Fantasy Hockey: Old faces in new places
There has been plenty of player movement in the National Hockey League during this offseason. Some of the pre-lockout moves you might have forgotten about, so we'll refresh your memory a little bit and take a look at the fantasy ramifications. We've also included a handy dandy player movement chart below to see some of the more prominent names who find themselves with a new zip code (or postal code, for our Canadian friends).
Remember way back in July when the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers pulled off a deal which sent center Rick Nash to Broadway. By the time the regular season starts, it will seem like a lifetime ago, but Nash will be making his debut with the Blueshirts Jan. 19 in Boston. A move to the Stanley Cup contender Rangers will be wonders for his fantasy appeal, as his plus/minus rating gets an instant turnaround, from minus-19 last season with the Jackets, to a projected plus-20 or better with his new squad. That alone gives him a big boost in fantasy value, but he'll also be skating with a more talented group. He should go off the board sometime in the second or third round in all formats on Draft Day.
The Minnesota Wild shot off big fireworks of their own back on July 4, 2012 when they landed not one, but two, giant and highly coveted free agents in left wing Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter.
The speedy Parise will give the Wild a huge boost offensively, but fantasy owners in long-term keeper leagues probably shuddered a little at the thought of Parise playing in St. Paul. He is an elite scorer who potted 31 goals and posted 69 points in 82 games for a marginal Devils team last season. The Wild have giant expectations and should be fairly sound defensively and in net. As such, Parise's plus/minus rating should be on the rise and his offense. In addition, there is a report from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that the Wild will have to travel over 31,000 miles through the air with the compressed schedule, as opposed to the approximately 11,000 miles he would have had to go with his old team, the Devils. The frequent travel might hold down some of Parise's production in his first season in the Western Conference, but he remains a player to target in middle of the second round to the later stages of the third round in most fantasy formats.
As far as Suter is concerned, he parlayed a career-high 46-point (7 G, 39 A) season into a huge payday with the Wild. He is an excellent passer who will likely be feeding his fellow free-agent signee Parise with plenty of tape-to-tape passes on the man advantage. Three of Suter's seven goals last season came on the power play. Suter is a very durable player who can be expected to log upwards of 27-30 minutes per game. He is an all-around helpful player in leagues with a more advanced scoring system, too, as he posted 134 shots on goal (SOG), 116 blocked shots (BS) and 46 hits in 79 games with the Predators last season. Target Suter near the end of the sixth round in most 12-team fantasy leagues on Draft Day.
Speaking of specialty scoring systems, not everyone takes into account hits as a category for their fantasy league. However, if you do, then one of the most underrated deals of the offseason came when the Toronto Maple Leafs traded defenseman Luke Schenn to the Philadelphia Flyers for left wing James van Riemsdyk. Schenn is a fringe fantasy option in most standard leagues with his two goals and 20 assists with the Leafs, although his plus/minus rating should be markedly better with the contending Fly Guys. However, most forget he led the NHL with a whopping 270 hits in 79 games last season, 11 better than his nearest competition, Pittsburgh Penguins defender Brooks Orpik. Toss in the fact that Schenn had 115 blocked shots, and those in advance scoring leagues drool over the fact Schenn has moved on to the physical Flyers.
It will be awfully strange seeing former superstar Jaromir Jagr skating in the green and gold of the Dallas Stars this season, but that's where he landed during the offseason. He was still fairly productive last season, potting 19 goals with 35 assists in 73 games as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, but it is obviously a far cry from his days of triple-digit point totals. He has settled in to being a good, but not great player, and he hasn't produced more than 72 points since 2005-06. However, if he can stick on a line with free-agent signee center Derek Roy and left winger Loui Eriksson, Jagr has the chance to have a renaissance of sorts. He'll likely get plenty of time on the power play, as Dallas tries to improve dramatically in that area. If so, a 75-point season from Jagr would not be a surprise. Still, he is only worth a middle- to late-round pick on Draft Day in standard leagues at this stage of his career.
We mentioned Roy above. He is making his way back from offseason shoulder surgery in July but started training camp fine. In fact, he was centering the team's top scoring line with Eriksson and Jagr, so that's a great sign. He is a player you'll want to target in the same neighborhood as Jagr, say somewhere around Rounds 13-16 in standard formats. The team also added right wing Ray Whitney, and if he can get some power play time, and a crack at the top scoring unit, he has the chance to shine. He showed he still has plenty left in the tank but is still best left to the middle rounds on Draft Day, as well.
Last, but not least, the Carolina Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins also pulled off a big deal, which saw center Jordan Staal reunited with his brother, center Eric Staal, in Raleigh, N.C. The move might not have been as well-received in North Carolina if Jordan's last name wasn't what it is, as center Brandon Sutter was a very popular player. He is a big two-way center who continues to get better. He showed glimpses of brilliance last season with 17 goals in 82 games, and he squeezed off 171 SOG. If he can somehow secure a top-six forward job with the Penguins, he would be a huge sleeper. As far as Staal, he is tentatively not expected to skate with his brother, but instead he'll head up the second line with forward Jeff Skinner and either left wings Jussi Jokinen/Chad LaRose. Staal's fantasy appeal takes a hit in the plus/minus category with a move from Pittsburgh to Carolina, but he is still a good bet to go off the board anywhere from Rounds 6 through 9 on Draft Day.
About Daniel Dobish
Daniel is a Hot Off the Wire Analyst who joined the KFFL staff in 2010. He is a veteran of the fantasy industry dating back to 1999, with stops at CBSSports.com, The Sports Forecaster, OPENSports.com and RotoExperts.com. His work has also appeared on NFL.com and Yahoo.com. Daniel was named the 2011 Fantasy Golf Writer of the Year, 2011 Fantasy Racing Writer of the Year, and he was nominated for the 2011 Fantasy Hockey Writer of the Year. Daniel lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons. Follow @danieledobish
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