New York Islanders
There are basically two universes we need to consider when it comes to the New York Islanders acquisition of Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks on Monday: The universe where Mathew Barzal shifts to the wing and the universe where he doesn't.
The Islanders now have more centers than they need, with Barzal, Horvat, Brock Nelson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Casey Czikas. Pageau and Czikas can and should stay where they are as the third and fourth line pivots. Which leaves the team with working in Horvat, Nelson and Barzal on the scoring lines.
Interestingly, Horvat has spent this season playing with a center that shifted over to the wing to be on his line, J.T. Miller, so sharing pivot duties is not a new concept for him. Barzal can potentially slide over to the wing and massively upgrade the Islanders top line. In this scenario, the fantasy focus shifts to the winger that is lucky enough to join the pair.
Josh Bailey, Kyle Palmieri and Oliver Wahlstrom are the top candidates. Bailey hasn't been able to repeat his fantasy success since John Tavares left town, so maybe this is a chance for him to play the assist-heavy role that drove him to 71 points in 2017-18 with Tavares and Anders Lee.
Lee, by the way, is another candidate for the wing spot, but has an established connection with Nelson and is likely to stay with him to keep the second line strong.
Palmieri has been playing with Lee and Nelson, but has the established pedigree to be a top-line winger. But that 30-goal potential has yet to be unlocked since Palmieri arrived in Long Island after his best years with the New Jersey Devils. I'd consider him a long shot for improved value here.
Wahlstrom is a bit of a wild card and becomes an option if Bailey can't capture the opportunity. The 22-year-old has put up dazzling fantasy numbers, but only on a per-minute basis as his ice time has not kept pace with the potential he's shown. That's usually an indicator that there are defensive issues that the coach has concerns with. But with two natural centers on a line, the Islanders can probably afford a little defensive liability when it comes to the third member.
A pre-emptive pickup of Bailey is a solid fantasy move in deeper leagues, but in leagues of 10 teams or fewer you can probably wait and see how the Islanders choose to assemble their top six and what the results are like. Jump on Wahlstrom if there is official word he will play on a line with Horvat and Barzal.
The other scenario, of course, is that Horvat and Barzal do not play on a line together. I find this one less likely, as that would mean breaking up Nelson and Lee or pushing them to the third line. That said, there is one interesting aspect to this possibility: Barzal had his best season when he was a second-line center with a meat shield drawing attention from opponents at the top of the depth chart. In Barzal's breakout, Calder-winning 2017-18 campaign, he played on the second line as Tavares was at the top of the depth chart. The two didn't even share 25 minutes together that season at five-on-five, yet Barzal drove his way to an 85-point rookie campaign.
Could having another center drawing attention be the key to Barzal being a point-per-game player?
But perhaps the biggest upgrade for the Islanders here is a chance to have a power play that demands a little respect.
Though they have a better power-play percentage than the Montreal Canadiens and more power-play goals than the Columbus Blue Jackets, I would venture to say the Isles have had the worst power play in the NHL this season. Since Dec. 1, the Islanders have only six power-play goals. Six! The next-lowest mark in the league is 10. The Edmonton Oilers have scored 33 since then!
Horvat's 11 power-play goals this season have him tied for 10th in the league, so there is hope that his presence can elevate this unit that has been lifeless for the better part of two months.
Horvat's arrival certainly bumps Pageau/Palmieri off the unit, which is going to come close to making Pageau droppable in 10-team leagues and keep Palmieri off the fantasy radar (unless he wins the Horvat-Barzal five-on-five lottery). Noah Dobson, who has been on a downward fantasy trend since the power play dried up, should get a jolt of life here. Lee and Nelson pencil in as members of the unit as well, which should get them back on track to the solid fantasy showings they were putting up in October and November. That said, if Barzal and Horvat play at even strength together and find a groove, the third member of their line, whomever it is, might join them on the advantage, which would bump Lee, Nelson or both of them.
Going back to the Canucks, in addition to a first-round pick, are wingers Anthony Beauvillier and Aatu Raty -- neither of which set off fantasy alarms bells for the immediate future. Beauvillier has been given nothing but opportunity with the Islanders, whether it's with Barzal or Lee and Nelson. He's never turned that opportunity into more than 1.5 fantasy points per game, though there have been hot streaks mixed in with his results.
The Canucks won't have a gaping wound in the depth chart here because Miller can slide over to play center on the second line, which is the role he occupied last season. But this trade, combined with the season-ending injury to Ilya Mikheyev quickly creates two holes on the wing for the Canucks top six.
The team is basically left with two duos seeking a third member: Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko on the top line, plus Miller and Conor Garland on the second line. It's easy to pencil in Brock Boeser and Beauvillier to fill those spots. That said, Beauvillier is probably in line behind Boeser and Garland to claim Horvat's vacated power-play time.
I don't think I'm jumping on Beauvillier in 12-team leagues until we get a couple games under his belt. Again, he's already been playing top-six minutes with some talented linemates and has not been a significant fantasy factor, so a breakout here would come simply from the change in scenery.
Miller's forced shift back to center is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this. There is a world where Miller recaptures the magic that drove him to 99 points last season by shifting back to being a primary center (he's only taken 249 faceoffs this season after taking 1,233 last season, so it's definitely a different role).
As for Raty, he joins a crop of young-20s wingers that will compete to skate with Pettersson and Miller in the coming seasons, but is arguably the most intriguing of them all. He's probably destined to run out most of the season at the AHL level with the occasional cup of coffee with the Canucks. He'll be in the mix as a sleeper candidate next season if the Canucks continue on their current trajectory and jettison another winger or two between now and then.
Add Josh Bailey in 12-team leagues or deeper in hopes he takes off with Horvat and Barzal.
Jump on Oliver Wahlstrom if he gets the opportunity instead of Bailey.
Consider dropping Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Float buy-low trade offers for J.T. Miller and Noah Dobson.
Keep Anthony Beauvillier on your watch list.