Fantasy Hockey Grapevine - Week 3 

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
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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.

Fantasy Hockey Grapevine: Week 2 

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
4:19
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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
7:41
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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
3:34
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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
7:52
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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
7:43
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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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Links from around the rink - Sept. 8 

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
7:24
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Training camp is fast approaching and Daniel Alfredsson is still unsure whether he will play this season.

The 41-year-old Alfredsson, who had back surgery three years ago, missed 14 games last season but still led Red Wings forwards with 49 points. “I would love to play, there’s no question, but at the same time you have to listen to your body,” Alfredsson told the Red Wings’ website.

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Links from around the rink - Aug. 25 

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
7:30
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Stability may finally be on the horizon for the New York Islanders, but exactly how will the tenure of owner Charles Wang play itself out as the club plans to relocate to Brooklyn after the upcoming season?

Rumors of a potential sale of the club surfaced in the spring, with hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway in talks to buy the team. Wang, whose losses have been estimated at $20 million per year, reportedly backed out of that deal at the last minute.

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Links from around the rink - Aug. 11 

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
7:44
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The Edmonton Oilers are not exactly a franchise known for thinking outside the box in recent years. After all, the team is on its fifth head coach since it last made it to the postseason in 2006.

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The name of Eric Staal has been floated in trade rumors for months, and the Carolina Hurricanes' captain didn’t enhance his value by tallying just 61 points in 79 games, his lowest in a full season since his rookie season of 2003-2004.

The Hurricanes have not been to the postseason since 2009 and have turned the page with the hiring of Bill Peters, who takes over as coach for dismissed Kirk Muller. Peters will not be treating Staal with kid gloves, only adding to speculation that the 29-year-old center is no longer a franchise cornerstone. Speaking to an estimated 3,500 fans who turned out for a team event on Saturday, Peters was blunt in his assessment of some Canes players. Peters noted Staal scored one power-play goal last season and called it "unacceptable," wrote Chip Alexander of the News Observer.

If the Hurricanes start slowly, expect the heat to build on Staal, who is on the hook for $9.25 million this year and $9.5 million in 2015-16.

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While the free agency period in other professional sports can drag on for weeks, if not months, the NHL gets the overwhelming majority of its deals done in the first few days of July.

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NHL offseason trade targets -- G 

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
10:00
AM ET
Antti NiemiAP Photo/Chris CarlsonThings didn't end so well for Antti Niemi in 2013-14. Might a change of scenery help?
With a vast majority of unrestricted free agents having found a home for 2014-15 in the opening days of the summer shopping season, the primary way for teams to improve between now and opening night is via trade.

While it will be less frenzied than at the trade deadline and the draft, it's worth taking a look at the top trade targets by position. Cap hit information provided is from CapGeek.com, and advanced stats are via ExtraSkater.com. Ages are current as of July 11.

We've looked at centers, top-six wingers and defensemen. Closing out the series, we look at the goaltenders:

1. Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks
Age: 30 | 2014-15 cap hit: $3,800,000 | UFA: 2015-16


Call it a rebuild, call it a re-tooling, the end result is largely similar: The Sharks need a change of direction heading into 2014-15 after another early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs. And some are pointing to the goaltender in order to start that change:

"Antti Niemi had his moments in Game 7, but in the first five games of this postseason he had a save percentage of .882," our Craig Custance wrote following the Sharks' elimination. "In 61 career playoff games, Neimi has a save percentage of .907, which isn’t going to get it done for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations."

The Sharks don't necessarily have a brilliant fallback option on hand if they move Niemi, but perhaps this is a case where a goalie-for-goalie deal would make sense, as it would give each man a chance to get back on track after wearing out his welcome with his incumbent club.

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NHL offseason trade targets -- D 

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
12:55
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Mike GreenMike Stobe/NHLI/Getty ImagesIs Mike Green the odd man out of the blue-line group for the Capitals?
With a vast majority of unrestricted free agents having found a home for 2014-15 in the opening days of the summer shopping season, the primary way for teams to improve between now and opening night is via trade.

