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Honestly folks this is getting ridiculous. If you care about your star players please, do the right thing, lock them up somewhere safe, padded and guarded, because we haven’t played a single game that matters yet and key guys are dropping like flies.The pain train continues to chuggeth along around the league and picked up not one, not two, but three new passengers guaranteed to make their owners bust out the sadface. I’m not sure what the hell is going on this preseason but it seems like everyone and their mama is getting hurt before a single game that means anything is played! At any rate, all we can do is take it in stride and not get stuck drafting the wrong guys and the wrong guys start with Derek Stepan. Step broke his leg in an apparent non-contact injury during a conditioning drill. So not only did the Rangers no. 1 center break his leg at a time where nothing counts, he wasn’t even in a game. He couldn’t be in a game because he missed the previous tilt with the Devils due to a foot injury. Yikes. He followed that up by fracturing his fibula and unfortunately there is no timetable for his return. It sounds like he could easily be out 4-6 weeks and possibly as long as two months or more. I know his deal was way out of whack for what he could contribute, but you have to think that Brad Richards stings the Rangers just a little bit right now. This injury really leaves them in a bind and J.T. Miller seems like a possible replacement for Step on the top line with Rick Nash and Chris Kreider. Whoever it is it’s someone you don’t want to bother with. Drop Stepan off your draft sheets because baby, he isn’t even worth drafting right now unless you’re in a very deep league with IR slots to burn.

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First Josh Harding kicks a wall, breaks his foot and/or ankle and gets suspended. Then the Flyers lost Claude Giroux to a “lower body injury” that will cost him at least two weeks of camp. Then the Red Wings lost highly touted prospect Anthony Mantha for six-to-eight weeks to a fractured tibia. Then we hear that Evgeni Malkin is dealing with a “minor” injury that will cost him all of camp, though he’s expected to be ready for the Pens’ season opener. And lets not forget when everyone held their breath in Florida when Panthers top pick Aaron Ekblad suffered a concussion that he has since recovered from. And now the pain train chugs along through it’s next stop in Tampa Bay as everyone’s Calder favorite and newest hockey Jesus Jonathan Drouin will be out for three-to-four weeks with a “slightly fractured thumb.” Ah yes, tis the preseason o’ pain and misery for players and fantasy owners alike.

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Less than 24 hours after Josh Harding lost an epic battle with a wall after getting into tizzy with one of his teammates the Minnesota Wild ended a brief contract dispute with sophomore netminder Darcy Kuemper signing him to the two-year, one-way deal worth $2.5 million ($1.25 AAV) he originally asked for. I’m still reading mixed reports on whether it’s Harding’s ankle or his foot that he broke, but what is being consistently reported is it that Harding is out for months and, to make matters worse for Josh, he was suspended by the team yesterday for injuring himself in a non-hockey related activity. Apparently kicking walls is a non-hockey related activity? Who knew? Frankly I think wall kickin’ should replace the shootout. Everyone lines up and kicks the wall and whichever team has fewer broken feet (or ankles!) wins! Now that’s what I call action! At any rate, there’s no word on how long Harding be suspended, or whether the suspension will kick in immediately or when he’s healthy, but one can assume that if and when Harding does get healthy again it’s in the Wild’s best interests to get him out there as soon as possible. In the meantime, there’s upside here for fantasy owners errywheres, because Kuemper is now locked in as backup to Niklas Backstrom to start the season, but that may change quickly enough as the season gets underway.

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Josh Harding is hurt. Again. Wow. What a shocker. Some sources say he has a broken ankle, others say it’s a foot, either way a goalie with a bad wheel and MS isn’t exactly a guy you can lean on. Harding didn’t even break the foot at camp, because camp hasn’t started yet. He didn’t break it during conditioning for the coming season, either. He broke it during an “altercation with another teammate,” Uh. Yikes. If by “altercation with another teammate” they mean he kicked the wall afterwards and broke his foot, then yeah, I suppose that counts. TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted that Harding’s injury is “significant” that he’s likely out for “months, not weeks” and is currently rocking “a boot and crutches.” Even for Harding, a guy with a long history of injuries I didn’t really expect to make more than 40 starts this season, this is really a boneheaded move. How many games Harding gets into this season is so up in the air I’m not even going to try and project it, suffice it to say he’s not worth drafting right now. If you already drafted and had the bad luck of picking Harding go ahead and stash him on IR, but do so expecting that he won’t do much for you this season. At any rate, all this begs the question, who tends net for the Wild in 2015?

