Hockey

Fantasy hockey drops – Is it safe to drop Carter Hart or Taylor Hall?

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Break-ups are always rough. But when one half of the relationship quits putting in the effort, it’s occasion to tap out. No matter how glorious a particular player’s fantasy contributions may have in the past, there’s no place for romantic nostalgia in this game. At least not for those who want to succeed. The cold reality is that fantasy assets are only relevant and useful until they are not. And the following are no longer providing what we, as fantasy managers, need. With only a handful of weeks left in fantasy competition, it’s time to part ways. For this season at least.

Aside from one exception in Winnipeg, I’m not including injured players in this round-up. Invested managers will already know that Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher – for one example – is out for the rest of the regular season. I’m also steering clear of addressing all that’s going on with the Vancouver Canucks. My colleague Sean Allen has already thoroughly and adeptly tackled that scene this week. And, if it doesn’t go without stating, the following advice applies in re-draft leagues only.

Blake Wheeler, RW/C, Winnipeg Jets (99.0%): There are two particularly worrisome terms the Jets are using in addressing Wheeler’s recent injury: “concussion” and “indefinitely”. As in, Winnipeg’s captain has sustained the former, and is shelved the latter. The Jets have 14 scheduled games left on their calendar plus two potential make-up contests. How many does Wheeler miss? Only five? 10? The remainder of the regular season? Fantasy managers with precious few or zero IR spots risk losing prized fantasy points in carrying that potential dead weight through to the end.

Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames (94.9%): When the Flames replaced Geoff Ward with Darryl Sutter as their new head coach there was much optimism the move would light a spark under the former 99-point performer. Not quite. When Sutter first snatched the reigns in Calgary, Gaudreau scored in back-to-back games. Since then, he’s collected two goals and two assists in 14 contests and the Flames are barely flickering. While he might be moved ahead of Monday’s trade deadline, which wouldn’t hurt, such a deal is more likely to be brokered in the offseason. There’s no use in holding onto the underperforming winger any longer, especially in shallower leagues. While you’re at it, jettison forward Sean Monahan and goalie Jacob Markstrom this season as well.

Patrik Laine, RW/LW, Columbus Blue Jackets (88.8%): Never mind that he hasn’t scored a goal since March 11. Or that he has only two assists in 14 games since. The reputed sniper isn’t even shooting the puck much these days, directly on net or in its general vicinity. Laine has averaged 0.23 fantasy points in ESPN’s conventional leagues in his past eight contests. That’s ugly. And it doesn’t feel like an immediate resurgence is in the offing. Not with John Tortorella’s Blue Jackets this year.

Justin Faulk, D, St. Louis Blues (75.2%): He hasn’t registered a single point in 11 games and has fallen off the power play. Unless your league is really into hits, blocked-shots, and time-on-ice, there are likely better blue-line options available. The healthy return of Colton Parayko – two games in and still getting back up to speed – should bite a bit into Faulk’s playing time as well.

Kaapo Kahkonen, G, Minnesota Wild (56.6%): So much for gratitude. After winning nine-straight from mid-February to mid-March, serving as a big help in keeping his squad well within the West’s playoff margins, Kahkonen has since irrefutably lost the go-to starter’s gig in Minnesota. That crease currently belongs to Cam Talbot, who has ‘tended in all but one of the club’s last nine contests. And since the Wild are still winning, there’s no need to mess with that approach anytime soon. Unless Talbot comes apart, Kahkonen – who has started once since March 20 – won’t be very busy between now and early May. Look elsewhere for more frequent appearances.

Carter Hart, G, Philadelphia Flyers (55.6%): Called out publicly by coach Alain Vigneault at March’s end – “[Hart] needs to work harder, he needs to work better …” – and subsequently benched in consecutive games against the Sabres, Philadelphia’s No. 1 has since showed modest improvement. That knocking out a .903 SV% through three contests – all Flyers losses – speaks to an upgrade in performance brightly illustrates how poorly the young netminder has competed to date. Hart is a gifted goaltender who still projects as a franchise go-to through many future season. But it’s not happening this year. He’s averaged -0.5 fantasy per game in conventional ESPN.com leagues this campaign. Rostering no one in his place would have been more collectively useful. Enough is enough.

See also: Jakub Vrana, C/LW, Washington Capitals; Joel Farabee, LW/RW, Philadelphia Flyers


Give it a minute

Taylor Hall, LW/C, Buffalo Sabres (76.8%): So let’s say, as anticipated, he lands on a scoring line in Boston or Colorado or with some other contender ahead of Monday’s trade deadline. Does such a move instantly flick an internal switch, reverting Hall back to his former scoring self? Fantasy managers who have held on to this campaign’s massive disappointment with the Sabres may as well stay the course a few more days to find out. But I have my doubts. Hall has two total goals on the season and only three assists in his past 13 games. However great a playmaking Boston center David Krejci is – or whoever – such an explosive turnaround would be something indeed.

Mike Hoffman, LW/RW, St. Louis Blues (70.9%): He enjoyed sustained success in Ottawa before striking an even greater scoring presence with the Panthers. For likely more than one reason though, it isn’t working out in St. Louis. A popular trade candidate, Hoffman might still make something of this campaign if moved into the right situation elsewhere. But if he isn’t dealt by Monday afternoon, the 31-year-old should be released ASAP. Even when the recent healthy scratch is playing, he isn’t contributing much.

Once the cord has been cut with any underperformer, managers will need a fresh body to fill the gaping roster spot. Consider the following substitutes who remain available in a solid percent of ESPN.com leagues: Eric Staal, C, Montreal Canadiens; Conor Garland, RW, Arizona Coyotes; Kyle Palmieri, RW, New York Islanders; Jason Robertson, LW, Dallas Stars; Connor Murphy, D, Chicago Blackhawks; Brett Pesce, D, Carolina Hurricanes; Ilya Sorokin, G, New York Islanders; Linus Ullmark, G, Buffalo Sabres (streaming only)

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