Fantasy Hockey winners and losers from that busy NHL Trade Deadline

<img class="caas-img has-preview" alt="Connor McDavid got some new friends to play with at the Trade Deadline. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)» src=»https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/26T2PiKR9bamyx4039j3dw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MDtoPTQyNi42NjY2NjY2NjY2NjY3/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/UJ7WudijvBcYHhTMOv46ZA–~B/aD0yMDAwO3c9MzAwMDtzbT0xO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media-mbst-pub-ue1.s3.amazonaws.com/creatr-images/2020-02/e04f5170-581a-11ea-9fbb-6db6e5bd6d4b» data-src=»https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/26T2PiKR9bamyx4039j3dw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MDtoPTQyNi42NjY2NjY2NjY2NjY3/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/UJ7WudijvBcYHhTMOv46ZA–~B/aD0yMDAwO3c9MzAwMDtzbT0xO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media-mbst-pub-ue1.s3.amazonaws.com/creatr-images/2020-02/e04f5170-581a-11ea-9fbb-6db6e5bd6d4b»>
Connor McDavid got some new friends to play with at the Trade Deadline. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Special to Yahoo Sports

The NHL trade deadline passed Monday afternoon, and a number of the moves will impact the fantasy game.

Here are the most significant for fantasy managers to note:

Upgrades

Buy, buy, buy! The Hurricanes made the biggest splash at the trade deadline, acquiring top-six center Trocheck and two veteran defensemen (Sami Vatanen, Brady Skjei) to bolster their injury-riddled blue line. Trocheck has really struggled since his 35-goal season in 2017-18, scoring just 20 goals in his next 110 games. Once an above-average shooter in both quality and quantity while playing 20-plus minutes every night, he’s regressed and become a borderline second-line center on the mediocre Panthers. But there are three big reasons why Trocheck should excel in Carolina.

First, he’ll actually have proper wingers (most likely Nino Niederreiter and Martin Necas), unlike in Florida where he had to carry a defenseman. Second, the Hurricanes’ defense is much, much better, which means less time scrambling and chasing in their own zone and more time on offense. Third, he’ll be insulated by Sebastian Aho and Jordan Staal, giving the Hurricanes one of the best 1-2-3 punches down the middle, and Trocheck won’t have to worry about carrying the team’s offense or facing the other team’s top line. 

The price — a first-round pick — was high, but it wasn’t a total rip-off. He’s an undrafted versatile forward who managed to score 24 points on a bad Sharks team, and for stretches was deployed as the team’s top center. He was out of place but not completely overmatched, and he’s slated to play on what should be a productive line with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. This immediately boosts Goodrow’s fantasy value, and while he’s the obvious third wheel, it’s far better than what he had in San Jose. Even before the trade, Goodrow had value in leagues that count hits and blocked shots, so keep an eye on him and be prepared to snatch him up if the line gels. 

Ennis is an intriguing addition for the Oilers. Ennis is an undersized forward but possesses quick hands, great playmaking ability and a high hockey IQ (33 points in 61 games). He seems like a better fit for Connor McDavid, who doesn’t need a speedy winger so much as someone who thinks on the same level as him. The Oilers’ power play already ranks first in the league, so the team may loathe to take Alex Chiasson (12 PPP) off the top unit, but expect them to experiment at some point. If you’re looking at Oilers forwards, Kailer Yamamoto (21 points in 21 games) should remain first priority among waiver wire pickups before looking at Ennis, then Andreas Athanasiou, who was also acquired by the Oilers (more on him below). 

Kovalchuk was fantastic in Montreal, and for his efforts, he was awarded a trip to Washington to join buddy Alex Ovechkin for a lengthy playoff drive. It’s unlikely the Caps will break up their top line, but the addition of Kovalchuk on the power play could be huge. His presence gives the Caps two capable units, but don’t be surprised if Kovalchuk ends up finding his way onto the top unit, replacing Jakub Vrana. It’ll give the Caps two right-handed shooters who operate from similar areas, but two is often better than one, and if Kovy and Ovi can make it work, it could be one of the best KO punches in the league. Remember how good Kovalchuk was when he first arrived in Montreal, eager to move past the nightmare in LA? Well, he’s in a far more exciting situation now, and an uptick in production wouldn’t be surprising at all. 

