Fantasy hockey – NHL trade deadline live reactions
The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, bringing with it many players swapping jerseys. Missed out on any major moves? ESPN’s Senior Fantasy analysts Sean Allen and Victoria Matiash have got you covered with every deal that fantasy players need to know, whether they were phoned in down to the wire, or in the middle of the night (cough, Mr. Hall…).
Taylor Hall, LW/C, Boston Bruins: There are two ways to look at what Hall has done this season with the Buffalo Sabres. Either his two goals in 37 games are a product of his surroundings or his lack of offensive output is a continued decline since his knee surgery in 2019. We are all aware of his actual MVP season in 2017-18 (2.74 fantasy points per game), but he was almost as good through December the following season (2.48 FPPG) before he started missing time for what would eventually end with knee surgery. Since then, Hall posted 1.84 FPPG in a season split between the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes, and then there is this season in Buffalo with 1.1 FPPG. That said, he hasn’t looked like the troubles with the Sabres were his fault and his shooting percentage is a shockingly low 2.3 percent (it was 14.0 percent in his MVP season), so I am inclined to think the old Hall is still in there waiting to come out.
Hall has been justifiably dropped in 20 percent of ESPN leagues, but he’s an obvious must-grab in the wake of this news. The Bruins have done plenty of experimentation of late by breaking up the dominant line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand (which in hindsight looks like preparation for this move). Hall could earn a spot with Bergeron and Marchand, where Craig Smith has played in games lately. This also means Nick Ritchie‘s fantasy-relevant role on the power play is gone, with Hall assuming those duties. (Sean Allen)
Anthony Mantha, RW/LW, Washington Capitals: The Capitals relinquished much too much – Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, 2021 first-round pick, 2021 second-round pick – to tuck the former Red Wing forward away in their bottom-six. A slot alongside center Nicklas Backstrom, and post on the power play, should reap immediate scoring dividends for the struggling power forward. Mantha has not only seen a big drop-off in his scoring numbers this season, but in shots and attempted shots as well. He isn’t hitting as much either. Clambering up the standings from dead-last in the Central to top spot in the East should do the imposing skater a world of good. Still available in nearly half of ESPN.com leagues, Mantha should be scooped up in all but the shallowest of competition. (Victoria Matiash)
Nick Foligno, LW/RW, Toronto Maple Leafs: With the way the Leafs offense has been humming along this season, it’s sometimes easy to forget there are wedges still for a new player to find a fantasy role on what has been a fairly fluid offense. Toronto has already played with the Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner pairing this season by using Joe Thornton or Zach Hyman there at different times — and Foligno has the physical profile to his game to also pencil in on that role. Alex Galchenyuk is also occupying a top-six spot at the moment that could fall to Foligno.
Foligno doesn’t need much to bump into fantasy relevance, thanks largely to his hits profile that has him 12th among forwards in the NHL this season. In fact, remove anyone not named Tkachuk from that list and Foligno is among the best for points and hits combined. So a meaningful role on the Leafs offense would likely see Foligno bump closer to the 1.86 FPPG he tallied in 2016-17 – though that might be asking a lot given that those numbers also came with significant power-play time. As it is, he probably remains closer to the fringe 1.5 FPPG he is currently posting this season while adding to the stable of former captains the Leafs now boast heading in the postseason. (Allen)
Jeff Carter, C/RW, Pittsburgh Penguins: Call this Evgeni Malkin insurance. Carter still has a touch of offense to his game, though it’s muted and he’s only been playing 16 minutes per game for the Kings. But, as recent weeks have proven, the Penguins do not have the center depth to create two scoring lines without both Sidney Crosby and Malkin dressed. Carter should give them coverage until Malkin (skating again) returns from injury and coverage should another injury befall their core stars.
With Carter’s ability to play both center and wing, he could find himself in the mix for an extended run among the team’s top six, but it’s hard to envision power-play time over Jake Guentzel or Bryan Rust. It’s easier to see a clearer path to production for Carter than it is for Foligno, so he is arguably the better fantasy pickup — but it’s close and we aren’t talking about a league-changing move either way.
