Fantasy Grapevine for Week 10 

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
Taylor HallDerek Leung/Getty ImagesCould one of Edmonton's talented young players -- like Taylor Hall -- be on the move?
So they canned the head coach. ... Now what?

The Edmonton Oilers -- an organization poetically referred to by Grantland’s Sean McIndoe as a “train wreck inside of a tire fire” -- are more than one move away from solving all that ails them. Maybe owner Daryl Katz finally hurls his loyalty to the back shelf (in the crawl space) and mucks around with his management crew. Maybe Katz’s faithfulness will endure. Regardless of who’s at the helm, we would be surprised -- nay, shocked -- if the club tries to move forward and improve without making significant changes to its roster. The only questions relate to who and when? No matter who it is, the fantasy implications will be huge.

According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon (and others), no one is considered “untouchable” from a trade perspective.

Links from around the rink - December 15 

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
The NHL holiday roster freeze goes into effect next week, giving general managers an extra incentive to make a move.

Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun lists the Sabres, Coyotes, Hurricanes and Flyers as teams that have a reason to be active, “but those GMs are hitting roadblocks when it comes to finding a dance partner.”

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Fantasy Grapevine for Week 9 

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
Keith YandleNorm Hall/NHLI/Getty ImagesKeith Yandle leads the Coyotes in scoring. Imagine what he could be doing on a better team.
Envision gifted offensive defenseman Keith Yandle playing for a team that averages more that 2.29 goals per game. It could happen, and in the not-too-distant future.

Unlike the Yandle-related trade rumors of yesteryear, TSN’s Bob McKenzie suggests an actual, real-life deal may be in the cards for the Arizona Coyotes here. If so, the potential fantasy fallout is scintillating.

As he has the past two seasons, Yandle once again leads the Coyotes in points -- an uncommon feat for a defenseman (see also: Shea Weber, before the Nashville Predators traded for/signed some scoring). For selfish fantasy-related reasons, we’d love to see what he could accomplish with a squad where he doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting on offense. Say, with the Detroit Red Wings, who are believed to be exceptionally keen on the 28-year-old blueliner.

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Fantasy Grapevine for Week 8 

December, 3, 2014
Dec 3
Ilya BryzgalovHarry How/Getty ImagesIt's been seven years since we last saw Ilya Bryzgalov in a Ducks sweater.
First it was Martin Brodeur, now it appears fellow veteran free-agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is shimmying his way back into action at the NHL level. According to’s Pierre LeBrun, Bryzgalov has accepted a tryout with the Anaheim Ducks.

“Ilya Bryzgalov has agreed to join the Ducks on a similar kind of tryout as the one Martin Brodeur had last week with the St. Louis Blues, a situation that likely will lead the colorful goalie to a contract with Anaheim, sources have told”

Fun. For those who enjoy the occasional entertaining locker-room sound bite, the NHL is a richer body with Bryzgalov in the mix. But this move should also help the Ducks and fantasy owners, on the ice. With John Gibson and Jason LaBarbera out for the foreseeable future, Frederik Andersen can’t shoulder the load alone. And Igor Bobkov -- who has been struggling in the AHL -- isn’t the answer. The Ducks are familiar with Bryzgalov, having drafted him in 2000, seven years before trading him to the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes in 2007. They know what they’re getting in both colorful personality and reliable netminding (more often than not).

Unless he falls flat -- a real possibility, of course -- Bryzgalov could serve as a useful plug-in candidate in deeper leagues and daily fantasy play (depending on Anaheim’s opponent).

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After squandering a 3-0 lead to the Kings in the first round of the playoffs last spring, the San Jose Sharks turned some heads by deciding to retain longtime general manager Doug Wilson and coach Todd McLellan. But does the duo have little margin for error?

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Links from around the rink - November 17 

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver turned some heads last week with an editorial in the New York Times calling for the legalization of professional sports betting.

Silver’s comments may have had the NHL in mind. “It means,” one NHL executive told Elliotte Friedman of SportsNet, “He thinks we’re going into Las Vegas, and he wants to be a part of it.”

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Fantasy Hockey Grapevine - Week 5 

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12

Kari LehtonenIcon Sportswire/AP ImagesMight the Stars use their extra cap space to upgrade behind Kari Lehtonen in goal?
The Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens conspired to create a minor ripple in the fabric of the National Hockey League this week by exchanging a weathered defenseman(Sergei Gonchar) for a career depth forward (Travis Moen). While both squads stand to benefit from the trade, examining the fantasy angle doesn’t inspire much enthusiasm until the deal is scrutinized as catalyst for a foreseeable follow-up move (or two).

