The NHL trade deadline is fast approaching, which means that your keeper league trade deadline is doing the same. It is around this time in the season that you must make the tough decision of deciding whether to go for it this year, or to sell off some assets and build for the future. If you are not in a position to win right now, moving proven, veteran talent for young, unproven talent is the way to go. Building at the deadline is extremely crucial to any future fantasy successes, and it helps to have information on some young players who may not be getting the acclaim and press that they deserve. These players are often referred to as “sleepers” or “darkhorses.” Whatever you want to call them, they often are the difference between winning and losing.
Instead of paying top dollar for the known young stars and prospects in the game, you can often snag sleepers below value at a much lower price. Read on to find out about a few defensemen who are flying well below the radar right now, and are prime for the taking in a deadline trade.
Johnny Boychuk – Boston Bruins. There is nothing under the radar about Boychuk's stats, as he leads all AHL defensemen in goals (14) and points (47). He impressed in his single with the Bruins this season as a call-up. A second round selection of Colorado in 2002, Boychuk has bounced around the AHL since 2004, never topping the 10 goal plateau until this season. The Bruins need to re-sign RFA's Phil Kessel and David Krejci, so adding some cheap roster players will be something they will look to do for next season. There are also rumors that fellow young defenseman Matt Hunwick is being dangled as trade bait as the Bruins look for a top six winger at the deadline. Boychuk is proving this season that at age 25, it really is better late than never.
Bryan Rodney – Carolina Hurricanes. Rodney got quite the endorsement from 'Canes GM Jim Rutherford earlier this season, who essentially stated that he had a spot to lose on the blue line in Carolina next season. He was first brought to my attention by fzusher on the DobberHockey Forums. Rodney was undrafted out of junior after an impressive career with the London Knights (another undrafted Knight making a name for himself is Dan Girardi). Rodney had two points in an eight-game stint with Carolina, and he has 22 points in 39 games for Albany in the AHL. The most valuable asset to an organization is the young, cheap defenseman who can play a regular shift. The 'Canes hope Rodney is exactly that for their team next season.
Jack Hillen – New York Islanders. Hillen caused quite the stir around DobberHockey after he was highly touted in the 2008-2009 Pool Guide. He has been underwhelming offensively at the NHL level with only two points in 17 games, but in 33 games with Bridgeport he has put up a much more respectable 17 points. The Islanders are a lock for last place in the NHL, which means they will be selecting either Victor Hedman or John Tavares come draft day. There are rumors that they are leaning towards Hedman, as they want to build from the defense out. Hillen will be a part of this defense moving forward, as the Islanders are still very high on his skating and offensive ability. He would be a great player to grab on the cheap, as he could surprise with a 30-40 point season for the Islanders in 2009-2010.
Matt Gilroy – UFA. The only way you haven't heard of Gilroy is if you have been living under a rock. The highly touted NCAA defenseman has been pursued by multiple clubs (23 with firm contract offers) over the past two seasons, bu chose to remain at Boston University for one more year out of loyalty to the program that took a chance on him. The Leafs have been after him the hardest, with Brian Burke personally attending a few of Gilroy's games to get a glimpse of the prized defenseman. He is turning 25 this summer, and is expected to be able to step into a top-four role immediately in the NHL. Because of his age, Gilroy is not bound by the limits of an entry-level contract, so he will essentially be able to choose to go to the highest bidder. Because of Gilroy's UFA status, he will be given guarantees of both money and ice time. He is definitely a player to keep near the top of your list when adding free agents or prospects to your keeper team this off-season.
Matthew Corrente – New Jersey Devils. Corrente is a personal favorite of mine because of the abrasive style of game he plays. He could be used as trade bait at the deadline this season as the Devils look for a top-end puck mover on the back end. Wherever Corrente ends up, he will be in the NHL next season. He is a multi-category guy, as he has that valuable combination of offensive ability (G, A, P), and toughness (PIM). His best season in the AHL saw him put up 30 points and 172 PIM with the Saginaw Spirit. Corrente currently has 14 points and 117 PIM through 49 games for Lowell.