The Art of the Mid-season Stretch Run Trade

The all-star break is a great time to assess your team and get ready for the stretch run. Feels like mid-season, but it’s really not. Most leagues are about four weeks from their trade deadline and six weeks away from playoffs (assuming H2H format, that is). You should be able to assess your needs pretty clearly at this point, by looking at the standings and overall stats. First, you are either in contention or you’re not. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume you are. Because really, six weeks out, you should have at least a mathematical chance to sneak into the post-season.

You should be able to look at:

1) Your recent matchups. This will illuminate any deficits or surplus on your team. Losing in PPP every week? Winning Assists handily over and over again?

2) Overall stats (not category W-L record by category, but accumulated). Now compare your findings here with your recent matchups. Which are consistent? They may not all be, since a streak or two can push one stat up over a short period even though you may be middle of the pack overall. The consistently high and low ones are what you’re looking for. Got those? Good, now you can begin to determine who on your team is expendable, and start looking for trade targets.

Here’s my personal guide to trading. A few rules to live by:

1) Get inside their head.

First things first. Now that you know what you want, forget about what you want. Yeah, Zen approach. Take some time to look at the other teams in your league. Do the same assessment that you did with your own team and assess their needs. Now you can make a short list of compatible trade partners. If you do this step, you will basically be following every other rule without even trying.

2) Don’t waste time on a trade that will never happen.

Asking for something unrealistic is a time waster for all. This includes: A seemingly reasonable offer that does not address the other teams needs (i.e.: you haven’t done your homework); Trying to pry a superstar away from a team without offering one in return (Sure, it worked once upon a time NHL ’98, but in fantasy, you cannot stack your team with a series of 2-for-1 trades); Asking a die-hard Winnipeg Jets fan (for example) to give up Andrew Ladd. In each of these scenarios, you’re wasting their time and your time, and ultimately building yourself a bad reputation as a trade partner. Don’t do it.

3) Never, ever, accept a first offer.

On the other side, let’s say you’re receiving an offer. And it looks good. Really good. Don’t take it. Yeah, Zen approach again. Be patient, Grasshopper. Why do I counsel this approach? Because if it really is good, that’s a sign that the other owner covets your player very highly, and therefore will likely add more to the deal in order to get him. Make sure the owner knows that you are definitely interested, but don`t pull the trigger yet. Since you`ve done the research (see #1), are there any marginal players who can help your bottom line by improving your SOG total or +/-, etc. Ask for a throw-in. Make him sweeten the deal. The one caveat here is that you probably also know something about the owner, and that info may supersede this rule. But in most cases, be brave, even though you are risking the trade not going through. Fantasy championships are made with deals like these.

4) Take a risk. Let them get the “better” deal.

This is especially true in keeper leagues. Just, don’t be an idiot about it, obviously. Don’t be that guy. A good trade has two elements. First, both owners come away feeling that they have improved their teams. And second, in assessing the trade, market value should always be a part of the overall valuation. In other words, don’t go all Moneyball on your league, thinking you’re the next Billy Beane. But DO be bold and trade for a player that you think is more valuable than his market value. Just don’t overpay.

5) Before sending an offer or pressing ‘accept’, ask yourself the obvious: Do you believe this trade will make your team better?

One last moment, before the trade goes through. Gut check. Does it feel right? Are you improving your team overall, or are you improving in one area only to lose out in another? It’s just a quick check, but an important one. If it doesn’t feel quite right, it probably isn’t.

It’s a pretty good feeling once you’ve pulled the trigger on a trade. It can be a bit addicting for some, and intimidating for others. Either way, it’s a great way to not only improve your team and hopefully win your league, but also to get to develop a rapport with other owners, which in this age of the interweb, often gets forgotten.

Just when you thought I wasn’t going to talk any players up, here is a list of under-the-radar players I’ll be looking to pick up for my stretch run.

Andre Burakovsky – If you’re in a keeper league, run don’t walk to get him. But even in redraft leagues, he’s becoming a worthwhile addition. He’s playing on the wing with Kuznetsov, and in the last six games has put up nine points. The kicker here is that he’s done it while averaging only 12:00 of ice time, virtually none on the PP. The sky’s the limit.

Seth Jones (and Ryan Murray) – I love Seth Jones now that he’s in Columbus. If you need scoring on the back end, look no further. A secondary add in deeper leagues could be his defense partner, Ryan Murray, who might just come along for the ride. His overall minutes and PP minutes will certainly give him the opportunity.

Nikolaj Ehlers – This pick might seem obvious, since he’s on a bit of a streak, but I’m looking at his increased playing time and PP minutes as a sign that he’s for real this time.

J.T. Miller (and Jesper Fast) – Miller finally seems to be putting everything together and has settled into a top six role for the Blueshirts. A secondary add might be Jesper Fast, who is still bouncing around the lineup but has shown some chemistry on a line with Miller, and has drawn praise from his coach lately.

David Perron – Perron is a coveted ‘third wheel’, suddenly riding shotgun with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry since the trade to Anaheim. He’s got five points in four games since joining the Ducks. Will it last? Hard to say for sure, given the Duck’s offensive woes this year, but I’ll go out on a limb and say probably. It’s not like he has any decent competition for the role.

Tomas Hertl – Another Third Wheel, alongside the two Joe’s, Pavelski and Thornton, he’s finally earning his keep. He was highly touted as a rookie and just now may be reaching his potential. I’d jump on him.

Jakob Silfverberg & Ryan Kesler – Is this coincidence, or a mere hot streak? Or are we seeing two players finally playing up to their potential? It looks to me that a rejuvenated first line has helped out the rest of team a bunch. These guys are getting big minutes, including time on the PP, and still may be gotten at a discount.

Brandon Dubinsky – Especially in leagues that count hits, don’t forget about Dubinsky. On a Blue Jackets team with a serious lack of scoring punch, he’s basically been a point-per-game player since mid-December.

As always, thanks for reading – good luck in your stretch run!