When it comes to winning in fantasy sports due diligence on the waiver wire is probably the most important factor I can think of. Yeah, you can draft a perfect team but how often does that happen? Injuries, untimely trades, down years, you name it, there is going to be a host of problems with the team you drafted and there are only two options to fix the damage; trades or the wire. Trades are great, but you often overpay to get what you need, but the wire? The wire provides for free! Ah, my favorite price point. With the fantasy playoffs looming just around the corner and the trade deadline long over it’s never been more important to keep your eye on the wire because it’s the guys you pick up on the cheap or free that often make the difference between advancing to the next round and crying in your cornflakes on Monday morning. To that end, I submit for your consideration the most current waiver wire gem and his name is Mark Stone, RW (1 G, 3 SOG).

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The Boston Bruins have been dealing with some serious injury problems all season long and while that might be a death keel to their hopes at a cup run this season, it’s opening up some opportunities for their prospects to get time on big ice and some opportunities for fantasy owners to swoop in and snag some sweet, free supplementary scoring that makes the difference between winning and crying alone in your tub. Most recenely the absence of David Krejci forced a reshuffle of the lines in Beantown and when the dust settled rookies Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak ended up skating on the second line with Milan Lucic and at least for now, the trio is putting up fantasy gold and shouldn’t be ignored.

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At this point in the fantasy season the head-to-head playoffs are just weeks away and there are little to no options to help your struggling team out right now. The trade deadline has likely passed you by and the wire was long ago picked clean, or was it? There are always late season additions that can help if you’re quick enough to the oh-so-thin late season free agent pool and sometimes that requires you let go of old biases and wounds and give a guy that may have burned you earlier in the year another chance. Enter Mikael Granlund who has 15 points (3 G, 12 A) in his last 19 games centering the streaking Wild’s top line and is definitely worth picking up in all formats. 

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Amidst all the hoopla around the 27-year-old upstart Andrew Hammond and his unbelievable stretch of play filling in for the injured Craig Anderson it has been easy to overlook the rest of the Sens, but if you’re falling prey to that mistake, it’s to your own detriment. Hamrew isn’t the only Sen who is making noise lately; Mika Zibanejad extended his point streak to seven games with a helper this past Sunday and has seven points (3 G, 4 A) over that span. He’s had a somewhat disappointing year overall given the hype the 21-year-old center came into the season with, but don’t let the higher than reasonable expectations fool you, this kid is good and should only get better with time and right now he’s playing like the guy everyone hoped he would be back in October.

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For most of the season the New York Islanders rotated what seemed like every one of their young forwards through the open slot on their top line alongside Kyle Okposo and NHL scoring leader John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG), but no one stuck. Then out of nowhere Okie’s eyeball broke off and he needed emergency surgery to fix the problem because, hey, everyone needs working eyes and if they didn’t put him under the knife then there was no chance he’d return this season. Well, the news out of Long Island today is good! Okie is traveling to Florida to skate with the team tomorrow morning ahead of their Saturday tilt with the Cats and that means he’s very close to returning to game action. That’s great news for Okie and JT owners, but in Okie’s absence Anders Lee, C (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) and Josh Bailey, RW (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) have played well, but one of them is going to get demoted when Okie returns and I highly doubt it will be Lee.

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It’s an interesting question, JD. Thanks, self! Just how good has Carey Price, G (L, 30 SV, 2 GA, .938%) been this season? Pretty damn good, that’s how good. In 52 starts he has posted a season line of 36-13-3/1.92/.935/6 and with 18 games left in the regular season for the Habs, Carey now leads the Vezina race over Pekka Rinne and will challenge Dominik Hasek’s ridiculous 1998-99 season. That year Hasek posted arguably the best season by a goalie ever putting up a 1.87 goals-against average to go with a robust .937 save percentage. That’s absolutely ridiculous. What’s more ridiculous is the shooting gallery he faced doing it. There has rarely been a better example of a one-man show than the 1998 Buffalo Sabres, who had no earthly business making the playoffs but no one told Hasek that. Then Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff would let his entire team pinch deep offensively allowing tons of odd-man rushes leaving Hasek hanged out to dry more often than not and more often than not Hasek shut the door. The 2014 Habs aren’t nearly that bad, but it can be argued that without Price they would be struggling to make the playoffs, don’t get me started on leading the Eastern Conference. Indeed, Carey’s 1.92 goals-against average to pair with his beastly .935 save percentage have carried the Habs to first overall in the east despite sitting just 22nd overall with 2.6 goals per game on offense and sporting one of the league’s more inept power plays ranking 24th overall converting on just 16.8% of their chances. That’s pretty ridiculous and come playoff time the Habs will have trouble advancing without a potent power play, but don’t put it past Price to carry them to the Eastern Conference Finals again. Is Price putting up the best season for a goalie ever? You could certainly argue that’s the case. I know I am. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:

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It seems like every season there’s one or two breakout goalies that can help make the difference between winning and losing when it counts the most. This season is no exception, and though John Gibson’s strong play is a surprise to no one, Andrew Hammond, G (L, 36 SV, 2 GA, .947%) has been a revelation. Though the two net minders couldn’t be more different; Gibson with his blue chip pedigree and ceiling as high as the sky and Hammond, a 27-year-old no-name never-has-been with a ceiling about as high as my living room’s, both goalies have been hot enough to earn the right to split time with their respective team’s starters making them both most owns in virtually every league. 

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The trade deadline has come and gone in 2015 and we’re left with a flurry of moves that mostly didn’t matter. There were buyers, there were sellers and then there was the Buffalo Sabres who went into full tank mode and sold off every halfway decent asset they had on their roster in hopes to land Conner McDavid. Don’t believe me? They sent away Chris Stewart, Michal Neuvirth, Bryan Flynn, Jhonas Enroth, Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford and Joel Armia in deals leading up to or at the deadline and they basically took a bunch of draft picks, injured players and a few cases of Molson in return. That’s an impressive fire sale, but I’ll laugh my pucks off if they don’t land McJesus. At any rate, almost nothing the Sabres did at the deadline mattered for fantasy owners, it’s all about quality not quantity folks, but there were a few deadline deals that will shake up the landscape of a few NHL teams and might just offer some key opportunities for the savvy fantasy owner to capitalize on:

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The New York Rangers are built to win right now and general manager Glen Sather drove that point home in a big way yesterday completing a trade to bring four-time All-Star Keith Yandle to Broadway in exchange for top prospect Anthony Duclair and the few remaining draft picks the Rangers had left to give. With the move both players will see a fairly substantial jump in value and while Yandle is likely unavailable and any buy-low window on him has likely closed with the deal, the new Duke of the Desert is likely available and worth a flyer up in deep leagues if he gets called up to finish the season with the ‘yotes. That being said, if you can swing a deal for Yandle before the deadline now is the time to make it happen because as soon as he steps on the ice for the Rangers he’s going to shine.

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It comes as no surprise that after a pretty bummer season that future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr, RW (5 SOG, -1) wanted out of New Jersey and, hopefully, one more shot at a title run. It definitely comes as a surprise that he was traded to the Florida Panthers yesterday as the Cats try their hardest to catch the Boston Bruins for the east’s final wild card spot. Jagr makes for a solid addition to a young, hungry Panthers team that is loaded with talented youth looking for veteran leadership to help them take the next step forward and secure a playoff birth. Any move out of New Jersey is going to boost a player’s value, but for Jagr in particular the move should inject some new life into the aging winger and it might just be enough to inject some new juice into your fantasy team’s playoff hopes.

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