They are buyers or sellers, looking to add a player for a spirited charge at the top prize, or trying to unload an overpriced veteran for a star of tomorrow. If you're in a rotisserie or keeper league that allows trades, these final weeks of the season can be intense, what with trade deadlines, the offers and counter-offers, the bantering and the bickering.
But it's fun, too.
Late-season trades can make winners of both parties, with the contender growing stronger for the stretch run and the bottom feeder building for the future. But no matter where they sit, poolies should know certain keys to a successful transaction.
It begins by assessing your needs and knowing the other team's desires. For example, you're wasting time trying to trade a defenceman to a team stacked at that position. But if a team is interested in a goaltender and you have an extra, that's where the best deal lies.
Target who you really want and don't wait for offers. If you covet one player in particular, either for this year or next, go after him quickly and quietly.
To that end, don't low-ball opponents with ridiculously lop-sided offers. You won't be taken seriously and they will find another trading partner.
For the same reason, don't dither. Move aggressively to secure your coveted player and don't waste time nickel-and-dime haggling over bit players and throw-ins.
The worst thing contending poolies can do is sit on the fence, hoping to finish high in the money while clinging to future stars.
Rome will burn while you fiddle. Your opponents will get stronger and could push you out of contention. And next year? Anything can happen, but there is certainly no glory in back-to-back finishes just out of the money.
Injuries are a real risk in hockey - and hockey pools - but the scary accident between the Rangers' Brendan Shanahan and Flyers' Mike Knuble was particularly devastating.
In a collision while changing lines, Shanny suffered a concussion while Knuble fractured his orbital bone and cheekbone. Both are on the injured reserve indefinitely.
Owners of Maxim Afinogenov (broken wrist) also received bad news when told the Sabres' forward will miss the rest of the regular season.
It's difficult to match his production (23 goals, 57 points, plus-17) off the waiver wire, just as it will be to replace Shanahan and Knuble.
The Sabres might try to swap goaltender Martin Biron for a goal scorer.
Poolies in contention should also consider a good, quick trade to replace their fallen star.
Not quite the loss was Cristobal Huet in Montreal. The goaltender was struggling this year and had lost five straight starts before pulling a hamstring last Wednesday.
The shaky David Aebischer takes over in goal but poolies should keep an eye on Jaroslav Halak, who was outstanding with Hamilton in the AHL and won in his NHL debut Sunday night.
The Peter Forsberg trade shook things up last week. The former Flyer stepped right in to centre the top Predators line between Paul Kariya and Martin Erat. Forsberg's pool value is through the roof, but David Legwand's owners won't be happy to see their man bumped down to the third line.
Mike Richards was the first to replace Forsberg on Philly's No. 1 line with Simon Gagne. Don't to rush to grab him, especially now with the Flyers looking to replace Knuble on the other wing.
Going to Philadelphia, Scottie Upshall scored in his first game as a Flyer but is also only a marginal fantasy player right now.
Meanwhile, Ladislav Nagy, traded from Phoenix, skated on the top line with his new team in Dallas. Expect pool values for all three, including Mike Modano and Jere Lehtinen, to increase as a result.
Greg Dennis can be reached at cp.pool(at)hotmail.com.
Some suggestions on players to watch or watch out for in your hockey pool this week:
1. G Patrick Lalime, Blackhawks. He's back, healthy, making saves and is now No. 1.
2. C David Backes, Blues. Five goals in five games after just one in first 22 contests.
3. LW Andrew Brunette, Avalanche. Six-point week for always under-rated forward.
4. LW Michel Ouelett, Penguins. Two goals, six points in five-game scoring streak.
5. LW Vaclav Prospal, Lightning. Six assists last week might help salvage a bad year.
1. D Francois Beauchemin, Ducks. Two points in 10 games since returning from injury.
2. D Kevin Bieksa, Canucks. Own-goal doesn't count as pointless streak hits nine games.
3. C Brian Smolinski, Blackhawks. Two points in seven games slashes at trade value.
4. G Brent Johnson, Capitals. Kolzig's sub has six straight losses dating back to Dec. 15.
5. LW Paul Kariya, Predators. Watch Forsberg awaken the star from a seven-game nap.