Fantasy hockey rankings update: How to prep for the trade deadline

Will the Edmonton Oilers trade for another goalie to complement Mike Smith? Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

With the all-star game in the rearview, the next date to circle in the NHL calendar is the trade deadline. Teams have until March 21 to make a move to improve their team heading into the postseason.

The wrinkle here, however, is that unless you have a league manager that adjusted your settings, the default fantasy trade deadline in ESPN leagues is March 18. That will add an additional level of speculative moves required in order to capitalize on player movement.

And you do want to try to capitalize on it. A trade has the potential to have a major impact on fantasy. The right player moving to the right place can create a perfect storm of skill and opportunity.

The hockey pundits have varying lists of players expected to be dealt before the deadline. The challenge in fantasy is identifying which ones have the potential to land in that perfect storm scenario. Not only do you have to look at the player, but you have to look at the available roles to be filled. In fact, I would argue the roles that need to be filled are even more important when it comes to fantasy relevance of a trade.

With that in mind, rather than focus first on the players that many believe are available, let's have a look at the most fantasy-relevant roles open to being filled at the deadline.

Teams find a way to dance around the salary cap, so I won't be factoring that in when speculating on player acquisition, but it's something to keep in mind. Keep in mind that to be a fantasy-friendly role, it needs to be with a club in the hunt for the playoffs and the in-house options need to be generally less appealing than the potential trade targets.

Edmonton Oilers goaltender: The Oilers are very much still in the mix for the postseason and the only arguable hole in the lineup from a fantasy perspective is the crease. Mike Smith can be good, but cannot be relied on to stay healthy in the twilight of his career. Mikko Koskinen has had every chance to be what the team needs in net, but hasn't stepped up. A goaltender that can be consistent, healthy and make above average saves has the potential to be a top fantasy netminder for the stretch run. But the key here is that is has to be a player with more upside that Koskinen or Smith. Some of the available goaltenders don't meet that threshold; Anton Khudobin, Joonas Korpisalo or Semyon Varlamov, for example. The key for this role to pop off for fantasy will be the acquisition of someone like Marc-Andre Fleury.

Other teams with this role potentially up for grabs: Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues.

Boston Bruins center: No, not for the top line. But there is potential here to upgrade what has become a much more important second-line role. With David Pastrnak playing his best hockey since being moved to the second line with Taylor Hall on the other flank, it wouldn't hurt to have someone with a little more offensive upside than Erik Haula between them. Charlie Coyle was clearly not the answer here, after being given months of slack with which to earn his place. In a dream world, a Claude Giroux or Tomas Hertl would be the player acquired, but anyone with some offensive acumen that is between those two wingers has a chance to do something special.

Other teams with this role potentially up for grabs: Nashville Predators.

Calgary Flames power-play quarterback: Nothing against Rasmus Andersson, but he's been sharing the ice with one of the best lines in the league on the advantage and doesn't have the point totals to back it up. A true quarterback in this role would be among the league leaders in defensive scoring this season. There are a few offense-first defensemen up for grabs at the deadline. Chief among them here: Can you imagine a reunion with Mark Giordano? But Jakob Chychrun and John Klingberg are also available.

Other teams with this role potentially up for grabs: St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger: This is less about the lines at even strength and more about upgrading that fourth forward for the power play. The Lightning have a powerhouse top three in Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point. After that, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn are serviceable, but not as good as a player could be in this situation. Adding a power-play specialist winger would have incredible upside for fantasy. Players like Phil Kessel, Mike Hoffman and Tyler Toffoli come to mind.

Other teams with this role potentially up for grabs: New York Rangers, Washington Capitals.

Forwards on the move

Patrik Laine, W, Columbus Blue Jackets (up 10 spots to No. 52): So, we are thinking Laine might be back to form, eh? Two goals in each of his last three games certainly suggests as much. I've kept Laine ranked much higher than his stats dictate this season because this is not unexpected. He's too good of a player when set free on offense not to produce mass goals. Of course, the side effect is mass goals against, but I've argued that's a trade-off the Blue Jackets should be willing to make to set Laine free. In the past three games at even strength, Laine, Gustav Nyquist and Boone Jenner have produced three goals together, but have been scored on five times. But it sure looks like coach Brad Larsen is willing to try to win this way, giving Laine a chance to produce at an elite clip.

