As we enter late December, NHL trade talks are starting to heat up, with each team's trading block starting to populate. Let's take a look through the NHL, identifying some potential trade candidates, along with the fantasy spin of any hypothetical moves, and evaluating some line changes on multiple clubs.
Anaheim Ducks: Losing Corey Perry to a knee injury for "weeks" means a reshuffling of the Ducks' top six. At first blush, coach Randy Carlyle is enterprising to boost Jakob Silfverberg into Perry's spot at right wing alongside No. 1 center Ryan Getzlaf, while substituting Kevin Roy in for Rickard Rakell on the left side of Getzlaf. In turn, Rakell settles in on the second scoring line at right wing with Andrew Cogliano and center Adam Henrique. Roy benefits most here, not only by avoiding demotion to the AHL (he was yo-yoed down and back up earlier this week), but also in nabbing a gig on the top scoring unit. Perhaps, it's a reward for the recent three goals and one assist through six contests. The 24-year-old rookie sports fantasy dark-horse potential as long as he sticks in that spot.
Arizona Coyotes: With his current contract expiring at the conclusion of next season, Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be the subject of trade speculation up until the minute he's re-signed to a new deal. The fiscally-conservative Coyotes may choose another direction over coughing up the big bucks required to keep a player of the top defenseman's caliber. Invested keeper/dynasty league managers will surely be rooting for a deal, since moving just about anywhere else would likely boost Ekman-Larsson's personal numbers, particularly in the plus/minus department, assuming he fills a top-pair position elsewhere.
Boston Bruins: On a roll with eight wins in their past 10 games, the Bruins aren't expected to muck around much with their lineup of late. Of note then, forward Jake DeBrusk has been a productive presence on the B's second scoring line and power play with center David Krejci since returning from injury. The highly-regarded rookie is rostered in only 4.3 percent of ESPN leagues. Also, veteran David Backes sports extra value in leagues that include non-scoring categories with 15 hits and 17 penalty minutes in his most recent six contests.
Buffalo Sabres: While anyone not named Jack Eichel is considered up for discussion, Evander Kane seems to top the league's up-to-date list of most popular trade targets. The San Jose Sharks, Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues are three of the many teams believed to have interest in the 26-year-old sniper. Assuming Kane and his expiring contract join a contender, his new role will go a long way in determining his fantasy worth moving forward. Despite the Sabres' overall difficulty with putting the puck in the net, Kane is enjoying a fairly productive campaign with 14 goals, 14 assists and 131 shots.
Calgary Flames: Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggests the Flames could be one of the teams interested in Kane. A spot on the right side of Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, in place of Micheal Ferland, could suit Kane very well. That would, of course, render Ferland nearly irrelevant, fantasy-wise. You can also bet your bottom buck that Kane would suit up on Calgary's top power play.
Carolina Hurricanes: Veteran goalie Cam Ward was superb in nailing down his 300th career win on Tuesday, a 3-2 shootout victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. No. 1 Scott Darling has garnered greater attention for more than his fair share of rougher moments. We're not there yet, as Ward has been erratic himself in recent play, but there's no guarantee the Hurricanes choose to ride Darling as their top option forever.
Chicago Blackhawks: Suffering a lower-body injury this past Friday, Cody Franson has been placed on Chicago's injured reserve. Fellow defenseman Jan Rutta is also sidelined with an upper-body injury. Look for part-timer Jordan Oesterle to again see significant blue-line minutes at even-strength and with the man advantage for a third-straight game in Winnipeg on Thursday. Averaging more than 21 minutes per contest, Oesterle has an assist on five shots with four blocked shots (plus-two) in his past two games.
Colorado Avalanche: Considered day-to-day with a leg injury, forward Alexander Kerfoot is ruled out a second-straight game Thursday. Check the young center's status on Saturday versus the Tampa Bay Lightning and beyond. With Kerfoot sidelined, coach Jared Bednar is opting to role with only two set lines, and 11 forwards altogether. From a fantasy manager's perspective, this rotate-by-feel strategy leaves much to be desired.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets must manage without Brandon Dubinsky for the next six-to-eight weeks. The centerman has been placed on IR after suffering a broken orbital bone during Tuesday's fight with Oilers forward Zack Kassian. Center Alexander Wennberg has since moved into Dubinsky's spot on a freshly (re-)formed scoring line with Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson, a unit that we were rather excited about earlier this week. The shift should only serve as a boost for Wennberg, who has had a miserable campaign to date after breaking out for 59 points last season. View the 23-year-old scorer as an attractive trade target with justifiable upside.