While it will be less frenzied than at the trade deadline and the draft, it's worth taking a look at the top trade targets by position. Cap hit information provided is from CapGeek.com, and advanced stats are via ExtraSkater.com. Ages are current as of July 10.

On Monday, we looked at centers possibly on the move, and on Tuesday, it was top-six wingers; today, we continue with defensemen:

1. Mike Green, Washington Capitals
Age: 28 | 2014-15 cap hit: $6,083,333 | UFA: 2015-16


A funny thing happened after the Caps spent $69 million on two new defensemen in free agency: The team claims to be committed to incumbent Mike Green:

"He’s a good player,” GM Brian MacLellan said. “He had a little bit of struggles with injuries last year. He had an okay year. But we’re hoping to get him back on track, yes."

It's strange to think that a position that was once a major liability has turned to a strength from which to trade, but here we are. Despite scoring a meager (by his early-career standards) 38 points in 2013-14, Green was the Caps' leading driver of possession, with a 51.7 percent Corsi percentage, and a plus-4.6 relative Corsi (which takes into account his work relative to his teammates'). Green's shooting percentage has been a bit all over the place through his career, but it's undeniable that his 5.2 percent rate in 2013-14 was notable for being especially low.

Maybe he turns it around and has a bounce-back campaign in Washington, or maybe he's dealt and has that bounce-back wearing another sweater. Thus far, clubs like the Avalanche and Red Wings have been mentioned as possible landing spots, but they are certainly not the only teams in need of a right-handed shooting blueliner.

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 Evander Kane #9 of the Winnipeg Jets Rich Lam/Getty ImagesEvander Kane is a tantalizing player for the Jets to dangle, if they so desire.
With a vast majority of unrestricted free agents having found a home for 2014-15 in the opening days of the summer shopping season, the primary way for teams to improve between now and opening night is via trade.

While it will be less frenzied than at the trade deadline and the draft, it's worth taking a look at the top trade targets by position. Cap hit information provided is from CapGeek.com, and advanced stats are via ExtraSkater.com. Ages are current as of July 8.

On Monday, we looked at centers possibly on the move; today, we continue with top-six wingers:

1. Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets
Age: 22 | 2014-15 cap hit: $5,250,000 | UFA: 2018-19


As with the first center we profiled Monday, Vincent Lecavalier, Kane is signed through the 2017-18 campaign; however, he's 12 years younger. Kane has been a dynamic player for the Thrashers and Jets, and would certainly fetch a hefty haul in trade. The question is whether the Jets are willing to move him for assets (prospects and picks) that may not pan out as well at the NHL level.

Of course, a promising young center would be more in line with current team needs than a promising young winger, and our Craig Custance reported recently that the Jets are listening to offers on him.

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Rangers vs. Flyers Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesVincent Lecavalier's play for the Flyers in 2013-14 was not in balance with his salary.
With a vast majority of unrestricted free agents having found a home for 2014-15 in the opening days of the summer shopping season, the primary way for teams to improve between now and opening night is via trade.

While it will be less frenzied than at the trade deadline and the draft, it's worth taking a look at the top trade targets by position. Cap hit information provided is from CapGeek.com, and advanced stats are via ExtraSkater.com.

To get things rolling, let's look at the top centers rumored to be on the block:

1. Vincent Lecavalier, Philadelphia Flyers
Age: 34 | 2014-15 cap hit: $4,500,000 | UFA: 2018-19


The first season of Lecavalier in a Flyers uniform went essentially as expected: he wasn't a superstar, but he proved to be a decent source of points (37 in 69 games) and leadership. However, with that albatross of a contract -- and seemingly perennial cap issues -- the Flyers would be open to moving him, as the club gave Lecavalier's agent permission to speak with other teams. One club that popped up in talks was Nashville, who is seeking a more offensive identity under new head coach Peter Laviolette. It was thought by some that those talks were dead after the Predators signed Olli Jokinen, but that's not the case, per the Philadelphia Daily News.

In any event, the Flyers should hope that other teams aren't hip to the advanced stats game, because Vinny's metrics were not good in 2013-14: Despite starting 57.1 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone (third-highest on the team), only 45.3 percent of the shots were at the opponents' goal when he was on the ice (the second-worst mark on the team).

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