Evander Kane, W, Edmonton Oilers (up 34 spots to No. 59): So far, so good for Kane as an Oiler. He's produced 2.2 fantasy points per game (FPPG) through four outings. Part of that comes from the shots and hits that make his profile so darn appealing. In those four games, Kane has fired 14 shots and posted 20 hits. If the Oilers power play starts clicking like it was earlier this season, look out.

Jack Eichel, C, Vegas Golden Knights (up 70 spots to No. 67): Cleared for contact at practice, the rush on Eichel in fantasy leagues has already come and gone. But I'm here to suggest you can wait out those who scooped him up and try to make a trade later. Maybe I'm wrong and we see Eichel in game action this month, but I still feel like the Golden Knights need to wait closer to the trade deadline in order to clear the salary-cap space required to activate him. So if you missed out on Eichel from the free-agent pile, there's still a chance you can make a move. Fantasy managers might start to get frustrated if the calendar flips to March and we still haven't seen him on the ice. In that scenario, you could potentially still make a move. And yes, this ranking reflects my belief we still have some time to wait; Eichel, when active, is a top-20 fantasy asset.

Defensemen on the move

Ryan Pulock, D, New York Islanders (up 28 spots to No. 86): Yes, I think Pulock is still a top-100 fantasy play even without the power play, which is now owned by Noah Dobson. Pulock contributes a base in hits and blocked shots that mean he doesn't need to do a ton in order to earn his fantasy keep. Take his first two games back for example: Big zeroes in points, but his shots, hits and blocked shots still earned 1.4 FPPG. When the points start coming, he's back in the mix.

Jakob Chychrun, D, Arizona Coyotes (up 28 spots to No. 155): The most-discussed name ahead of the trade deadline, I do think a pre-emptive Chychrun acquisition is likely to pay dividends down the line in fantasy. In almost all possible trade scenarios except a few, Chychrun becomes the best defenseman and the power-play quarterback on a playoff-bound team. He was the second-best fantasy defenseman in the 2021 season and we can forgive his dismal showing this year given the current state of the Coyotes.

Goaltenders on the move

Linus Ullmark, G, Boston Bruins (up 40 spots to No. 173): He's been much better than Jeremy Swayman and Tuukka Rask is now likely out of the picture. It's not like the Bruins have another choice here, but Ullmark will get the bulk of action for a playoff-bound team that does a better-than-average job of protecting their goaltender from high-danger chances. With the Rask distraction now settled, I have no qualms about depending on Ullmark down the stretch run if your fantasy goaltender situation is still unsettled.

New to rankings

Connor Brown (back on the ice and a power-play role thanks to other injuries), Calvin de Haan, Oliver Ekman-Larsson (very interested after he posted a standout game with Quinn Hughes out of the lineup), Michael Bunting.

Just missed

Ryan Lindgren, Ryan McDonagh, Brett Pesce, Nino Niederreiter, Scott Mayfield, Damon Severson, Travis Konecny, Brian Dumoulin, Adam Pelech, Adam Boqvist, Mason Marchment, Erik Cernak, Jeremy Swayman.

Dropped out

Paul Stastny, Tuukka Rask, Yanni Gourde, Semyon Varlamov.

