Hitting the quarter mark is a reasonable time for poolies to panic if their team isn't panning out. Don't panic to the point of making rash decisions, but realizing the time has come for a roster shakeup isn't unrealistic. If a trade can't be found, looking to the waiver wire may be the only option. There are generally a ton of options with the potential for big production in short spurts so let's take a look at some cheap options that can give your roster a swift kick in the arse.
Bryan Little – $2.4 million
Little has a ton of potential and it's the team he plays for that compounds the inconsistencies in his young NHL game. Little had a terrible start to the season, no goals and only three points in eleven October games. November has proven much more productive with six-goals, ten-points and 35-shots on net. That's a three shot-per-game average and an important stat for Little to keep up if he wants to return to the 30-goal form we saw in 2008-09. Little is seeing more ice time with Evander Kane in the last month and it's no coincidence that his production has increased. Kane is simply the best offensive option that Atlanta has and Little's production will reflect his playing time alongside him. Keep an eye on his linemates, but Little makes a great pickup for the short term and potentially much longer. It's more of a matter of when, than if, in Little's situation. If you're on the track when that train comes to town, you're going places.
Zack Kassian - $870,000
Apparently Buffalo was rounded up and herded off a cliff by their rivals, based on the amount of bodies laying at the bottom. Kassian is a beneficiary of the slaughter and is playing on a line with Derek Roy and Nathan Gerbe. Kassian has wasted no time making an impact on the score sheet with a goal and an assist in three games. Buffalo needs exactly what Kassian brings, toughness and an aggressive style of play, reflected by his nine penalty minutes in those same games. It's clear, after seeing how quickly he responded to a big hit on linemate Nathan Gerbe the other night, that Kassian is happy to play guardian and will be a solid PIM option. It's going to take injuries or a trade to see him stick in the lineup (or a Luke Adam demotion), but if he's playing he will be effective. Kassian has had a great start to his pro-career posting seven-goals, seven-assists and 17 PIM in18 games with Rochester. Buffalo needs a Zack Kassian, and coincidentally your sal-cap rotisserie team could too. He's ready, is Buffalo?
Nathan Gerbe - $1.4 million
Gerbe hasn't had much luck finding the back of the net lately with zero goals in his last nine, but he is currently lining up with Derek Roy and the aforementioned Kassian. While their isn't any one category that stands out, Gerbe is solid in all. With 12 points so far Gerbe has also contributed 50 shots on goal, 14-PIM and a respectable plus-six. Gerbe has a ton of talent and is a natural scorer so his current situation lends itself to his strengths. Roy is one Buffalo's more creative players so Gerbe should benefit from his play. With Zack Kassian around to protect the diminutive winger I see a bump in his production for the time being. Gerbe is an easy addition to any roster and won't hurt you in a single category; he had seven hits in one game last week.
Tyler Bozak - $1.5 million
It's been a long time since poolies were able to dip into the stables of the Maple Leafs beyond one or two players, but the team is no longer a one-trick pony. Bozak has seen almost 70% of his even-strength ice time with Kessel and Lupul in his last ten games, and over 50% for the season. Kessel and Lupul are one-two in NHL scoring and with the additional PP time he's seeing with this duo, Bozak is a fantastic short-term pickup. I say short-term because this fairy tale isn't going to last. I do believe Toronto is a better team than last year so I don't see the bottom of the barrel falling out quite like it did in the second half of last season, but I also don't see Kessel and Lupul remaining at the top of the scoring race. I don't even see a top-10 finish, but I'll take a piece while it's hot. Bozak has maintained a respectable plus-3 on the season but for those in weekly leagues, expect that number to fluctuate game to game.
Viktor Stalberg - $875,000
Jonathan Toews has been a streaky option so far in his career, but when he's on he's worth his weight in gold. His wingers can only benefit from these streaks and Stalberg happens to be riding shotgun. With eight points in his last nine games, Stalberg is following in the footsteps of Toews' inspired play. At 6'3 and 210 pounds, Stalberg has NHL size and good experience at only 25 years of age. He isn't the type of player to do it on his own but in the right situation he can be valuable. His recent pace won't continue for the rest of the season but he makes a fantastic short-term pickup while Toews is hot. Jump on Stalberg before someone else does but keep a close eye on Toews, he has a tendency to disappear for stretches. If he does, Stalberg will as well.
Kris Russell - $1.3 million
As we see often times with trades, Russell has initially responded well with the move to St. Louis. Caught in the black hole that is Columbus, Russell has shown flashes of his talent but never found any consistency. A fresh start has seen a touch more production from Russell, posting three-goals and an assist in nine games with his new team. His plus/minus his taken a turn as well with a healthy plus-six. I've never been a fan of Russell, I don't think he'll ever amount to much in the fantasy world, but you can't ignore the “fresh start” factor or his talent. Russell won't stuff the stat sheet by any means but he makes a viable points option and is affordable. Ride the wave, but watch for it to break.
Stefan Elliott - $900,000
I was surprised to discover that Elliott has a much better defensive game than I first thought. I searched hard for an analysis that read “often finds himself out of position” or “needs to learn when not to jump into the play” but, alas, I could not. Instead there were glowing reviews of his two-way play and his apparent “comfort at both ends of the ice.” Defensive accountability is generally a big issue early on in any defenseman's career, let alone one with such offensive flare, so if Elliott can be effective in his own zone he is much more likely to stick for the season. If he does, he's a lock for the top power-play unit which has been poor so far this season. I have watched both of his games and he has looked confident and poised for the most part. He will get better as he learns the system and makes quicker, smarter decisions, but there were no glaring issues in his game. The skill and natural instinct is there - in abundance.
Philip Larsen - $850,000
With Goligoski on the IR and Dallas sorely missing a puck-moving defenceman, Larsen is the only real option Dallas as a replacement. With 21-points in 54 AHL games last season, Larsen has started off this season on fire with 10-points in 10 games. Larsen has eight games with the big club so far this year and his transition has been a clean one. Larsen only has two assists in those eight games but the potential is there for decent production. Larsen would make a great replacement for Goligoski if you have him on your IR, but can also make a decent fill-in for a team needing to fill a roster spot with a cheap player. He isn't going to post big numbers nor stuff the stat sheet, but his puck-moving ability makes him an attractive option.
Jhonas Enroth - $675,000
Miller has returned to practice, but with Sidney Crosby recently showing the NHL the “right way” to return from a concussion, it may be a while before Miller suits up for competition. I think it's fair to assume that owner's can squeeze at least another two weeks out of Enroth, possibly longer. He's not under the radar, per se, but you might be able to take advantage of a GM not wanting to take a chance on an early Miller return. My guess is that we will see a fair amount of Enroth for the next month and those starts should be of decent quality.
Andrew Raycroft - $650,000
Raycroft is by no means a guarantee with his play, but what I can guarantee is starts. Kari Lehtonen is out 3-4 weeks with an injury and Raycroft has proven in the past that he can be very effective in stretches. Dallas has played some very hot and cold hockey lately and Goligoski isn't set to return until mid-December so wins may be few and far between. That being said, starts are key and Raycroft makes a good option as a free pickup based on that. Raycroft is riskier in a weekly league but should have decent overall numbers for a rotisserie league.