Last week, we took at a look at the top trade candidates in the East and their fantasy impact. This week, let’s take a look at the Western Conference – where teams five through 15 are closer than I’ve ever seen them.
In fantasy hockey, a player being moved to a new NHL team is often good news for the fantasy owner. A fresh start or a likely shot as a star’s linemate – or both – is just what the doctor ordered for a slumping player.
Here are the most interesting players in the West who could be moved March 4, and what to expect from them if they are…
Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota – Despite solid statistics, young backup Josh Harding has a record of just 2-7-1. Since that record doesn’t tell the whole story, the Wild consider the youngster to have the ability to get in some starts down the stretch. Backstrom is a UFA this summer, so the team may move him to improve their future, while at the same time hope Harding keeps them in contention. Still, it is a million dollar industry and not all teams would take a chance on extra playoff revenue like that. On a new team, Backstrom would play in a weaker system, so his stats will go the wrong way. Odds of being dealt: 25%.
Marc-Andre Bergeron, Minnesota – Another Wild candidate to be moved, Bergeron could actually go regardless of whether they buy or sell – simply because of the numbers game. Kurtis Foster is back now and the team already has offensive pop from the blueline in Brent Burns and Marek Zidlicky. Bergeron’s value will go up or down depending on the team he ends up on. You saw his role in Anaheim last year, and it wasn’t pretty. But a team like Buffalo could really use a QB with his skill. Odds of being dealt: 60%.
Chicago Blackhawks’ prospects – This team has a ton of really great prospects in the pipeline and they already have a young, skilled and deep NHL roster. They don’t seem to want to accommodate Petri Kontiola’s trade demands – yet – but someone will move for a rental. Jack Skille is another candidate to move. They also have three promising goaltenders in the system – Corey Crawford, Antti Niemi and Josh Unice. Odds of one being dealt: 95%.
Erik Cole, Edmonton – His contract is running out and a lot of teams could use a hard-hitting second-line winger. Don’t point to his playoff and Stanley Cup experience, because – come on – he played two games. But still, he would bring the Oilers a decent return and moving him wouldn’t exactly take them out of contention. On a deep, elite team his value will drop as he will man the third line. On a borderline playoff team, he could see a nice pop if placed on the first line. Odds of being dealt: 50%
Marian Gaborik, Minnesota – His contract is up and he is not thrilled with Minnesota’s system. The Wild are likely to move him for some pipeline replenishment. When healthy, he is one of the greats of the game and it is scary to see how he would do on a team that opens it up. Key words – “when healthy”. Odds of being dealt: 80%
Olli Jokinen, Phoenix – Typically when teams “sell” at the deadline, they move out expensive vets and bring in prospects and young NHLers. So what happens when a team already has an abundance of those? For that reason, you may not see Jokinen or Ed Jovanovski moved. If you do, Jokinen can’t do any worse. A change of scenery would be a plus, no question. Odds of being dealt: 30%
Nikolai Khabibulin, Chicago – The Blackhawks have two No.1 goaltenders and three pretty good prospect goaltenders. Rather than invest so much money in goaltending, the thinking is that the ‘Hawks will deal Khabibulin. Don’t be too sure on that – you can’t buy this kind of insurance. If move, though, it can only help owners to have him play every game instead of split time. Odds of being dealt: 40%.
Jordan Leopold, Colorado – The Avs are fading fast, Leopold is finally healthy and his contract is up this year. Throw in the fact that the market for puck-moving defenders is a strong one, and he’s as good as gone. Leopold will thrive as a No.2 PP guy alongside an elite No.1. If he has a guy like Bryan McCabe at the other end of the blue line, that is the type of situation that would give him fantasy value. Odds of being dealt: 65%.
Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim – The Ducks are in a dogfight and they will lose the dogfight if they trade one or both of their big guns on the back end. However, rumors of him being traded to New Jersey won’t die. The Devils are a different team then when he was last there, so his fantasy value will make a sideways move if he goes there. Odds of being dealt: 45%.
Chris Pronger, Anaheim – He still has another year on his contract, but if the return is right, the Ducks could move him. The arrival of Ryan Whitney makes this just a little more likely. Similar to Niedermayer, on any other team Pronger holds the same high value. Only one of Nieds or Pronger will be dealt, if at all. Odds of being dealt: 40%.
Ryan Smyth, Colorado – Teams value his leadership and scoring punch, but because he is locked in for several more years yet the Avs will wait for the right offer. On a weak team, his value rises. On a strong team it drops. He was a point-a-game player with Paul Stastny out of the lineup, but barely a 50-point guy when he was in the lineup. Odds of being dealt: 50%.
Steve Sullivan, Nashville – His contract is up and he is starting to show some of his old form. The back is so far so good, too. The Preds need a playoff spot, so they probably won’t sell. But if they do, he is a great candidate to go. On a good team, he’ll be buried, but on a similar team he’ll be every bit as good as he is on the Preds and probably even better under a looser system. Odds of being dealt: 15%.
Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis – The Blues have already pulled off this trick and they’ll do it again. Maybe we’ll even see Tkachuk just head back there in the summer. A trade will probably hurt his value, because his situation in St. Louis is a good one. Odds of being dealt: 80%.
DobberHockey.com will have the fantasy impact of every trade within minutes of it being announced on March 4. It is a “must stop” for all fantasy owners who have their own trade deadlines to worry about.