Top-250 rankings

1. Connor McDavid, F, EDM (F1)
2. Auston Matthews, F, TOR (F2)
3. Leon Draisaitl, F, EDM (F3)
4. Nathan MacKinnon, F, COL (F4)
5. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, TB (G1)
6. Nikita Kucherov, F, TB (F5)
7. Mikko Rantanen, F, COL (F6)
8. Brad Marchand, F, BOS (F7)
9. Igor Shesterkin, G, NYR (G2)
10. Jack Campbell, G, TOR (G3)
11. Cale Makar, D, COL (D1)
12. Alex Ovechkin, F, WSH (F8)
13. Roman Josi, D, NSH (D2)
14. Adam Fox, D, NYR (D3)
15. David Pastrnak, F, BOS (F9)
16. Timo Meier, F, SJ (F10)
17. Frederik Andersen, G, CAR (G4)
18. Gabriel Landeskog, F, COL (F11)
19. Juuse Saros, G, NSH (G5)
20. Jake Guentzel, F, PIT (F12)
21. Tristan Jarry, G, PIT (G6)
22. Aleksander Barkov, F, FLA (F13)
23. Sebastian Aho, F, CAR (F14)
24. Kirill Kaprizov, F, MIN (F15)
25. Mika Zibanejad, F, NYR (F16)
26. Kyle Connor, F, WPG (F17)
27. Filip Forsberg, F, NSH (F18)
28. Nazem Kadri, F, COL (F19)
29. Charlie McAvoy, D, BOS (D4)
30. Steven Stamkos, F, TB (F20)
31. Max Pacioretty, F, VGS (F21)
32. Anze Kopitar, F, LA (F22)
33. Elias Lindholm, F, CGY (F23)
34. Victor Hedman, D, TB (D5)
35. Jacob Markstrom, G, CGY (G7)
36. Brady Tkachuk, F, OTT (F24)
37. Sidney Crosby, F, PIT (F25)
38. Chris Kreider, F, NYR (F26)
39. Alex Pietrangelo, D, VGS (D6)
40. Patrice Bergeron, F, BOS (F27)
41. Kris Letang, D, PIT (D7)
42. Vladimir Tarasenko, F, STL (F28)
43. Joe Pavelski, F, DAL (F29)
44. Seth Jones, D, CHI (D8)
45. Bryan Rust, F, PIT (F30)
46. Matthew Tkachuk, F, CGY (F31)
47. John Tavares, F, TOR (F32)
48. Jonathan Huberdeau, F, FLA (F33)
49. Drew Doughty, D, LA (D9)
50. Mark Stone, F, VGS (F34)
51. Mitch Marner, F, TOR (F35)
52. Patrik Laine, F, CLS (F36)
53. Aaron Ekblad, D, FLA (D10)
54. Artemi Panarin, F, NYR (F37)
55. Ilya Sorokin, G, NYI (G8)
56. Johnny Gaudreau, F, CGY (F38)
57. Devon Toews, D, COL (D11)
58. Mats Zuccarello, F, MIN (F39)
59. Evander Kane, F, EDM (F40)
60. J.T. Miller, F, VAN (F41)
61. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, FLA (G9)
62. Darnell Nurse, D, EDM (D12)
63. Noah Dobson, D, NYI (D13)
64. Mark Scheifele, F, WPG (F42)
65. Roope Hintz, F, DAL (F43)
66. Tyler Bertuzzi, F, DET (F44)
67. Jack Eichel, F, BUF (F45)
68. John Carlson, D, WSH (D14)
69. Jack Hughes, F, NJ (F46)
70. Dougie Hamilton, D, NJ (D15)
71. Jason Robertson, F, DAL (F47)
72. MacKenzie Weegar, D, FLA (D16)
73. Morgan Rielly, D, TOR (D17)
74. Zach Werenski, D, CLS (D18)
75. Brayden Point, F, TB (F48)
76. William Nylander, F, TOR (F49)
77. Andrei Svechnikov, F, CAR (F50)
78. Cam Talbot, G, MIN (G10)
79. Evgeni Malkin, F, PIT (F51)
80. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F, EDM (F52)
81. Jacob Trouba, D, NYR (D19)
82. Ryan Hartman, F, MIN (F53)
83. Brock Nelson, F, NYI (F54)
84. Pierre-Luc Dubois, F, WPG (F55)