Dallas Stars: After prematurely exiting Wednesday's contest against the Islanders with a lower-body injury, Alexander Radulov is listed as day-to-day. However, "feeling better", the Stars' winger is expected to skate Friday. A return to action over the weekend, maybe Saturday in Philadelphia, if not Friday in New Jersey, is hardly out of the question.
Detroit Red Wings: Signed in Detroit through only next year, forward Gustav Nyquist remains a tradeable asset, as does defenseman Mike Green's expiring contract. To suggest both would benefit from an immediate change of scenery, away from one of the least productive clubs in the league, nearly goes without saying. A top-six role with a contender could do wonders for Nyquist's lagging production, in particular.
Edmonton Oilers: As Cam Talbot continues to recover from an upper-body injury, the Oilers could be looking to other organizations for goaltending help. Winnipeg's Michael Hutchinson and Detroit's Petr Mrazek are considered two potential targets. However, we're not sure the Oilers pull the trigger here since a) Talbot isn't expected to miss that much more time, and b) backup Laurent Brossoit has improved of late, allowing only five goals in his past three contests, two of them wins. Regardless, fantasy managers relying on Brossoit's play of late may want to formulate a back-up plan.
Florida Panthers: We should get our first look at goalie Harri Sateri between the NHL pipes soon, as Roberto Luongo remains sidelined on IR with a lower-body injury. James Reimer shoulders the load otherwise, but the 27-year-old ex-KHLer is poised to make his league debut next week. Anything other than a solid showing from Sateri could inspire Florida management to deal for outside help. Reimer has struggled, and Luongo could still be out weeks. Keep an eye on how it all shakes out.
Los Angeles Kings: All quiet on L.A.'s relatively healthy -- and winning -- front, at least until we get a better sense of when Jeff Carter might return, which is nowhere near imminent. Rookie defenseman Kurtis MacDermid is getting a shot at anchoring the club's secondary power play while seeing an increase in ice time altogether. The undrafted 23-year-old might be worth watching in exceptionally deep leagues. A big, physical player, MacDermid also has a serious appetite for collecting penalty minutes.
Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens' approach to the trade market -- buyer or seller -- should depend on how they manage their next immediate stretch. While enjoying more success lately and slowly making up for their ugly start, they remain a handful of points out of a playoff spot. For now, fantasy-wise, take a closer look at forward Phillip Danault. Centering a top line with Max Pacioretty, the 24-year-old has three goals and three assists (plus-five) in his past six games.
Minnesota Wild: Goalie Alex Stalock has just shot up in prominence within the Wild organization. With No. 1 Devan Dubnyk listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury, Minnesota's backup is facing a ton of work in the foreseeable future. If you need a fantasy netminder, don't hesitate in snagging the 30-year-old. In limited action, Stalock has been altogether solid, most notably as second string through several seasons with the Sharks. And the Wild win more often than not.
Nashville Predators: After missing more than a month with a lower-body injury, Scott Hartnell returned to the Predators' lineup, playing limited fourth-line minutes Wednesday. That limited assignment won't last too long. Once the 35-year-old forward has his legs back, a more prominent role -- including opportunities with the man advantage -- will be on offer once more. When healthy, Hartnell has a place in deeper fantasy leagues.
New Jersey Devils: Taylor Hall is hurt! But not too bad. Listed day-to-day with a knee contusion, Hall is projected to miss Thursday's game in Montreal and (probably) Friday's contest back home against the Stars. But then the Devils don't play again until Monday (Ducks), and then Thursday after that (New York Rangers). In the meanwhile, Jesper Bratt has been shifted to the left side of top center Nico Hischier and recent healthy scratch Drew Stafford, which doesn't thrill our fantasy souls that much. Fortunately, winger Kyle Palmieri isn't long for his return from a foot injury, either.
New York Islanders: Having started seven of the Islanders' past nine games, Jaroslav Halak was yanked Wednesday after allowing four goals on 20 shots to the Stars. We might see a little more of Halak's tandem teammate, Thomas Greiss, through the next five games preceding the holiday break. However, Greiss himself has been awful of late. If possible, steer clear of the Isles' netminders altogether for the next while.
New York Rangers: At face value, the four assists earned by Ryan McDonagh in six games back from an abdominal strain strike are respectable enough. And the 28-year-old is still blocking shots. However, in reaction to Monday's shootout loss to the Stars, Larry Brooks suggests the Rangers captain hasn't played near his usual standard.
"...McDonagh hasn't been himself for weeks. His decision-making has been way off. His hands have betrayed him. He hasn't been able to use his speed to carry the puck and beat the forecheck. His Corsi for this one was a shocking 19.64 percent (11 for 45). His relative rating was a minus 24.80, which means the club's shot-attempt numbers were 24.8 percent better when he was not on the ice..."
Concerning stuff, and food for thought if McDonagh is on your own fantasy roster.
