One thing you can count on as the trade deadline approaches in the NHL is that the rumors will begin to have more and more validity. Make sure you start paying close attention to who is being linked to what franchise and which teams are being listed as sellers. Value swings can be quite significant in the NHL because a player's worth is so closely tied to his role and his linemates.
In the meantime, I have a couple of recommendations that stem from the first big trade we've seen leading up to the deadline.
Pick 'em up
Andrew Ladd, LW, Hurricanes: As I hoped in my reaction to the Ottawa-Carolina trade on Monday, Ladd was the Cane who got the promotion to the top six forwards. On a line with resurgent Sergei Samsonov and veteran Rod Brind'Amour, he recorded his second career two-goal game and a plus-3 to bring his point total for February to five in five games. Ladd has been someone I have been putting on a watch list every season since 2005-06 because he is molded like a premier power forward. With him getting this opportunity as a team leader, I wouldn't be surprised to see him among Carolina's point leaders. He was a star player in the WHL and on Canada's junior team and continually wowed scouts with his strength as he developed. If you have been looking for someone to take a chance on in your league, this is your guy. It's a gamble, as there is no guarantee coach Peter Laviolette will continue to feature him on a top line, but it's a gamble worth taking.
Dean McAmmond, LW, Senators: As I also noted in Monday's reaction, the addition of Cory Stillman finally would allow the Sens to experiment with breaking up the trio of Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza. They certainly did that Wednesday night, placing McAmmond along the wing of Spezza and Heatley. He responded with an assist. Although McAmmond will not come close to the production of his linemates, he might become viable in deeper leagues thanks to the process known as linemate osmosis. Alfie was reunited with Spezza and Heatley in crunch time in the loss to New Jersey, but if the Sens are scoring goals and leading games (which they will be a lot), McAmmond will find himself with some strong players beside him.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Penguins: Available in just less than 30 percent of ESPN leagues, Fleury needs to be picked up by any owners who need some goaltending help on their roster. Although it's anyone's guess how coach Michel Therrien will use Fleury, considering the emergence of Ty Conklin in his absence, it's my guarantee to you that Fleury will at least be given the chance to win back his No. 1 role. Whether he capitalizes on that chance is up for debate, but the opportunity will be knocking for him to backstop one of the East's best teams into the postseason. Fleury might have had an ugly start to his campaign, but don't forget that he had a four-game win streak in which he allowed just four goals before he was hurt. He'll spend the next week or so conditioning with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, then debut with the big club in time for either Ottawa on Feb. 24 or San Jose on Feb. 25. Pick him up now, and you should know by March 1 just how valuable he will be.
Jere Lehtinen, RW, Stars: Still available in more than 25 percent of ESPN leagues, Lehtinen has been up to his old tricks since coming back from sports hernia surgery. He has five points in six games on a line with Mike Modano and Steve Ott. Lehtinen also is drawing first power-play unit duty with Modano, Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro. Expect Lehtinen to be worth your while in all but the shallowest of fantasy leagues.
Glen Murray, RW, Bruins: With his ownership down in the 40 percent range in ESPN leagues, Murray makes a strong pickup in most leagues. He is back, skating strong after a hip injury that sidelined him in December. Lining up with setup man Marc Savard at even strength and on the power play, the veteran sniper should make good on a season of 20-plus goals. That means he should approach No. 2 right wing stats from here out.
Johan Franzen, LW, Red Wings: In the two games immediately after Dan Cleary's trip to injured reserve, Franzen has been lined up on the Wings' No. 2 offensive unit alongside Mikael Samuelsson and Valtteri Filppula. Detroit needs this trio to be effective as a complement to its big line, and Franzen is making sure his line comes through by scoring in both contests since the loss of Cleary. Given, Franzen was a minus-4 in those games, but that will be the exception as opposed to the rule as long as he is filling in for Cleary.
Ville Peltonen, LW, Panthers: It's rotten to have to think about, but Peltonen is the main beneficiary of Richard Zednik's freak injury. Olli Jokinen, Brett McLean and Zednik had been red-hot before the infamous skate incident Sunday. Peltonen moves up to replace Zednik on the wing. The way this line has been playing, it's hard to ignore the chance Peltonen gets.
Dick Tarnstrom, D, Blue Jackets: As I noted in my Jan. 22 Grand Theft Roto, Tarnstrom could bring some value if he ended up anywhere other than Edmonton. Tarnstrom has a goal and an assist in two games as a Blue Jacket and looked refreshed skating with rookie Kris Russell. Both defensemen have offensive tendencies and should be relied upon on the power play. Look to Tarnstrom as a No. 4 defenseman now that he is in Ohio's capital.
If you're hardcore
Jiri Tlusty, LW, Maple Leafs: Hey, why not? That is my feeling with recommending Tlusty. The Leafs seem to be taking an aggressive approach by lining him up with Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov on the top line despite no real breakout performance from the rookie. He played well in his 10 games with the AHL's Toronto Marlies but hasn't done much with the Maple Leafs in 33 games. Regardless, he has speed, skill and opportunity, and the Toronto brass are making a statement about his role with the team by leaving him on the top line. That tells me that even if the Leafs are sellers at the deadline, Tlusty will remain a featured player on offense. If he has a strong game to boost his confidence, we could see a strong finish to his season.
Fredrik Modin, LW, Blue Jackets: In and out of the lineup with injury this season, Modin has been activated again by Columbus. When healthy, Modin is very useful as a forward with other skilled players because he makes all kinds of room on the ice. Depending where he lands in coach Ken Hitchcock's depth chart, Modin could be very useful on deep-league rosters.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.