With the market now better established by the trade of Michael Grabner to the New Jersey Devils and the deal that sent Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers, there should be at least a few more fantasy-relevant transitions between now and Monday's NHL trade deadline.
Not all trades are automatically good for fantasy value. While Mrazek's fortunes rise quickly with a steady job and better offensive support in front of him, Grabner doesn't have a clear path to any more scoring than he already had with the New York Rangers. The Devils shouldn't be breaking up the trio of Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri to make room for Grabner, so he'll be on a secondary -- or perhaps tertiary -- line at even strength. Maybe he gets on the Devils' top power play, but with a resume of zero power-play goals over the last two seasons, that's no guarantee. (But if the Devils were hoping for more scoring when their opponent pulls the goalie, they've made the right move. Grabner tied for the NHL lead last season with four empty-net goals and already has a whopping seven this season, two shy of the NHL record).
In hopes of staying ahead of the curve, I wanted to take one last look at the possible fantasy implications, good or bad, for top names that are on most NHL analysts' lists of players likely to move.
The talk surrounding Karlsson smells a little bit like created hype for a trade deadline lacking a lot of top-tier names on the market, but there is probably at least a seed of truth to such a rumor. Still, it sounds crazy to consider the idea that the best defenseman in the league is on the block. While his season is sub-par by his standards, he's still likely to crack 60 points even if he stays with the Senators, which is outlandish for a fantasy defenseman. Karlsson is already showing signs of shaking off the rust from an offseason marred by an ankle injury, posting 10 points in his last 12 games.
The current iteration of the Sens is a fantasy sinkhole. If Karlsson escapes, he arguably jumps into the top 10 overall for fantasy value going forward. If you really think he's going to move or need to make a big splash in your league, consider asking about him now. The actual NHL franchises have to do it, so you should, too; if there's even a chance Karlsson is on the market, you have to at least ask.
Rick Nash, LW/RW, New York Rangers
Nash is currently on pace to equal his fantasy-irrelevant totals from last season in more games and more minutes per game. He can still offer some upside as a power-play specialist and depth winger, but Nash will turn 34 during the offseason, and unless he is hiding something in the tank to bring out for a contender, he probably won't have a massive post-deadline fantasy impact.
However, in a role requiring no checking responsibility and providing prime power-play minutes with star players, Nash could make some noise for fantasy managers. It really, really needs to be the right situation, perhaps with the Pittsburgh Penguins or Washington Capitals, and those feel like unlikely destinations.
Kane is the player I'm banking on as most likely to move and land in a fantasy-friendly location. He offers the most potential bang for teams seeking that top-line winger to complete their offense. The St. Louis Blues, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings fit that bill (maybe not the Winnipeg Jets in this scenario). We know Kane has the skill to put up points when lining up with elite players on offense. He just doesn't always show it.
On a playoff bound team giving him prime minutes, we should see more of the Kane who scored 34 points in the first 38 games of the season.
Ryan McDonagh, D, New York Rangers
McDonagh was still out on Thursday, stuck on the sidelines with an upper-body injury as his team considers trading him, but he's day-to-day with the ailment. There are plenty of playoff-bound teams that could use the services of a decent power-play quarterback and strong defensive force. The Toronto Maple Leafs are the team most often linked with the trade talks, but similar opportunities for McDonagh to stroll in as the new No. 1 defenseman exist with the Vegas Golden Knights, New York Islanders, Devils and Anaheim Ducks.
Assuming any team that trades for McDonagh needs him to be at the top of its depth chart, he could be in for a huge leap in fantasy value. When he was the lone Rangers offensive-defenseman last season, he had 25 points in his first 38 games of the season before a January slump that led to the team acquiring Kevin Shattenkirk in the offseason. Just don't expect a huge boost in statistics if McDonagh is traded to a team where he isn't the clear top dog on the blue line.
Others with minimal fantasy implications: If Patrick Maroon gets dealt anywhere, he becomes almost instantly fantasy irrelevant. He's a fantasy factor only by his association to Connor McDavid. ... Mike Green with the Detroit Red Wings is about as good a fantasy situation as the 32-year-old can hope for, so what you see is what you get in the best trade scenario for him. ... There's a very specific set of circumstances that would allow for Thomas Vanek to land in a fantasy-relevant location. But with more skilled rental wingers available than teams with a top-of-depth-chart role available, it's doubtful Vanek gets one of the good ones (Blues, Jets, Kings, etc.). ... I struggle more than most with the idea that the Montreal Canadiens would trade Max Pacioretty or Alex Galchenyuk because of one lost season, but this is the club that dealt away P.K. Subban, so anything is possible. Obviously, both forwards would be in a much better fantasy situation just about anywhere. ... Mike Hoffman and Derick Brassard would also offer elevated statistics if they were moved elsewhere at the deadline, but more so Hoffman than Brassard. Hoffman is similar to Kane in his potential impact as a top-50 fantasy player in the right situation. Brassard is trickier to project for a positive role, as most teams that are buyers at the deadline are already strong down the middle.
