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:
New York Islanders get Michal Neuvirth, Send Chad Johnson to Buffalo
I know I just got through talking about how the Sabres didn’t do much of concern, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t do anything worth your attention. There may be no other move that better exemplifies the tank mentality of the Sabres than this move. Neuvirth has been stellar since Buffalo sent their previous starting netminder Jhonas Enroth to the Stars in a pre-deadline deal and that was probably the death keel to his career in Buffalo. Someone performing well and helping us win games? No, sir, that’s not with the Buffalo Sabres are about! Neuvirth goes from the starter to backup again and while he won’t usurp Jaroslav Halak anytime soon, Halak has been shaky at best for a few months and Neuvirth was putting up stellar peripherals on the league’s worst team. This move can only boost Neuvirth’s value, but not as much as you’d like. Still, he’s worth a flyer in most formats because he just jumped from the bottom of the league to the top of the East. Verdict: Buy.
Chad Johnson will likely become the new starter for the Sabres but given his awful play to this point in the season I can’t say that’s a good thing. Johnson is going to get pounded by shots and he’s going to let a bunch in, I wouldn’t own him with your team. Verdict: Sell.
Anaheim Ducks get James Wisniewski, Send Rene Borque and William Karlsson to Columbus
The Jackets don’t get much in return here, but the Ducks get the defenseman they so desperately needed after Sami Vatanen recently went down with what is, for all intents and purposes, a season ending injury. At first blush it may seem like the Wiz is having a down season with just 29 points (8 G, 21 A) in 56 games after putting up 51 points (7 G, 44 A) in 75 games last season, but really he’s been pretty solid. His eight goals so far are a new career high and he’s on pace to match the career high 166 shots he put on goal last season as well. His minus-10 rating is pretty bleh, but you can attribute that to playing for the Jackets who have been in disarray all season. Really the only thing he’s lacking this season is helpers, and again, that’s largely due to the turmoil the Jackets have been stuck in all season. Enter a move to the high octane Ducks where the Wiz will get plenty of opportunities to rack up the points and improve his plus/minus while getting get top pairing and first power play unit minutes, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a strong number two defenseman down the stretch. If you can pick him up in a deal from a disgruntled manager that’s out of the race, do it now. Verdict: Buy.
Minnesota Wild get Chris Stewart, Send 2017 2nd Round Pick To Buffalo
This move gets a break down because it’s not going to mean as much as people hope it will. I used to be a big fan of Chris Stewart, so I get it. He’s big, he’s mean, he’s a prototypical power forward who potted 28 goals twice and more than 40 once and that’s pretty damn tantalizing. Getting guys like Stewart who put together a career year is the way you win championships in fantasy hockey. That throw away, the guy no one else wanted, when he comes out of nowhere to score 35 goals to complement your already strong lineup your squad goes from good to great, but that’s not going to be the case here. The argument can be made for any player getting moved out of the basement of the league that they’re due for an uptick in value, and that can’t be denied, but Stewart is likely a third liner at best on a Wild team with an already crowded top six. Think he’ll get some power play time? Think again. This was a flyer by a Minnesota team on the bubble. Yeah, Stewart has been playing well as of late, but he has a history of bad attitudes, lackluster effort, poor worth ethic and generally rocking the clubhouse cancer label. The Sabres weren’t the only issue with this gifted goal scorer and I doubt the move does much to re-ignite his long lost passion for, you know, not completely sucking up the joint on a nightly basis. Verdict: Sell.
Detroit Red Wings get Marek Zidlicky, Send 2016 3rd Round Pick To New Jersey
The Wings desperately needed another point producer from the blue line and a right handed shot to boot, so picking up Zidlickme was a great addition in the real world and will likely provide a healthy boost to Marek’s value for the rest of the season. Niklas Kronwall is still the top defenseman in Detroit and he’ll continue to QB their top power play unit, but you can expect to see Zidlicky anchor the second unit pretty consistently moving forward. That being said, the right handed shot bit is pretty important as the Wings only boast a few of those, including Zidlicky, so that alone will help him keep his ATOI at a healthy level. As with any move from a non-contender to one of the best teams in the league, you can expect to see an uptick in stats across the board here and it pushes the aging rearguard from a decent third, solid fourth defenseman to a decent second, solid third. Yeah, it’s not earth shattering, but if you’re among those of us who lost Kevin Shattenkirk to that damned abdominal thing he’s dealing with, adding a guy like Zidlicky could help slow the bleeding. Verdict: Buy.