The big question is figuring out where Marleau fits. He has plenty of finish, but he’s old and slow and the Pens like to play fast. The immediate reaction is to play Marleau with Sidney Crosby because Crosby makes everyone around him better, and if that’s the case Marleau is a no-brainer pickup. Remember when Jarome Iginla was acquired in his age-35 season? He played alongside Sid, too, and scored 11 points in 13 games. If Marleau doesn’t play with Sid at even strength, much of his value will come from the power play, where Patric Hornqvist is most likely to get bumped off the first unit.

Vladislav Namestnikov, LW, Colorado Avalanche

I shudder to think about Michael Hutchinson in net again, but Namestnikov is a nice addition. He managed to score 25 points in 54 games on a bad Ottawa team and will slot in somewhere on the second or third lines. He’s also a surprisingly decent source of hits (93 in 54 games), giving him some added value, but what you’re hoping for is that he gets a few shifts with Nathan MacKinnon, or even Valeri Nichushkin (two goals away from his career-high) or Andre Burakovsky (career-high 45 points), both of whom are having strong seasons.

Conor Sheary, LW/RW, Pittsburgh Penguins

Sheary is likely the safer fantasy option than Marleau. He can play with either Sid or Evgeni Malkin and on either wing, giving Mike Sullivan a lot of flexibility. The familiarity is good, too, and a return to a 20-goal pace wouldn’t be surprising. Evan Rodrigues, on the other hand, has struggled for most of the season and likely will begin in the bottom six. He’s another versatile forward who can play center or right wing, but his impact will be minimal until he can return to last season’s form. 

Nick Ritchie, LW/RW, Boston Bruins

He’s underperformed since being drafted 10th overall in 2014, but a four-point effort in his last game as a Duck gives him a little more credence as the Bruins’ newest second-line right wing. The Bruins’ overall speed may suffer with Ritchie, but with Jake DeBrusk on the opposite wing, it gives them a heavier line that could dominate on the cycle down low. David Krejci’s resurgence (113 points in 135 games) has been low-key impressive, and Ritchie gives him another capable winger who can score from in-close. It’s unclear how long Ritchie will last in this role and how much patience Bruce Cassidy has, but the immediate prognosis is good, making Ritchie a player worth keeping an eye on. 

Dominik Kahun, LW, Buffalo Sabres

Kahun has yet to join the team, but he could make a bigger offensive impact than Wayne Simmonds, who was also acquired at the deadline. He’s faster, younger and has better finish, but at even-strength, he’ll likely begin on the third line. If he plays well, he’ll move up, and that’s when he starts becoming attractive for fantasy, but this is the Sabres we’re talking about, and outside of their top line no one else has been particularly good. 

Robin Lehner, G, Vegas Golden Knights

This was an interesting move and sends a signal that Vegas is not entirely confident in their 35-year-old, three-time Cup champion, who is having his worst season in a decade. In a tight playoff race in the Pacific, there is some concern about Marc-Andre Fleury’s consistency (22 quality starts in 44 starts) and durability for the stretch drive (60 games played just once in five seasons), and Lehner is one of the best insurance policies they could’ve acquired.

He’s a capable starter in his own right as a Vezina finalist last season (.930 Sv%) but perhaps overlooked because of his outspokenness and willingness to sign one-year deals. Vegas only has two back-to-backs (March 8/9, March 17/18) the rest of the season, but don’t be surprised if Peter DeBoer splits the starts, either because Fleury is struggling or because he wants to keep him fresh.

The most likely scenario is for them to split the starts and see who has the hot hand, much like what Lehner has experienced all season in Chicago. Vegas is an underperforming team relative to expectations and analytics, and perhaps more stable goaltending will help them claim their second division title. Lehner is a strong buy for the remaining 10 games or so he’ll likely play. 

Will Robin Lehner be more than just a backup for Vegas? (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)Will Robin Lehner be more than just a backup for Vegas? (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Will Robin Lehner be more than just a backup for Vegas? (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Holding Steady

Andreas Athanasiou, C/LW, Edmonton Oilers

The immediate expectation is that Athanasiou will excel playing alongside Connor McDavid, but we’ve seen this song and dance before — a ton of hype for the lucky winger playing alongside the league’s best scorer, but more often than not they fizzle out and end up being a depth forward. There’s no denying Athanasiou’s talent, but with a coach that preaches defense, how long of a leash does Dave Tippett give him? Athanasiou was one of the league’s most one-dimensional forwards, and putting the two fastest forwards together doesn’t always guarantee success. Expectations for Athanasiou should be tempered, and once he’s no longer an option on McDavid’s wing, you should drop him right away.