Specifically, what does Stars general manager Jim Nill plan to do next?

By shipping away Gonchar, and 92 percent of his $5 million salary, the Stars clear valuable breathing room under the cap, which is space that would come in handy in adding an experienced defenseman, preferably one with offensive upside and a right-handed shot. And this is where the fantasy discussion becomes more stimulating.

A team that aims to make serious noise in the postseason this spring, the Stars are already off pace in the playoff race with a 5-6-4 record. While their gaggle of young, talented defensemen -- Jamie Oleksiak, Brenden Dillon, John Klingberg and Patrik Nemeth (who is on injured reserve) -- hints at a promising future, the Stars need an experienced body to help them compete now; veterans Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley can only handle so much of the load. Furthermore, of the aforementioned six, plus current defensive plug Jordie Benn, only Klingberg is a right-handed shot. The 22-year-old has played a total of one game in the NHL. For the record, he managed well enough.

So, in light of this proposed need, who fits the bill?

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Fantasy Hockey Grapevine -- Week 4 

November, 5, 2014
Nov 5
David BackesChuck Meyers/Getty ImagesTomas Kaberle was out of the NHL in 2013-14 but played for the Czechs in the Sochi Olympics.

Twenty months (and counting) after playing his last regular-season National Hockey League game, Tomas Kaberle is looking to make a comeback. What’s more intriguing is the 36-year-old defenseman may actually has a shot at earning an NHL roster spot.

With three blue-line regulars out injured or suspended -- and that's assuming Kevin Klein returns to the lineup in short order -- the New York Rangers have extended Kaberle a tryout invite.

At this premature stage, how this audition will unfold is anybody's guess, but the Rangers wouldn't bother extending the invitation if there wasn't some sense of possibility of a contract. Even once John Moore returns from suspension, the absences of Ryan McDonagh and Dan Boyle loom large. Dylan McIlrath -- universally acknowledged as a poor skater by NHL standards -- and Conor Allen haven't been consistently good enough since being called up, not for a team that considers itself a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. What happens if Dan Girardi or Marc Staal -- who are shouldering the lion's share of minutes these days -- gets hurt? Who does coach Alain Vigneault rely on to carry a heftier share? Allen? Fellow AHL regular Mike Kostka? And while McDonagh isn't due back for another three weeks or so, we remain unsure of when Boyle will be good to go following a broken hand.

Which brings us back to Kaberle. If the defenseman hasn’t lost too much of a step, his veteran presence could serve the Rangers well in their time of need. It’s a huge "if," of course, but such potential reincarnations can't be dismissed outright. Remember Petr Sykora three years ago? After a disastrously short stint with the Minnesota Wild (2009-10) and a ho-hum season in Europe (2010-11), Sykora attempted an NHL comeback via training camp tryout with the New Jersey Devils. Ballyhooed as washed-up and over the hill, the then 34-year-old forward wasn't given much of a chance. Sykora not only made the team, he notched 44 points in a full, 82-game season. Not bad for a player dubbed a "long shot" in the summer. (Coincidentally, Kaberle had a tryout with the Devils this preseason).

So if Kaberle is able to earn a contract with the Rangers, he might prove useful -- if only in spurts -- as a freebie fantasy addition.

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Links from around the rink - Nov. 3 

November, 3, 2014
Nov 3
The Carolina Hurricanes may finally be getting comfortable under first-year coach Bill Peters, winning back-to-back games over the weekend after dropping their first eight contests. But the Canes remain a work in progress, and more changes could be coming under general manager Ron Francis.

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Fantasy Hockey Grapevine - Week 3 

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
Cody HodgsonDave Reginek/NHLI/Getty ImagesOff to a slow start in 2014-15, Cody Hodgson had 19 power-play points in 2013-14.
In this NHL age of great parity -- with a sufficient amount of talented skaters and netminders to go around -- it’s a bit audacious to label any one team as “terrible.” Like most generalizations, the tag reeks of myopic short-sightedness. Plus, it’s mean.

But anyone who has caught the Buffalo Sabres in action this season can’t be criticized for accusing them of playing terribly, because they are. In fact, “terrible” is one of the kinder descriptors you’ll find following Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs -- a middling NHL squad that looked to be stacked with ringers on this particular occasion -- where only excellent goaltending prevented a more humiliating outcome. The Sabres were outshout 37-10. Thirty-seven to ten. To offer additional perspective, Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul managed nine shots all on his own.