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Back in 2010 the Chicago Blackhawks used the 24th overall pick to draft a talented but very young Kevin Hayes. At the time Hayes was still in High School and decided to go to college, spending the last four years playing for and often winning with Boston College. When he graduated this year the hockey world was rife with speculation about where he’d sign. Having been drafted by the Hawks you would think that he’d be happy to end up there, but they weren’t able to come to a deal and he became a UFA. Then, oddly, he decided to sign with the Rangers. Wait, what? A highly coveted prospect decided to spurn an original six team set up for perianal runs at the cup… for the Rangers? Yes, it happened. Turns out the Boston native had no desire what so ever to sign with the Hawks. I assume that has to do with the fact that he wouldn’t see NHL ice as a member of the Blackhawks, because, you know, they’re stacked and Hayes is seventh or eighth on their depth chart at best. So, instead of fighting his way through the AHL he went to school to improve his game and let his draft rights expire so he could sign elsewhere. Who cares? You care! Why? Because this kid has some decent hockey chops, or you’d think so given how excited folks seemed to get when this minor circus got kicked off with his recent graduation. Now that he has a home we have to wonder, just how good is Kevin Hayes?

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Apparently all the free agents got together and decided that today was the day to sign a deal. Also, everyone had to sign with a central division team. Or demand a trade to a central division team. If I’m a fan of the Wings, Blue Jackets or any other team lucky enough to have escaped the west, I’m counting my lucky starts tonight because baby, the central is loaded. Normally I’m used to hearing news about a big contract here, a big name move there, but since the draft there have been tons of moves that sent ripples through the fantasy hockey world like so many pebbles being tossed into a still pond. Zen! Anyway, it goes without saying then (though I’ll say it) that y’all need to know who went where and for what and why. When? Yesterday! Today? Who’s on first?! The biggest non-contract move so far has to be Jason Spezza and Ludwig Karlsson going to Dallas for Alex Chaisson, Nick Paul, Alex Guptill, a 2015 second round pick and a bag o’ pucks. Couple that with Ales Hemsky inking a 3-year, $12M deal with the Stars today and they might have found a recipe for success in the west! When I initially found out about this deal I saw it as “Spezza/Karlsson traded to Dallas” and my damn jaw dropped. Come to find out its some guy named Ludwig. Really? People are actually named Ludwig? That’s too bad. Anyway, these moves should make the Stars an offensive powerhouse and I’d say Spezza (if he can stay healthy) and Hemsky (if he can stay healthy) get a decent boost in value for next season. Kari Lehtonen (if he can stay healthy) might be a goalie to target in 2015 now, too. I’m sensing a theme here. Huh, anyway, here are the rest of the big moves that matter so far this offseason…

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Who says there’s no hockey now that the playoffs are done? The season starts in less than four months! Schedules are being released next week! Hockey will be back soon, and we will be prepared and to be prepared we must look to the future. Enter the the NHL entry draft, not only a time for young hockey players to make their initial foray onto the big stage, but also into fantasy owners’ hearts and minds. While most of any draft class doesn’t pan out and even fewer still become productive enough to garner fantasy attention in their first few seasons, there are a handful of prospects here you should absolutely be aware of and tracking closely. It’s not every year that a Nathan MacKinnon comes into the league, but tracking guys like MacKinnon make the difference between fantasy champ and fantasy chump. Are you a chump?! Then you’re reading the wrong blog. Or maybe the right blog given I’m trying to teach you how to be a champ! In either case, champ or chump, it’s a thin line and fantasy hockey is a fickle mistress, but we love her just the same. Personally that makes me lover her more, but I’m a glutton for punishment. Anyway, over the next few weeks I’m going to be profiling top prospects in this year’s draft and we’ll start my top prospect for this year, defenseman Aaron Ekblad.