Fantasy Forecaster: Feb. 26-Mar. 4
The NHL keeps the pedal on the floor this week for scheduling, with 12 teams offering a four-game schedule and only three squads limited to two games of action.
It should be easy to avoid the teams with only two games on deck, as the Sabres, Arizona Coyotes and Ducks don't offer an abundance of must-start players to begin with. If you have the bench room, there's a strong chance you can find a replacement with four games who will offer a higher gross output.
For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: "O" (offense) and "D" (defense) matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's season-to-date statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The "Ratings" column lists the cumulative rating from 1-10 of that week's offensive ("O") and defensive ("D") matchups.
In the notes -- team, goalie and player -- below, the focus every week will be mainly on players who are available for potential use. Being rostered in less than 50 percent of ESPN leagues is a good generalized cutoff, and I'll include players below 10 percent whenever possible to cater to deeper formats.
A road trip with stops in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver and Colorado could extend what has already been an impressive recent run by the Predators offense. The lines have really settled into a groove during the past few games. The trio of Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg accounts for a collective 11 points during the past three games. Not to be overly outdone, Kyle Turris, Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala have eight points, while Scott Hartnell, Calle Jarnkrok and Nick Bonino have six. Smith and Fiala are the most underappreciated of the bunch in fantasy leagues, rostered in fewer than 40 percent of ESPN leagues. Get them into your lineup for next week's run.
We'll have to see if it sticks, but Vladislav Namestnikov spent the bulk of Thursday's game with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov for the first time in a while, hooking up with them to create two goals. Namestnikov has been in a checking role of late, but the success on Thursday could leave him in line to reunite with the top line on a continued basis. It's worth monitoring this weekend, as the Bolts play some malleable defenses next week in four games.
Let's all call time of death on the Habs' season. With news that Shea Weber is done for the campaign and Carey Price is down for the count with a concussion, any remote semblance of hope for a postseason should be wiped clean. That, however, does not mean there isn't fantasy value to glean from time to time. The news that Weber is out means that Jeff Petry just got an extension on his assignment as power-play quarterback. Rostered in fewer than 50 percent of ESPN leagues, Petry should be picked up in all leagues now that we know there isn't a sunset clause on his value. With the Habs on a four-game slate that includes two dates with the Islanders next week, now is a great time to act.
Antti Niemi, Montreal Canadiens (rostered in 2.1 percent of ESPN leagues)
Niemi's season hasn't been a fun one to watch, but his early struggles with the Florida Panthers and Penguins overshadow what has been a respectable body of work as the Habs' backup. With Price out indefinitely, Niemi is going to get a chance to run with the job, despite the presence of upstart Charlie Lindgren (who you may recall made some noise early in the season). Niemi actually boasts a .922 save percentage in nine appearances with the Canadiens this season, which is hidden somewhat by his overall .888 save percentage. His only poor start with the Habs came against the Golden Knights, and that's forgivable; he's not the only netminder to suffer at the hands of the expansion franchise this season. I'm not saying he's going to win you your fantasy championship, but on a four-game week and with the job potentially his to run with, Niemi may be worth a gamble in the short term.
Nolan Patrick, C, Philadelphia Flyers (10.7 percent)
Despite Travis Konecny having the higher profile at this stage, Patrick may be the one to keep Wayne Simmonds' role on the power play going forward, even after Konecny returns from a foot injury. Patrick is the bigger body and has more experience in that Simmonds wheelhouse in front of the net on the man advantage. This could be a huge boon to what was already a rising profile for the rookie. He already has a power-play goal in each of the two games Simmonds has missed.
It's a little deceiving because Micheal Ferland left the game injured, but Bennett actually started Thursday's tilt with Arizona in place of Ferland on the top line. In his first game on the top unit this season, Bennett had two points. Additionally, the trio (also including Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan) combined for three goals and four assists in the win. The Ferland injury could further cement what is a fantastic move for Bennett's value. Assuming the Flames don't bring in a winger via trade, Bennett is a must-add for next week.
Other notes: Keep an eye on the health status of Auston Matthews on Friday. He left Thursday's game with an injury after getting sandwiched by two Islanders. If he misses more time, it will impact William Nylander, but the other lines can survive with him out of the lineup. ... On the injury front, Jeff Carter and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins appear to be edging close to a return with their respective clubs. Carter more so, but both are worth having a look at if they are available.