85. Alex DeBrincat, F, CHI (F56)
86. Ryan Pulock, D, NYI (D20)
87. Connor Hellebuyck, G, WPG (G11)
88. Thomas Chabot, D, OTT (D21)
89. Alex Tuch, F, BUF (F57)
90. Jordan Kyrou, F, STL (F58)
91. Brent Burns, D, SJ (D22)
92. Thatcher Demko, G, VAN (G12)
93. Tony DeAngelo, D, CAR (D23)
94. Dylan Larkin, F, DET (F59)
95. Elias Pettersson, F, VAN (F60)
96. Boone Jenner, F, CLS (F61)
97. Alec Martinez, D, VGS (D24)
98. Matt Duchene, F, NSH (F62)
99. Evgeny Kuznetsov, F, WSH (F63)
100. Evan Bouchard, D, EDM (D25)
101. Joel Eriksson Ek, F, MIN (F64)
102. Josh Norris, F, OTT (F65)
103. Miro Heiskanen, D, DAL (D26)
104. Robin Lehner, G, VGS (G13)
105. Sam Bennett, F, FLA (F66)
106. Darcy Kuemper, G, COL (G14)
107. Tomas Hertl, F, SJ (F67)
108. Moritz Seider, D, DET (D27)
109. Anthony Duclair, F, FLA (F68)
110. Pavel Buchnevich, F, STL (F69)
111. Mario Ferraro, D, SJ (D28)
112. Troy Terry, F, ANA (F70)
113. Mathew Dumba, D, MIN (D29)
114. Cam Atkinson, F, PHI (F71)
115. Colton Parayko, D, STL (D30)
116. Taylor Hall, F, BOS (F72)
117. Patrick Kane, F, CHI (F73)
118. Ivan Provorov, D, PHI (D31)
119. Teuvo Teravainen, F, CAR (F74)
120. Tom Wilson, F, WSH (F75)
121. Nicklas Backstrom, F, WSH (F76)
122. Logan Couture, F, SJ (F77)
123. John Gibson, G, ANA (G15)
124. Artem Zub, D, OTT (D32)
125. Valeri Nichushkin, F, COL (F78)
126. Mathew Barzal, F, NYI (F79)
127. Claude Giroux, F, PHI (F80)
128. Marcus Foligno, F, MIN (F81)
129. Shayne Gostisbehere, D, ARI (D33)
130. Ondrej Palat, F, TB (F82)
131. Esa Lindell, D, DAL (D34)
132. Vincent Trocheck, F, CAR (F83)
133. Sam Reinhart, F, FLA (F84)
134. Neal Pionk, D, WPG (D35)
135. T.J. Oshie, F, WSH (F85)
136. Andre Burakovsky, F, COL (F86)
137. Samuel Girard, D, COL (D36)
138. Blake Wheeler, F, WPG (F87)
139. Kevin Fiala, F, MIN (F88)
140. Rasmus Andersson, D, CGY (D37)
141. Jaccob Slavin, D, CAR (D38)
142. Zach Whitecloud, D, VGS (D39)
143. Andrew Copp, F, WPG (F89)
144. Matthew Boldy, F, MIN (F90)
145. Erik Johnson, D, COL (D40)
146. Jared Spurgeon, D, MIN (D41)
147. Andrew Mangiapane, F, CGY (F91)
148. Mark Giordano, D, SEA (D42)
149. Jonathan Marchessault, F, VGS (F92)
150. Pavel Francouz, G, COL (G16)
151. Connor Murphy, D, CHI (D43)
152. Shea Theodore, D, VGS (D44)
153. Rasmus Dahlin, D, BUF (D45)
154. Tim Stutzle, F, OTT (F93)
155. Jakob Chychrun, D, ARI (D46)
156. Zach Hyman, F, EDM (F94)
157. Clayton Keller, F, ARI (F95)
158. Nikolaj Ehlers, F, WPG (F96)
159. Brock Boeser, F, VAN (F97)
160. Viktor Arvidsson, F, LA (F98)
161. Elvis Merzlikins, G, CLS (G17)
162. Ville Husso, G, STL (G18)
163. Jonas Brodin, D, MIN (D47)
164. Ivan Barbashev, F, STL (F99)
165. Alex Iafallo, F, LA (F100)
166. Jared McCann, F, SEA (F101)
167. Jeff Carter, F, PIT (F102)
168. Tage Thompson, F, BUF (F103)
169. Adam Larsson, D, SEA (D48)