Ottawa Senators: Oh, where to start. While the Senators don't deny listening to offers for star defenseman Erik Karlsson, there's a greater chance we'll see the struggling club move a forward at the midseason point. Mike Hoffman is one popular trade candidate, along with fellow forwards Zack Smith, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and pending restricted free agent Mark Stone. Of that gaggle, Hoffman promises the greatest uptick in production in potentially joining a playoff contender's top six.
Philadelphia Flyers: With just one year left on his current contract, Wayne Simmonds has been labeled a tradeable commodity for some time now. He's also scored three goals and two assists in his past four games while confirmed playing hurt. The dynamic winger is currently skating on the top line with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. Unless the Flyers' train derails in a hard hurry, our guess is Simmonds finishes the season in Philly. Whether the 29-year-old remains fit enough to play the duration is another story. Roster him for now.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Jim Rutherford is ready to tear it all down. Just kidding. But the Penguins' general manager insists he will make a move if his club continues to struggle. That could mean replacing Riley Sheahan as the third-line center or winger Bryan Rust up front within the top six, but we're not there yet. For now, know that No. 1 goalie Matt Murray is expected back Thursday after missing six games with a lower-body injury.
San Jose Sharks: Saddled with an expiring contract, goalie Aaron Dell has been largely branded a tradeable commodity for the Sharks this season. However, by playing better than No. 1 Martin Jones, the designated backup is complicating matters for San Jose management. While Jones has allowed 17 goals in his past four games, Dell has conceded only two in his last three contests. The 28-year-old is slated to start Thursday versus the Flames (with Jones getting the nod in Vancouver Friday). If current trends continue, we could see a little more Dell and a little less Martin for a bit.
St. Louis Blues: According to TSN's Pierre LeBrun among others, the West-leading Blues are keen to deal for a top-six forward ahead of their push for playoff success. Losing Jaden Schwartz (ankle) for weeks, in addition to Robby Fabbri for the season, has only compounded that desire. Ottawa's Hoffman is one option, and Buffalo's Kane is another, especially if St. Louis is most interested in a rental. Whoever joins that talented group, which already includes Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, Paul Stastny and Alexander Steen, should profit handsomely in the production department, while shoving Vladimir Sobotka into a third-line role.
Tampa Bay Lightning: If suspicious of the sudden surge in production from Tyler Johnson, don't be. Instead, credit coach Jon Cooper for shifting the forward from center to right wing. Turns out, Johnson is enjoying the gig, most recently aside center Brayden Point. With three goals and six assists in five games, the 27-year-old remains available in nearly half of ESPN leagues.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs will be without top forward Auston Matthews (upper-body ailment) for at least one more contest, Thursday's tilt with the Wild. Invested fantasy managers should realize the Leafs have no inclination to rush their star player back. Not only do they want Matthews fully healed for the long run, the club has also managed well enough without him, losing only one of his six games missed to date. If possible, bench the superstar until you get a strong sense of his pending return.
Vancouver Canucks: Having lost Bo Horvat (fractured ankle) and Sven Baertschi (broken jaw) to injury, the Canucks are believed to be in the market for a top-nine forward. But unless GM Jim Benning makes a bigger splash than anticipated, if any at all, we expect minimal fantasy fallout here. Vancouver's current top line of Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and rookie Brock Boeser has been Vancouver's most productive in recent play. With 12 helpers in a dozen games, Henrik is available in more than 91 percent of ESPN leagues.
Vegas Golden Knights: How is GM George McPhee going to pull off trading James Neal and/or David Perron while his club maintains a strong grip on a playoff spot? Unless the Knights' fortunes fade in the new year, maybe he doesn't, or else he risks alienating newbie fans of a franchise still in its infancy. So if you were counting on seeing either Neal or Perron move before this season's trade deadline, don't, and instead enjoy the productive fruits of their labor in Vegas. Rostered in only a third of ESPN leagues, Perron is riding a near point-per-game pace.
Washington Capitals: Forward T.J. Oshie remains a game or two away from returning to the Capitals' lineup. Out with an upper-body injury since early December, the 30-year-old is only a possibility to compete against the Ducks on Saturday. Forward Brett Connolly has made the most of Oshie's absence by scoring two of his four goals in six games while subbing in on the Capitals' power play. Daily fantasy enthusiasts in the market for a cheap dark-horse commodity might keep that in mind.
Winnipeg Jets: Designated week-to-week, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has been placed on IR with a lower-body injury. Fellow defensemen Jacob Trouba, if not Tyler Myers, will be tasked to fill Byfuglien's skates on the Jets' No. 1 power play. Myers has been the more effective of the two with the extra skater, collecting nine points to date. So we'll see what Trouba initially makes of this opportunity.