What’s the general manager of on NHL club to do in this situation? Waiting it out for the tide to turn doesn’t make sense here. While the Sabres have some good players on their current roster, there’s a need for high-end talent. Stumbling until the draft, in hopes of having a decent shot at either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, is a crummy plan on its own. As several pundits point out, one young superstar won’t be enough to inspire this club into eventual playoff contention.

GM Tim Murray has to pull the trigger on a trade or two -- and soon.

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Fantasy Hockey Grapevine: Week 2 

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
Chris StewartBill Wippert/NHLI/Getty ImagesIt's possible we'll be seeing Chris Stewart in a different sweater in the near future.
Unless he’s suddenly tumbled into a torrid love affair with the Buffalo Sabres organization, or the seat of Erie County itself, Chris Stewart can’t be faulted for hoping there’s something to the latest trade rumors about his immediate future. All things being equal, it’s difficult to compete with the prospect of playing on a top line for a Stanley Cup contender, especially when compared with skating on a second or third line for a team in full rebuild mode. It would be more concerning if Stewart, after playing less than a dozen games with the Sabres, wanted to stay put.

As it stands, Stewart is reportedly coveted by one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Boston Bruins -- looking to fill a void alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci on their No. 1 scoring line -- have serious interest in forging a deal with the Sabres for the 26-year-old winger. If the Bruins can figure out a way to absorb Stewart’s expiring $4.15 million cap hit -- likely by moving another player or two -- this potential deal strikes as realistic and mutually beneficial. And the positive fantasy implications for Stewart are almost too in-your-face to even mention.

Almost. We’re more than happy to point out those implications here:

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Links from around the rink - Oct. 20 

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
It has been a rough October for the Colorado Avalanche, who have just one win their first six games and are dealing with injuries to goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Reto Berra.

Despite the shortage, the Avs apparently have no interest in Ilya Bryzgalov, who was with the Minnesota Wild in training camp on a tryout offer before being released.

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Fantasy Grapevine: Week 1 

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
Eric StaalGregg Forwerck/NHLI/Getty ImagesCould lifetime Carolina Hurricane Eric Staal be wearing a new sweater soon?
Never mind that we’re only a handful of games into the 2014-15 season. It’s never too early to start predicting (and in some instances, drawing conclusions about) how teams and individual players will fare over the next 180 days or so. That’s part of the fun.

Since most NHL fans and media pundits lean more negative Nelly than Pollyanna, there has already been plenty to caterwaul about. Judging from some social media threads, the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes should win a combined 15 games before season’s end; the Colorado Avalanche will average 0.75 goals per contest; and the formerly mighty Boston Bruins are irreparably broken. Best of all, once these storylines change, a convenient collective case of amnesia will set in, and we’ll move on to grousing about the next set of sad stories.

Except perhaps where the Hurricanes (and Sabres, really) are concerned. Even the jolliest optimist would have difficulty foreseeing much good to come from Carolina’s 2014-15 campaign, other than a enhanced shot at winning the Connor McDavid-or-Jack Eichel sweepstakes. Which brings us to the latest Eric Staal trade rumors.

Several NHL insiders -- including the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons -- propose the Hurricanes might be open to trading their captain for the right price. Staal would be willing to waive his no-movement clause for the opportunity to join the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team with enduring interest in the 29-year-old forward.

Now whether the Maple Leafs would be willing to part with the hefty asking price for Staal -- rumored to be a package including forward Nazem Kadri, defenseman Jake Gardiner, and a first-round draft pick -- is a whole other bunch of bananas.

However, the potential fantasy ramifications of such a deal are quite interesting.

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Links from around the rink - Oct. 6 

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
The New York Islanders made a good faith effort to make their final season at Nassau Coliseum a meaningful and entertaining one, acquiring a pair of Stanley Cup winning defensemen.

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Links from around the rink - Sept. 22 

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
ESPN The Magazine has released its annual Ultimate Standings in which fans were surveyed on what they wanted most in return for the emotion, money and time invested in the 122 MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL teams.

The Toronto Maple Leafs came in dead last at 122nd, and native son Chris Jones held nothing back in explaining why. But it's worth noting that a host of hockey teams polled very favorably. The Anaheim Ducks rank second overall and were one of six NHL teams in the top 12, joining the Kings, Lightning, Blackhawks, Blues and Stars.

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