Carter has posted 1.4 FPPG this season and hasn’t topped that since the Tyler Toffoli–Tanner Pearson line days in 2016-17 and 2017-18. (Allen)
Sam Bennett, LW/C, Florida Panthers: After six predominantly frustrating years in Calgary, Bennett is finally getting a shot at redemption elsewhere. A disappointment since potting 18 goals and 18 assists in his rookie season with the Flames, the 2014 fourth-overall draft pick could certainly use a fresh slate. There are two key elements to watch for following this transaction: Where Bennett fits into the lineup and how he responds to Joel Quenneville. A scoring role – not out of the question – and good relationship with his new head coach could translate into an upswing, however brief, for the RFA-to-be. That Bennett posted at least one assist in his past four games with the Flames doesn’t hurt in the confidence department. He might be worth monitoring in deeper fantasy leagues. (Matiash)
Carl Soderberg, C, Colorado Avalanche: The veteran forward enjoyed the most productive year of his career – 23 goals and 26 assists – only two years ago with this very same Colorado squad. A return to the third-line center’s role, between Brandon Saad and Joonas Donskoi perhaps, and spot on the secondary power play could result in the now 35-year-old revisiting a similar scoring clip. Soderberg can also be counted on to regularly throw a hit and block the odd shot. There’s some value to be enjoyed here in the deepest of fantasy leagues. (Matiash)
David Savard, D, Tampa Bay Lightning: For fantasy value, Savard did quite the yo-yo. News that Zach Werenski was down for the season would have meant Savard steps from the fringes of fantasy relevance to a great free-agent addition to teams, but the trade to the Lightning takes him right off the radar again. He drives consistent value from blocked shots and hits, so an opening to add points would have pushed him over the top for fantasy. But with the Lightning he becomes the fourth option for scoring from the blue line and won’t get a whiff of any power-play time. (Allen)
Brandon Montour, D, Florida Panthers: It was clear the Panthers needed to do something to address the absence of Aaron Ekblad for the remainder of the season, and Montour checks the boxes for the power play. Keith Yandle has not managed to pick up the slack on the man advantage since Ekblad’s injury. Montour is an immediate pickup for fantasy given the success of this power play this season when a strong quarterback is on the blue line. The Panthers were fifth in power-play goals this season until Ekblad’s injury, but have fallen to eighth in the two weeks since.
Montour has and has flashed his power-play chops in the NHL before. In 2017-18, he posted a respectable 12 power-play points when handed 180 minutes on the man advantage (nine goals and 32 points that season) for the Anaheim Ducks. He would be traded the next season and fall in the PP pecking order to both Ramus Dahlin and Rasmus Ristolainen with the Sabres. If you have holes on your defense, Montour looks like a solid speculative add out of this trade deadline.
Nikita Gusev, W, Florida Panthers: Here’s hoping the Panthers see in Gusev what interim Devils coach Alain Nasreddine saw last season. In the 43 games under Nasreddine, Gusev potted eight goals and 32 points, including 14 points on the power play. In the 43 games Gusev has played for other coaches, he’s posted seven goals and 17 points, including two on the power play. It’s an even and stark split. The Panthers have been very fluid of late with the lines, partially fueled by some key injuries. But with most of the offense healthy again (Anthony Duclair perhaps the exception), we’ll have to see what kind of role Gusev can carve out. It very well could include a scoring line with some power-play action, so you very much want to stash him on your fantasy bench if you can. (Allen)
Devan Dubnyk, G, Colorado Avalanche: No question, Philipp Grubauer is the guy between the pipes in Denver. But if – an if no one wants to see flush out – the Avalanche’s No. 1 should fall hurt, Dubnyk will become exceptionally busy in a very big hurry. Grubauer has never competed this much/often during his NHL career. It’s worth keeping a view to how he holds up as the season starts to wind down. Boasting a better chance at winning with his new club than in San Jose, Dubnyk remains overwhelmingly available in ESPN.com leagues. (Matiash)
David Rittich, G, Toronto Maple Leafs: If Frederik Andersen doesn’t recover soon from a lower-body injury and if Jack Campbell also gets injured, Rittich will have some fantasy value. Without those two things being true, he has no relevance to fantasy rosters. (Allen)
Vacuums left by trades
Jeff Skinner, LW, Buffalo Sabres: I don’t have any interest unless Jack Eichel returns to the ice in short order. But, if the Sabres get Eichel back and with Hall out of the mix, there is a strong argument for the team to run out the season with Skinner back at his side. As a brief reminder, Skinner posted 1.86 FPPG as a linemate to Eichel in 2018-19. (Allen)
Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C, Los Angeles Kings: The departure of Carter could open up more ice time for Anderson-Dolan as a member of the Kings’ second line and second power-play unit. This is interesting because he has been quietly posting tidy fantasy production in limited minutes. While averaging just 14:30 in ice time this season, Anderson-Dolan has 5.64 fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60). Some of his contemporaries for that mark this season include Evgeni Malkin (5.67), Nick Ritchie (5.62) and even Jack Eichel (5.60). If the Kings give him 16 to 18 minutes per game, Anderson-Dolan could be a spot starter for your lineup. (Allen)