for this season.
So far in 2013-14, the Blues are 18-0-1 against teams in the Central Division, with their only loss dating back to a 4-3 shootout defeat to the Winnipeg Jets Oct. 18. That augurs very well for the Blues going into the playoffs, particularly since the first two rounds will likely be played exclusively against Central Division opponents. Starting with their game against the Dallas Stars Tuesday night, the Blues have 10 more games against division opponents this season.
Now that bad news. If the regular season is any indication, the Blues will almost certainly be toast in the Western Conference final. As outstanding as the Blues have been this season, they have just a 1-8-0 record against the three teams from California. When we as a group at THN picked the Blues to win the Stanley Cup before the season, I was against the choice because I thought the Blues couldn’t score enough. Since they’re currently in third in goals for this season behind Chicago and Anaheim, they’ve put that notion to rest.
With a wild trade deadline in the books and playoffs on the horizon, now begins the season of hope for many NHL teams. Deadline buyers hope they’ve strengthened themselves enough for the final push. Teams that stood pat believe they already have the right mix to finish strong. And teams on the bubble are already playing desperate hockey, hoping one last hard charge is all it takes to get in.
It’s been done before, and it can happen again. Here are the best post-trade deadline surges of the last four seasons.
Flash back to last year’s trade deadline for a moment. It paled in comparison to the hoopla we’ve witnessed over the last week, but still featured a few significant deals designed to boost contenders’ Cup hopes. Boston brought in Jaromir Jagr. In the weeks leading up to the deadline, Pittsburgh rented Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow.
In the end, though, a seemingly insignificant trade proved the most influential on the playoff picture:
Chicago acquires center Michal Handzus from the San Jose Sharks for a 2013 fourth-round pick.
The Blackhawks had Jonathan Toews as an elite top pivot and David Bolland as a championship-caliber third-liner. But with Marcus Kruger still maturing, Chicago was starved for a bona fide No. 2 center. Handzus didn’t fit the bill on paper as a broken-down 36-year-old, but somehow inherited the role for the playoffs. He averaged 16 minutes a game and played a key two-way role en route to a Stanley Cup, amassing 11 points in 23 games. He did it all with a broken wrist and torn MCL, to boot. Handzus has struggled this year, but no one can take away how crucial of an acquisition he was last season.
Flash to the present. Let’s sweep aside Martin St-Louis, Thomas Vanek and the other big names for a second. Who is this year’s version of the sneaky Handzus acquisition? Let’s look at a few candidates.
Lee Stempniak, right winger (acquired by Pittsburgh Penguins)
Stempniak isn’t the most popular player in cities he used to play in – Leaf fans will always remember him as the guy they got for Alexander Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo – but he can make an impact as a top-six forward in Pittsburgh. With Pascal Dupuis and Beau Bennett out long-term, Stempniak has an excellent shot to play regularly with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin and should see time on at least the No. 2 power play unit. He’s never had teammates of this caliber passing him the puck.
And while Stempniak didn’t light it up in Calgary, he’s been a goal scorer in the past. He’s finished with double-digit totals 10 times in his career and 27 or more twice. Most notably, the last time he was traded at the deadline, he went nuts. The Leafs shipped Stempniak to Phoenix in 2010 and he exploded for 14 goals in 18 games. Stempniak has just two points in 11 career playoff games, but those appearances were with Phoenix. This is Pittsburgh.
In January of 2012 while a member of the Los Angeles Kings, Dustin Penner got a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons.
You see, he had just been forced to miss a game the night before from back spasms. Simple and innocent enough, until you recall when his back pains began bothering him – at the breakfast table, over a nice stack of flapjacks. That’s when it becomes hilariously unfortunate. Read more
The Olympic break was a great opportunity for some injured players to rest up. Here is a look at some key names expected to be back in the post-Olympic lineup and what the fantasy impact of these returns will be.
Viktor Fasth, Anaheim Ducks - For the second time this year, Fasth has been sent to the American League on a conditioning stint. The first one didn’t go so well as he managed just one game before being sidelined again with a lower-body injury. Last year, Fasth established himself as an above-average NHL-caliber goaltender who was giving starter Jonas Hiller a run for his money. This season, rookie Frederik Andersen is doing the same thing. A healthy Fasth makes this situation very interesting, but it will be Andersen who eventually gets sent back down. The Ducks won’t want to enter the playoffs without Hiller being on a roll. So expect Hiller to get the bulk of the starts, regardless of the status of Fasth.
Marian Gaborik, Columbus Blue Jackets - When Nathan Horton returned to action, Cam Atkinson was pushed down the depth chart. But that was probably better for Atkinson, who wasn’t ready for top ice time and responsibility. In a secondary role, Atkinson has shown to be a tremendous asset capable of 45 to 50 points. Gaborik’s return could go one of two ways. It could push one of he or Atkinson to the left wing, something that was done in pre-season games when they were linemates. Or it could push Atkinson down the depth chart even further. Although Atkinson now carries a bit of a risk as a result of this circumstance, I like the first scenario better – look for the two to be linemates, which actually helps Atkinson’s potential production. Read more
With the NHL trade deadline a week away, Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly is concerned the Philadelphia Flyers defense isn’t strong enough to get them into the playoffs. He feels they lack an impact defenseman, but acknowledges the difficulty of landing one by the trade deadline.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said he likes how his blueline has played this season. He admits “it’s not a sexy defense,” but praised their performance. Holmgren adds he’s on the lookout for anything that could help his team, but he doesn’t foresee making a major trade. When it comes to trades, Holmgren has a history of saying one thing and doing another. One shouldn’t dismiss the possibility he’s looking around for blueline depth.
Panaccio suggests New York Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald would be “a very nice upgrade for any club,” noting his $550,000 salary is very affordable. Other options are Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien, Dallas’ Trevor Daley, Edmonton’s Nick Schultz and Calgary’s Dennis Wideman, though Panaccio observes they all carry substantially higher cap hits.
Less than 24 hours after Canada defeated Sweden to win gold in men’s hockey at the Sochi Olympics, reports emerged claiming the New York Rangers attempted to acquire Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St-Louis.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports St-Louis was “in and out of play” with the Rangers soon after he was initially passed over by Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman, who is also GM of the Lightning. St-Louis apparently met with Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Yzerman a few weeks apart. Brooks claims Yzerman rejected an offer of Blueshirts captain Ryan Callahan for St-Louis, citing Callahan’s UFA status and his rumored demand of a seven-year deal worth around $6.8 million per season.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos also claims St-Louis apparently requested a trade soon after his exclusion from the Canadian team. He writes some NHL clubs aren’t sure the 38-year-old winger, who has a year left on his contract with a no-movement clause, still wants to be moved. St-Louis was ultimately selected for Team Canada after Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos (broken leg) was forced to drop out.