It's hard to justify carrying dead weight on a fantasy hockey roster, but sometimes the short-term pain can result in long-term gain. While a serious fantasy league isn't going to see Victor Hedman, Filip Forsberg or Mark Scheifele on the waiver wire due to injury, there are many players that are (rightly) cut free when injuries strike.
If another fantasy player cuts ties with an ailing asset, you can benefit. Whether you are transferring the player to injured reserve or scooping them up and sitting them, the eventual payoff is a roster-worthy player that you acquired for minimal cost -- it just takes a bit of careful roster management.
The most obvious strategy is to use a borderline-relevant player to stream an injured player into your injured reserve spot. While there is some risk to dropping a player, the trick is making sure it's a replaceable asset. Release the fringe player, add the injured player and move them to your IR, then pick up the original player or one of comparable value.
If your IR is already full or you play in a league without one, this strategy requires some extra effort. To mitigate against the dead weight on your bench, you'll need to pick up some counting stats elsewhere. This means spending some extra time each week reading the Fantasy Forecaster and finding streamable players that have an extra game or two. In order to do this effectively, you'll need two fringe roster spots available; one for the injured player and one for extra help. It may not be worth your effort depending on the player you are stashing, so approach this strategy with caution.
So who's available?
The scene has been set perfectly for Luongo to return to glory for the Panthers this season. James Reimer has been very good, but not quite good enough since Luongo was hurt on Dec. 4. That means two things: The Panthers are playing well enough to provide support for their goaltender and that Luongo will have a chance to regain regular starting role. Reimer has been a workhorse with Luongo hurt, but his overall numbers haven't been able to trend into respectable territory -- 3.04 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. Bobby Lou has an exceptional .928 save percentage to come back to when he's healthy.
So when will that be? Coach Bob Boughner has been dropping hints about the return becoming somewhat imminent. Don't be surprised if we see Luongo shortly after the All-Star break. There are a lot of speculative goaltender additions to be made right now, but if your league is goalie-starved, Luongo could be the consolation prize to stash.
Carter, as you may recall, easily led the Kings in goals last season and is their three-year leader for generating shots plus missed shots on goal per game (a metric to measure attempted attacks). Adrian Kempe is a solid addition to this club, but he doesn't bring the same threat level that Carter does as the secondary unit behind Anze Kopitar. Recovering from an ankle injury, Carter is now skating on his own. Projections for a return seem to point toward the trade deadline at the end of February, but he could come back sooner depending on how his on-ice workouts go. Carter is a shooting machine and 30-goal (pace) scorer that you can add for virtually nothing right now. With news about his recovery trickling out, you may not be able to play waiver-wire chicken with your leaguemates much longer.
Masking an injury to his knee certainly helps explain why Shattenkirk hit the wall, hard, on Nov. 15. One of the best fantasy defensemen in the NHL until that point, Shattenkirk has been borderline droppable since. Coupling his poor results with an "indefinite" time period for a meniscus tear and he's going to get dropped in many leagues. But this isn't a season-ending meniscus tear by the sounds of it.
With Shattenkirk already talking about returning for this season, this sounds closer to a Taylor Hall meniscus tear than it does a Steven Stamkos tear. Tearing their meniscus within days of each other last November, Hall was back for the start of December, while Stamkos never returned. Shattenkirk's optimism certainly lends to the belief that this is more of a short-term fix.
Now, the key here is that we must remember how awesome Shattenkirk was when his cortisone shot at the start of the season had him feeling good -- 17 points in the first 18 games of the season. Hall scored eight points in his first five games back from his tear last season, so there is hope for a return to top form for Shattenkirk when he's healthy again. That makes him worth holding or adding for potential as a fantasy difference-maker.
This week's rankings reflects two weeks of fantasy jostling, as we took a break from the top-250 rest-of-season rankings last week to update our dynasty rankings.
Forwards on the move
With an upturn in production from the sophomore Konecny, his accession to the top line is starting to look more permanent. Prior to what's been a productive January, Konecny had left the door open for a potential demotion on the depth chart. But his future for this season looks bright now that some chemistry appears to have developed with Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier. He's still not going to get power-play time without an injury to another top forward, but Konecny has scored four times and notched seven points in nine games this month.
Where are the goals coming from for Jumbo Joe? After failing to score 20 goals for the past six seasons, Thornton is on pace for his highest total since 2008-09. Now consider that six of his 13 goals this season have come in January. His January pace is unsustainable (he has a ridiculous 46.2 percent shooting percentage this month), but on the whole his 17.6 shooting percentage is in line with what he's maintained in the past. There appears to be a mandate for Thornton to consider shooting more often depending on the game script. He's already taken five shots in a game twice this season; that didn't happen once last season.
Defenseman on the move
After averaging 15:54 of ice time this season, here are Sergachev's ice-time totals from the three games since Victor Hedman was injured: 21:07, 21:06 and 19:13. As I mentioned in last week's dynasty rankings, Sergachev is already on pace to be among the top-five 19-year-old NHL defensemen of all-time. Now, he has three weeks (or more) with an extra five minutes of ice time per game (much of that on a top power-play unit). When all is said and done, Sergachev will only be looking up at Ray Bourque, Larry Murphy and Phil Housley in the all-time rankings for points by a 19-year-old blueliner.
Goaltenders on the move
While I am advocating for the three following goaltenders to be added to fantasy rosters, I am also clearly stating that Semyon Varlamov, Martin Jones and Corey Crawford should remain on rosters, too. Goaltending trends can turn on a dime. While the situations are ideal for success for the three understudies here, these starters have established historical success and will be given a chance to regain their form.
With Bernier, I'm consistently coming back to the fact that his only chance as a starter was on terrible Toronto Maple Leafs teams. He's still only 29 years old and has a storied pedigree as a potential NHL starter. He was stuck behind Jonathan Quick for the first five seasons of his career and then struggled behind a porous Leafs squad for the next three seasons. Last year in Anaheim, he was a quality backup and showed enormous chops when John Gibson was injured at the end of last season. In March and April last season, Bernier led all NHL goaltenders with 12 wins, and he was fourth in the league in both goals-against average and save percentage. Now, with Varlamov down for the count since December, Bernier is first in the NHL in wins since Dec. 31, first in save percentage and third in goals-against average. This certainly sounds like the resume of somebody breaking through, doesn't it?
Aaron Dell, G, San Jose Sharks (up 114 spots to No. 127)
Dell is schooling Jones in every category that matters in both fantasy hockey and the NHL. Despite starting about half as many times as Jones since the start of November, Dell leads Jones 11-9 in wins. Nagging injury to Jones or not, Dell is running with the task of being the starter for the Sharks. Dell is now in a position to play and start for as long as he keeps performing well. Even if Jones returns with a clean bill of health and shows his previous form, Dell is going to cut into his workload on merit.
As the rumours swirl around Crawford's potential to miss the remainder of the season, the pressure is on for Forsberg to step up and be the starter for the Hawks. He fell flat on his face on Saturday against the Islanders, but was hung out to dry on more than a couple of the five goals he allowed. The good news for his potential is that backup Jeff Glass didn't look any better. While Forsberg has the skills to find his form and be the starter, it's not guaranteed. If Crawford ends up being out long-term, Forsberg has enormous fantasy potential. That said, if he doesn't start looking good soon, the Hawks are going to look for help outside the organization. Still, there is enough skill and opportunity in Forsberg's concern to justify rostering him for the short-term.