I told you which players to sell high in fantasy hockey leagues yesterday, but that’s only half the battle. The best way to win a title is to replace your sell-highs with a bunch of buy-lows, underachieving players who should play their best hockey over the final three quarters of the season. You know the drill: if player X always gets 65 points and has just 10 points in his first 20 games, he’s likely to get 55 in his next 60 to balance things out, assuming external factors like injury and age haven’t caused the dip in his numbers. If player X scores on 10 percent of his shots for his career and hums along at one percent so far this year, he’ll probably regress to the mean and shoot closer to his career average the rest of the way.
I present my five favorite buy-lows in fantasy pools at the moment, ranked in order of how big of a potential return they can net you. This was a fun exercise because, for whatever reason, many big-ticket fantasy producers have struggled early on. I like Anze Kopitar, Sean Monahan, Alex Pietrangelo, Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri and Mark Giordano as buy-lows, and they couldn’t even crack my top five.
Montreal Canadiens backup goalie Mike Condon will get the start Friday night when the Canadiens visit the New Jersey Devils, which apparently would have been the case had reigning MVP and Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price not left Wednesday night’s win over the New York Rangers with a right leg injury.
Condon proved that in the short term that he could be almost as good as the No. 1 man, going 4-0-2 with a 1.81 goals-against average and registering a .932 save percentage in the first six games he played after taking over the net when Price went down with an upper body injury in October.
Most NHL teams have played roughly 20 games, give or take, in 2015-16, meaning we’re a quarter of the way done the season. The sample size is just big enough to start assessing your fantasy hockey rosters. The teams flying out to great starts should stop the chicken counting and start pondering which of their many great players will sustain elite production all year long. Knowing which guys to sell high separates the league winners from the second-half flameouts.
With that, let’s look at five hot starters to consider selling high, ranked in order of how big of a return they could net you on the trade market. Remember, putting someone on this list is not necessarily an indictment of his skills. It might simply mean he’s producing far above a long-established career norm.
You could make the argument that there has been no team in the NHL – with the exception of the Chicago Blackhawks – that has lost more young talent over the years than the Boston Bruins. Since they won the Cup in 2011, the Bruins have parted ways with Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton and Johnny Boychuk. All but Boychuk were under 30 when they left and the average age of the players leaving was under 26.
Even losing a 36-year-old Jarome Iginla was a kick in the slats, considering he scored 30 goals in his only season with the Bruins, then scored 29 in his first season with the Colorado Avalanche.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports GM Bryan Murray is working the phones in search of help for his defense corps. Garrioch says the struggles of Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen have contributed to the Senators blueline issues this season.
The Senators aren’t the only club in the market for defensive help. Earlier this week, Garrioch included the Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins among those shopping for defensemen.
Travis Hamonic is 25 years old. He’s a mobile, physical defensemen who can munch minutes and has a reasonable amount of offensive potential. He’s a steal against the salary cap, currently leads all defensemen in hits, is a right-shot defenseman and has favorable numbers when it comes to analytics. And his best years as an NHL player could very well be in front of him.
So from the standpoint of New York Islanders GM Garth Snow, there could never be a better time to trade him. But when the player not only asks for a trade, but limits his destination to one of four teams, any leverage Snow had over his possible trade partners is wiped out. There’s nothing the drops a player’s trade market value more dramatically than a desperate need to move him and a limited number of destinations.
We’re roughly 20 percent through the 2015-16 NHL regular season. Does that mean it’s time to start taking trade scuttlebutt seriously? Maybe. The latest Patrick Marleau chatter out of San Jose suggests as much. The Sharks’ all-time leader in games, goals, assists and points would reportedly accept a trade to three teams.
The Marleau rumor is fascinating because it feels more out of nowhere than, say, an Eric Staal or Cam Ward rumor out of Carolina. The latter two players are unrestricted free agents next summer. They’ll be talked up all year as potential trade deadline rentals.
The UFAs to be are obvious choices as trade candidates, but are there any other Marleaus out there, guys with multiple years left on their contracts who could be dealt? Here are 10 non-rental names to watch in the coming months. Note how many of these players have no-trade or no movement clauses. I don’t put much stock into clauses during trade speculation. Many players who pop up in rumors have reasons to want out of their situations, and being asked to waive a clause tells a player he’s not wanted, often prompting him to comply with a trade (like Scott Hartnell in Philadelphia last summer).
The Buffalo Sabres announced Monday that Evander Kane will be out four-to-six weeks with a strain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, which will still leave him plenty of time to be back in the lineup for when the Sabres visit the Winnipeg Jets Jan. 10.
Do not expect the homecoming to be a sweet one after Kane’s comments about his time in Winnipeg for a profile in the Nov. 9 issue of The Hockey News, which is now on newsstands and available on-line. Kane recently came under some fire for hiring a helicopter to take him and some teammates to Toronto for Game 3 of the American League championship series and he responded to it by scoring the tying goal and being the first star in the Sabres shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs two nights later.
So the glare of the spotlight clearly does not bother this young man, even when that glare gets a little too hot. In fact, he embraces it.