170. Jesper Bratt, F, NJ (F104)
171. Rickard Rakell, F, ANA (F105)
172. Oliver Bjorkstrand, F, CLS (F106)
173. Linus Ullmark, G, BOS (G19)
174. Jordan Eberle, F, SEA (F107)
175. Quinn Hughes, D, VAN (D49)
176. Anthony Cirelli, F, TB (F108)
177. Tyler Toffoli, F, MON (F109)
178. Ryan Johansen, F, NSH (F110)
179. Oliver Wahlstrom, F, NYI (F111)
180. Ryan Getzlaf, F, ANA (F112)
181. Ryan Graves, D, NJ (D50)
182. Alex Killorn, F, TB (F113)
183. Joshua Morrissey, D, WPG (D51)
184. Lucas Raymond, F, DET (F114)
185. Chandler Stephenson, F, VGS (F115)
186. Jonathan Quick, G, LA (G20)
187. Brayden McNabb, D, VGS (D52)
188. Anton Lundell, F, FLA (F116)
189. Ilya Mikheyev, F, TOR (F117)
190. John Klingberg, D, DAL (D53)
191. Kevin Shattenkirk, D, ANA (D54)
192. Alex Goligoski, D, MIN (D55)
193. Jesse Puljujarvi, F, EDM (F118)
194. Tyson Barrie, D, EDM (D56)
195. Bo Horvat, F, VAN (F119)
196. Jamie Benn, F, DAL (F120)
197. Mikhail Sergachev, D, TB (D57)
198. Carter Hart, G, PHI (G21)
199. Ryan O'Reilly, F, STL (F121)
200. Cam Fowler, D, ANA (D58)
201. Nate Schmidt, D, WPG (D59)
202. Torey Krug, D, STL (D60)
203. J.T. Compher, F, COL (F122)
204. Adam Henrique, F, ANA (F123)
205. Nick Suzuki, F, MON (F124)
206. Nico Hischier, F, NJ (F125)
207. Sean Couturier, F, PHI (F126)
208. Mikael Granlund, F, NSH (F127)
209. Ryan Strome, F, NYR (F128)
210. Anders Lee, F, NYI (F129)
211. Mike Smith, G, EDM (G22)
212. Trevor Zegras, F, ANA (F130)
213. Tyler Seguin, F, DAL (F131)
214. David Perron, F, STL (F132)
215. Ilya Samsonov, G, WSH (G23)
216. James Reimer, G, SJ (G24)
217. Justin Faulk, D, STL (D61)
218. Brayden Schenn, F, STL (F133)
219. Jaden Schwartz, F, SEA (F134)
220. Vladislav Gavrikov, D, CLS (D62)
221. Adrian Kempe, F, LA (F135)
222. Evan Rodrigues, F, PIT (F136)
223. Blake Coleman, F, CGY (F137)
224. Rasmus Ristolainen, D, PHI (D63)
225. Jeff Skinner, F, BUF (F138)
226. Connor Brown, F, OTT (F139)
227. Jordan Binnington, G, STL (G25)
228. Jake Oettinger, G, DAL (G26)
229. Matt Roy, D, LA (D64)
230. Lawson Crouse, F, ARI (F140)
231. Kaapo Kahkonen, G, MIN (G27)
232. Ondrej Kase, F, TOR (F141)
233. Ben Chiarot, D, MON (D65)
234. Filip Hronek, D, DET (D66)
235. Braden Holtby, G, DAL (G28)
236. Reilly Smith, F, VGS (F142)
237. Robert Thomas, F, STL (F143)
238. Mikko Koskinen, G, EDM (G29)
239. Carter Verhaeghe, F, FLA (F144)
240. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, CHI (G30)
241. Calvin de Haan, D, CHI (D67)
242. Sean Durzi, D, LA (D68)
243. Jakub Vrana, F, DET (F145)
244. Justin Braun, D, PHI (D69)
245. Nathan Bastian, F, NJ (F146)
246. Cole Perfetti, F, WPG (F147)
247. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, VAN (D70)
248. Radko Gudas, D, FLA (D71)
249. Tyler Myers, D, VAN (D72)
250. Michael Bunting, F, TOR (F148)