Wayne Simmonds, RW, Buffalo Sabres

Let’s move past the fact that the Sabres — who are still probably going to miss the playoffs — being buyers at the deadline is a clear last-ditch attempt to win back some goodwill from an angry fanbase. Simmonds will start on the second line with Jeff Skinner on the left and Marcus Johansson in the middle but curiously did not practice on either power-play unit, where the Sabres miss a big net-front presence. Simmonds, who has just eight goals in 61 games this season, should not be counted on to provide any meaningful offense, though his ability to create space could be advantageous for Skinner, who has struggled all season. 

Erik Haula, C, Florida Panthers

Haula is an underrated two-way forward who should get a bigger role in Florida, a team short on quality centers after Aleksander Barkov. He’s scored at a 40-point pace the last two seasons after a career-high 55 points in 2017-18, but that was during Vegas’ ridiculously good (and lucky) inaugural season. He has some offense to give, especially if he gets more power-play time, and his faceoff wins make him a reliable depth option in deeper leagues.

Janne Kuokkanen, C/LW, New Jersey Devils

The centerpiece from the Sami Vatanen trade, Kuokkanen has been an excellent and reliable scorer in the AHL this season. The 21-year-old Finnish forward appeared in 11 games the last two seasons for Carolina, but received limited ice time and made little impact. He’ll get his chance with the Devils at some point this season, especially if their AHL affiliate misses the playoffs. He has some short-term upside upon call-up but only as a desperation move in deeper leagues.

Sami Vatanen, D, Carolina Hurricanes

Vatanen remains on injured reserve, and once activated should split the minutes with Brett Pesce on the right side. Vatanen is more likely than Brady Skjei to get power-play time, especially if Rod Brind’Amour wants a right-hand shot at the point, but don’t expect Vatanen (10 PPP this season) to make a significant impact. 

Brady Skjei, D, Carolina Hurricanes

Skjei is looking to bounce back after a promising start to his career, but don’t expect a big boost in production. He scored 39 points in his rookie season but averaged only 25 the next two seasons, and most of the offensive opportunities will continue to go to Jaccob Slavin and Jake Gardiner. 

Downgrades

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, New York Islanders

Pageau gives the Islanders good depth down the middle, but if Barry Trotz is looking for offense, Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson will still get the shoulder taps before him. Pageau is having a good season and translated that to a $30-million extension, but after his hot start has 11 points in 20 games, and, not including a four-point outburst against Buffalo, has just seven points in 19 games. His linemates will be Andrew Ladd, who has spent most of the season in the AHL, and Michael Dal Colle, a perpetually underperforming first-round pick, and he’ll play on the second power-play unit on a team that doesn’t get many power plays, so excuse me if I think his overall impact won’t be $30-million worth.

Pageau is rostered in roughly 60 percent of Yahoo leagues and only saw a minor increase after the trade, so the market is equally lukewarm on his potential contributions. 

Erik Gustafsson, D, Calgary Flames

Gustafsson’s regression from a 60-point power-play specialist to a third-pairing, second-unit power-play quarterback wasn’t surprising at all. With Mark Giordano close to returning, it diminishes Gustafsson’s value, and as of their first practice, he wasn’t even featured on their second power-play unit, which had Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson instead. Gustafsson went from the league’s worst power play in Chicago to the 18th best, but it seems like he won’t get the opportunity to take advantage. It’s unlikely Gustafsson will get anywhere near the 20 minutes he received with the Blackhawks, so his upside is very minimal. Leave him on the waiver wire along with Derek Forbort. 

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Mike Green, D, Edmonton Oilers

Green is a head-scratching addition as a right-hand PP QB. Whatever offense that made him a Norris finalist has left him, and it’s debatable whether he’s a better option than Ethan Bear on the second unit. Forget about Green and his four power-play points until he shows he can really score again.

Louis Domingue, G, Vancouver Canucks

It was discovered just hours before the trade deadline that team MVP Jacob Markstrom had injured his knee in a 9-3 rout against Boston on Saturday and would miss up to four weeks. That forced the Canucks to acquire Domingue, the Devils’ third-string goalie and journeyman backup, to help Thatcher Demko, who now takes over as the starter. The Canucks have one of the tougher schedules ahead, including four back-to-backs, but you look at Domingue’s body of work this season (.882 Sv%, 3.79 GAA) and you wonder how the Canucks have any confidence in him.

Domingue will get a chance and Canucks goalie coach Ian Clark has been a magician this season, but there’s a healthy amount of skepticism for good reason. Domingue is probably not worth the hassle, but Demko deserves to be rostered in all leagues. 

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