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Suddenly there’s lots of talk of some 22-year-old KHL winger getting lots of offers from NHL teams, twelve offers in fact, and it makes me wonder, who is Jiri Sekac? Jiri is a 22-year-old, 6’2”, 190lb left-winger from the Czech Republic who has recently become a hot commodity in a relatively shallow 2014-15 free agent pool. Why, you might wonder, is this guy seemingly the next big thing? First, he isn’t. His popularity has spiked just recently after a solid 2014 season for the KHL’s HC Lev Praha. How solid? Well, if you consider the KHL a step above the AHL and one below the NHL, not exactly mind-blowingly solid, but solid in a fundamentals sort of way. Ah yes, those valuable fundamentals. The fundamentals that lay the groundwork for future success in any activity one might engage in! The key term here is future, and it isn’t tomorrow yet. This year Sekac put up a line of 11 G, 17 A, 28 P, 18 PIM, + 12 in 47 GP in the regular season and followed up in the playoffs with 1 G, 7 A, 8 P, 24 PIM, + 1 in 21 GP. Wow, this is the guy that has “more than a dozen solid offers” from NHL teams? Maybe there’s more here than meets the eye? Lets take a deeper dive…

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This has to be one of the busiest deadline days that I’ve seen in a few years with 19 trades getting completed today and  32 deals going down since the Miller to St. Louis deal kicked everything off post Sochi. We saw ten goalies change hands, two captains trade places and guys like Vanek and Halak who were traded for the second time just this season! I went through the list and picked out what I thought which moves had the biggest fantasy impact and highlighted those. If you’re looking this over and think I missed a few, check out these posts from yesterday for more trade analysis;

Roberto Luongo Back To Panthers, Add Lack!

Ilya Bryzgalov To Wild, Fasth To Oilers, Penner To Caps

Ryan Miller To Blues For Halak, Stewart, Picks

Martin St. Louis (F-TB) for Ryan Callahan (F-NYR), 2014 conditional 2nd-round pick, 2015 1st-round pick

In what was perhaps the biggest deal of the day the Rangers and Bolts swapped captains moving two guys who had never played anywhere else, well, elsewhere! This move creates a few fantasy ripples and they tend to center around the return of goal scoring machine Steven Stamkos. When Stamkos broke his tibia a lot of folks though Marty’s production might slip at a bit and that’s a fair assumption to make, however, it didn’t happen. He has 61 points in 62 games with a plus-12 and 167 shots on goal and a shift to the Rangers isn’t going to slow him down either. The move could lead to a possible reunion on a line with Brad Richards, but considering how bleh Richards has been this season even St. Louis might not be able to snap him out of it. But fear not, St. Louis owners, there are plenty of places Alain Vigneault can slot in his new weapon and get the usual point-per-game production from him. Stamkos, on the other hand, may see a dip in production without Marty on his wing, and Cally isn’t going to be able to fill that gap, so expect a few fewer assists from Steve-o, but the goals should continue to pour in. In the end, both St. Louis and Stamkos are so good that their production will more or less stay the same, but Callahan becomes an intriguing option. Owned in just 44% of Yahoo leagues and ~84% of ESPN leagues, if Cally ends up playing alongside Stamkos he’s going to see a scoring boost for sure. He isn’t without offensive ability, but everyone knows he’s a grinder more than anything else. If he’s out there in your league and you need a scoring boost, you could get that on the cheap from Callahan. Anyway, here’s the rest of the deals that I thought would make a splash in the world o’ fantasy hockey:

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At the end of the 2011-2012 season Roberto Luongo demanded a trade out of Vancouver and made it quite clear he wanted to go back home to Florida. The Panthers initially balked at the idea due to his sizable contract, but the Canucks kept trying to make it work and finally shipped him back to South Florida today for top goaltending prospect Jacob Markstrom and a player yet to be named. Aw, it’s a dream come true for Lu! He goes from a team that was playoff bound to a team that’s bound for golfing and watching the playoffs at the bar. Maybe he just doesn’t want to work that hard? Who knows. What I do know is  now that he’s headed down to Florida it will relegate Tim Thomas to the bench and I can’t be the only one who is pumped to see that. Regardless of being the undisputed starter for the Panthers Lu’s value takes a pretty sizable hit here as the Panthers aren’t much different than they were when he was traded a few years ago. He’ll go back to getting peppered every night by opposing teams and struggling to keep his peripherals in the healthy ranges and wins? Hah, don’t get me started there, you can expect his wins to fall right off the table. This might make Lu very, very happy, but it makes his fantasy owners cry in their beers. If you own Lu or Thomas, go grab Eddie Lack right this moment as he becomes the de-facto starter for the Canucks. Lack is owned in just ~34% of ESPN leagues and 21% of Yahoo Leagues so you can bet he’s going to be one of the hottest wire grabs down the stretch. So go go go! Add add add!

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