In the NHL today, goal scorers are tough to come by. The net is still 6×4 but the goaltenders seem to be twice the size they were just 10-15 years ago, and the equipment they wear is bigger and lighter. What does this mean? Acquiring and keeping those scorers is a top priority in Fantasy. We are in trading season now, and one of the more difficult things to do is determine who is for real and who is just on a hot streak. Odds are you can’t get an Alexander Ovechkin or Patrick Kane, but lower level scorers who have a track record like Blake Wheeler or Loui Eriksson could be available. Players like them can provide value and won’t cost as much. You also may want to take a shot at certain superstars who aren’t performing all that well. John Tavares, Jakub Voracek or any number of current Lightning players could be targets. It never hurts to try and talk to an owner and see if they are in the mood to make a deal, especially if they are sinking in the standings. Now for some news and notes.
As if the Maple Leafs didn’t have enough problems, they have lost James van Riemsdyk for the next 6-8 weeks with a left foot injury. While this may not be a huge blow for his owners, it’s not something easily gotten over either. JVR had 14 goals, five on the power play, and 29 points so far this season, and now he is lost until the playoffs; he won’t be easily replaced.
Fantasy Hockey owners couldn’t have been happy to hear that the Oilers will play it safe with rookie phenom Connor McDavid. They announced that he will not return to the lineup until after the All-Star break. McDavid broke his collarbone in early November, and rather than push him to come back and risk possible re-injury (think Tony Romo), they will give him the extra rest. Although the Oilers are in the playoff hunt and this move could hurt their chances, they are thinking of the long-term here. Good for them, but not good for his Fantasy owners, or those that own Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl and several others. The Oilers have the offensive talent to be one of the highest scoring teams in the NHL; they just need to perform up to their expectations. Those owners who are waiting for the return of Nail Yakupov (ankle) shouldn’t have to wait much longer, as he should return just about any day now.
Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward were moved to the third line over the weekend. Now, before Fantasy Hockey owners get to alarmed about this, lines in hockey tend to change quite often, so this may be nothing to worry about. But still, the question is, why? Marleau and Ward are third and fourth respectively in goal scoring on the team, third and fifth in total points. In other words, they are two of the better players. Why the demotion? The good news is that the power play time for each is expected to remain the same, so all is not lost. Perhaps this is a message to Marleau to open up his trade list. The Sharks let it be known earlier this season that they would be willing to trade Marleau, but he has a no trade list and would only okay a deal to a small number of teams. Perhaps this is the Sharks’ way of telling Marleau to either expand that list or he won’t be playing all that much.
The Capitals signed Mike Richards last week. Richards at one time was one of the better centers in the NHL and helped lead the Kings to the Stanley Cup, but a decline in play and personal issues led to his release from the team last season. The Capitals don’t have much to lose here. If Richards plays well, they found some depth at center for their own Stanley Cup run. If he doesn’t play well, they have plenty of time to find someone who will before the trade deadline.
There are some rumors floating around that the Blues would be willing to deal Kevin Shattenkirk for some help at forward. If this is true, it’s a bit curious. The Blues are more than solid on defense, so you can argue that they have enough depth there to make this move, but do they really need a Top 6 forward? An argument can also be made that once Jaden Schwartz (ankle) returns to the lineup, the offense will once again be whole. Schwartz is expected to return shortly after the All-Star break. The natural connection will be made between the Blues and Jonathan Drouin of the Lightning, but the Blues probably want a player who can help them now, not someone they are grooming for the future. Coach Ken Hitchcock is pretty much on a Stanley Cup or bust run; anything less and he probably won’t have a job to worry about next season.
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