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Fantasy Grapevine - Week 9

11/27/2013
Martin Erat and John-Michael Liles may both get a change of scenery soon. Getty Images

Now that the leverage-less Washington Capitals have little choice but to trade a disenchanted Martin Erat, where does the 32-year-old end up?

ESPN's Pierre LeBrun proposes the Vancouver Canucks are among a gaggle of teams intrigued by the idea of dealing for the proven winger. The point is, there is interest. And, wherever he lands next, Erat's fantasy value is set to grow considerably.

A square peg that never fit comfortably into coach Adam Oates' lineup template of round holes, Erat stands an excellent chance of reclaiming his productive touch elsewhere. History tells us as much. This is a guy who succeeded in putting up good numbers, consistently, for the Nashville Predators (not the most explosive team on offense, right?) over nearly eleven seasons. That talent and skill set combo doesn't just dissolve overnight.

Once moved into a top-six role -- and, as we like to point out, any team willing to trade for in Erat will offer him such an opportunity -- the versatile winger (eligible on the left and right in fantasy) could flourish. If you've held onto him this long as a fantasy owner, hang in there. Or, if your roster is in shambles because of injuries and other issues, Erat may be worth targeting as a simple free-agent acquisition. He's only owned in seven percent of ESPN.com leagues, today. Make no mistake, that number will rise once sitting as a healthy scratch for the Capitals becomes a distant memory for the Czech skater.

Quick hits from around the NHL

• Goodness knows, Erat isn't the only NHL veteran who could use a change of scenery. Stuck toiling in the minors, defenseman John-Michael Liles is biding his time until the Toronto Maple Leafs are able to hammer out the right deal. A strong fantasy performer in the past, Liles (owned in 0.4 percent of ESPN.com leagues) becomes relevant again once thrown into a top-four D-man role elsewhere. And there's word -- again, via LeBrun -- that the Carolina Hurricanes are one of a few teams keen on bringing Liles into their fold. Stay tuned.

• Regain a significant centerman, lose a prominent winger. A couple of hours after Tyler Bozak returned to center the top line for the Maple Leafs, the team lost Joffrey Lupul to what's being labeled a "Grade 2 groin strain." What this means is the Maple Leafs will likely have to manage without Lupul for a couple of weeks. Temporarily, Mason Raymond is expected to sub in on a second line with Nazem Kadri and David Clarkson.

• In what can only be construed as fab news for the Hurricanes, winger Alexander Semin (concussion) is believed to be on track for a return in the not-too-distant future. Like, maybe even early next week. In the meanwhile, forward Tuomo Ruutu might be worth exploiting as a fantasy asset. While the Hurricanes are rumored to be shopping Ruutu on the trade market, the 30-year-old Finn is playing on the squad's top line with Eric Staal. He even scored a goal last game out. And Ruutu is available in less than one percent of ESPN.com leagues.

• The Minnesota Wild will be without their top winger for a bit. Sidelined with a left foot contusion, Zach Parise (11 goals, 11 assists, plus-seven in plus/minus) is scheduled to miss the next two to three weeks. We're going with under a fortnight, since Parise actually took part in practice(!) Wednesday. While Jason Pominville could see more time on the Wild's No. 1 line with Mikko Koivu, bottom-six forwards Dany Heatley, Jason Zucker and Justin Fontaine will be given the opportunity to "step up," as per GM Chuck Fletcher. Pominville is owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com leagues; Heatley, Zucker and Fontaine are widely available. Again, this discussion only matters if Parise misses more than a game or two.

• Forward Marian Hossa is fixed to re-join a Chicago Blackhawks' top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp Wednesday against the Calgary Flames. The domino effect of Hossa's return sees Brandon Saad demoted from the top unit to the second, resulting in Brandon Pirri falling to the third line. Pirri's fantasy owners may want to take this opportunity to go in a different direction.

• There's no harm in mentioning that goalie Antti Raanta is pegged to start his first NHL game for the Blackhawks on Wednesday. In his big-league debut, Raanta played a couple of periods in relief of Corey Crawford just over a week ago. However, unless Crawford falls hurt, Raanta's fantasy worth remains very limited. That doesn't mean we can't still root for the guy, though.

• Talk regarding a potential trade involving goalie Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks doesn't merit much attention at the moment. There's simply no way the Ducks would move Hiller before Viktor Fasth heals up completely. And Fasth (lower-body injury) is still a about a month away from returning to action. In the meantime, Frederik Andersen is, once again, fantasy-relevant as Anaheim's No. 2 netminder.

• Hold onto your hats ... one of the game's more colorful characters is about to make his first start in net for the Edmonton Oilers. For what it's worth, Ilya Bryzgalov was solid while substituting in for a floundering Devan Dubnyk Monday. Is this the start of a beautiful, mutually rewarding relationship, or the beginning of another frustrating run for Oilers fans and the goalie's pack of fantasy owners? Don't know yet; but we're definitely tuning in to watch what unfolds against the Predators Thursday.

• Backup Jonas Gustavsson will get the start in net for the Detroit Red Wings against the Boston Bruins Wednesday, his second in a row after stopping 21 of 22 shots in a 3-1 weekend win over the Buffalo Sabres. There's no doubt Jimmy Howard is top banana overall for the Red Wings, but Gustavsson (owned in 10 percent of ESPN.com leagues) is the club's No. 1 for right now. Adjust your fantasy rosters accordingly.

• Also, Pavel Datsyuk (upper-body injury) and Todd Bertuzzi (suspected bruised shoulder) remain no-goes for the Wings Wednesday night. But neither is expected to miss much more time. Unless, of course, Datsyuk actually has a serious concussion. The Wings are playing it safe with their superstar forward for now.

• Forward David Booth has officially become a "project" for the Canucks. Stuck with the 29-year-old disappointment and his swollen $4.25 million annual salary cap hit, the Vancouver organization can only hope that working with a skating coach does the trick in getting Booth back into the groove. Hey, can't hurt. As it stands, his fantasy value remains negligible.

• Defenseman Paul Martin is sidelined for the next four to six weeks with a broken leg. Unless you're wading in a pool of excess IR spots, cut Martin loose. Also, keep an eye on how coach Dan Bylsma utilizes prospect Simon Despres in his lineup. The young defenseman has been very productive with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this AHL season.

And with that, we here at Rumor Central are off until Friday. Happy Hanukkah to those celebrating, and wishing everyone south of the border a wonderful Thanksgiving.