Detroit Red Wings get Erik Cole, Send Mattias Backman, Mattas Janmark, and 2015 2nd Round Pick To Dallas
This move was completely built on the idea that the Red Wings have little to no confidence that Johan Franzen will return and be effective this season. Initially this move gives a slight boost to Cole’s value, but over the long term, he’s actually taking a bit of a hit. While he played with the Stars he was skating in their top six consistently and recently he’s been a fixture on the top line with Jason Spezza and Jamie Benn. He isn’t going to skate on a line with that much scoring talent in Detroit and really, I’d expect him to be pushed out of the top six when Darren Helm and Henrik Zetterberg return from their injuries. I’d expect he’ll find himself on the third line sooner than later and that’s going to bring his production to about what he’s given you already or slightly less. Teemu Pulkkinen owners beware, he has been filling in one of the holes created by injury in the Wings’ top six and will likely find himself back in the AHL sooner than later. The Wings wanted a veteran they can rely on for the playoffs and they definitely have that in Cole, but otherwise for fantasy purposes this is a lateral move at best. Verdict: Sell.
Chicago Blackhawks get Antoine Vermette, Send Klas Dahlbeck and 2015 1st Round Pick to Arizona
In the end it was the Chicago Blackhawks who won the Vermette sweepstakes and it makes them a stronger team by any measure in reality and gives Vermette a healthy boost in fantasy land as well. He’s only put up four points in 16 games since the All Star Break so there’s only one way to go from here and that’s up. Though he’s proven himself to be useful on both the power play and penalty kill there isn’t much room for him to slot in for either role in Chicago. If he does end up on any of their special teams units, it’s likely going to be the penalty kill and the nearly 3 minutes of power play time he saw per game in Arizona will dry up completely. He’ll immediately jump in to play pivot on the Hawks’ second line between Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, so that’s a huge upgrade that should come with solid offensive production, but his overall ATOI is going to drop from the ~19 minutes a game he was playing in Arizona. If he’s available on the wire he’s absolutely worth a flyer in all formats, but he has the most value in deep leagues. That said, this is the type of guy who can go on a streak with his new team and those freebie streaking skaters that you snag off the wire are what help you win titles, so don’t shy away from Vermette if you have the chance.
The move affects some Chicago skaters as well. Brad Richards gets demoted down to the third line and pushes Kris Versteeg up to the top line. Steeger’s value gets a nice boost playing along side Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews. A natural finisher, Steeger will benefit greatly from playing with an all-world playmaker like Toews so expect a surge in goal scoring there. As for Richards, he always belonged on the third line and that’s where he’s going to stay for the rest of the season barring injury. I wouldn’t own him with your team and this shift does little to change that. Verdict: Buy – Vermette, Versteeg. Sell on Richards.
Chicago Blackhawks get Kimmo Timonen, Send 2015 2nd Round Pick and 2016 4th Round Pick to Philadelphia
After missing most of the season with blood clots the 16-year NHL veteran gets moved from a Philadelphia Flyers team destined to watch the playoffs to a Blackhawks team destined to make a run at the cup and they hope he’ll be a key part of that run. In his first game of the season he played over 17 minutes on the top pairing with Brent Seabrook and generally looked as well as you could expect from a guy who hasn’t played a game since last year. Normally you could expect around 35-40 points in a full, healthy season from the aging rearguard but this isn’t a normal season and you can’t expect that pace from him, even on a high powered team like the Hawks. In reality this is a stability move for the Hawks who picked up the veteran for almost nothing. In fantasy hockey it’s fairly yawnstipaing and while he’s probably good for a 0.50 point-per-game pace for the rest of the season you won’t get much more than that. There is the possibility that he reaches deep and uses his fresh legs to find a stride he hadn’t found in a few years in Philly, but don’t hold your breath. It’s a high risk, high reward play that makes him a solid flyer as a fourth defenseman in deeper leagues. Verdict: Buy.