Week 7 - Free Agents and Trade Targets

What a week for the NHL's top rookies! 
Craig Smith
missed an empty net from point blank range. 
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
had 5 assists on Saturday night alone. 
Matt Read had 4 goals this week to vault into the lead in rookie goal-scoring race.  He now has 8 goals in just 16 games (13 points).  RNH, and now Smith, are both widely-owned, however Read, inexplicably, is not. 

Read is owned in only 11% of ESPN leagues.  Cam and Jay were talking him up pre-season, and he was recommended in this post in Week 1 (and again last week).   If you require additional prodding, his ice time is up and he's playing in the spot vacated by Jagr -- on the Flyers top line with Giroux.

Let's check out other options that may help you bolster your lineup...

 

Right Wings

Commonly owned RWs worth adding or targeting via trade: 
Chris Stewart, Blues (82%) - Stewart returns from his suspension Tuesday vs. the Penguins.


Montreal Canadiens Erik Cole, Canadiens
7 points (3 goals and 4 assists) in his past 5 games.  Cole is 4th on the team in PP TOI/game, and a fixture in Montreal's Top 6.  He has ample opportunities and he's hot.

Availability: Owned in 14% of leagues.

Forecast: Cole's recent pace is unsustainable, but if you are looking for a "swing" RW-er to sub in while he's hot, Cole is your man.

Deep league specials (owned in a small % of leagues):

Minnesota Wild Cal Clutterbuck, Wild
Is there a better name in all of hockey?  Since the retirement of Håkan Loob, I think not.  But that's not why you might add him.  You might add him because Gui Latendresse is out indefinitely with a concussion and Clusterbuck has ascended to a Top 6 role with the Wild--including time on the 2nd PP unit. 

Availability: Owned in 1% of leagues.
Forecast: He has 4 points in his last 5 games (2 goals, 2 assists), is a +2, and fired 16 SOGs.  So far this season, in 19 games, he's amassed 32 PIMs, too.  Don't expect an avalanche of goals, but he will help you in multiple categories.

 

Centres

Commonly owned Cs worth adding or targeting via trade: 
Craig Smith, Predators
(69%)


Minnesota Wild Matt Cullen, Wild
Cullen is the 2C in Minnesota, and he's benefited as much as anyone from the Heatley and Setoguchi trades which augmented the Wild's F corps.

Availability: Owned in 41% of leagues.
Forecast:  Cullen is on pace to break his career high for goals (25) with 8 thus far in just 20 games played (a 32-goal pace).  And he does a lot of his damage on the PP (21 PPP last year).  If your team is in need of secondary scoring or has a vacancy at C due to injury, give Cullen an audition and see if he can continue scoring.

Deep league specials (owned in a small % of leagues):

Nashville Predators Mike Fisher, Predators
Fisher has missed about 1/2 the season so far recovering from off-season surgeries.  This summer he joked that he "went in for the works" as 11 years in the NHL had taken its toll.  He's back though now and is a fixture in Nashville's Top 6 and on the PP.

Availability: Owned in 6% of leagues.
Forecast:  If you, like me, do not see Legwand as a 1C, that's all the more reason to like Fisher.  In his last 3 games, Fisher has 5 points, is a +2, and has 8 SOGs.  He projects as a 50-point player from this point forward with half his points being goals.

 

Left Wings

Commonly owned LWs worth adding or targeting via trade: 
Brendan Morrow, Stars
(92%)

Carolina Hurricanes Tuomo Ruutu, Hurricanes
Like the rest of the Hurricanes, Ruutu is off to a bit of a slow start.  He has too much talent, however, to stay down for long.  Regularly playing with teenage phenom Jeff Skinner and the recently returned from injury Jussi Jokinen, Ruutu has a plum role in Carolina.

Availability: Owned in 35% of leagues.
Forecast:  Ruutu scored 57 points last year and should play at right around that pace from this point forward.  He also has multiple F position eligibility and makes a nice add in most any format.

Deep league specials (owned in a small % of leagues):

Tampa Bay Lightning Brett Connolly, Lightning
Connolly was Tampa Bay's 1st round pick at last year's entry draft -- selected 6th overall -- so he definitely has the pedigree.  And lately, he's been getting his opportunities, too, as he's been in the Top 6 and on the 2nd PP unit.

Availability: Owned in 0.3% of leagues.
Forecast:  Connolly has been pretty solid lately.  Since the calendar flipped to November, he has 4 goals in 7 games -- including his 1st PP goal vs. Pittsburgh last week.  As a rookie, you can expect some growing pains, but there is good upside here for a player available in almost all leagues.

 

Defencemen

Commonly owned Ds worth adding or targeting via trade: 
Nick Leddy, Blackhawks
(93%)

Montreal Canadiens Yannick Weber, Canadiens
Weber has been getting consistent PP time on the point.  He has a good shot, and he could stay there even when (if?) Andrei Markov returns as the Habs have no one else as capable.

Availability: Owned in 21% of leagues.
Forecast:  Weber has 3 goals and 4 assists so far this year, so he could post 30 points or so by season's end.  Add him if that will improve your blueline.

Deep league specials (owned in a small % of leagues):

Detroit Red Wings Brendan Smith, Red Wings
An elite prospect, Smith is getting his first opportunity to demonstrate his skills at the NHL level with the injury to Ian White.  So far, he's acquitting himself well:  2 points in his last 2 games (including one tonight) and he's a + player.

Availability: Owned in 0.5% of leagues.
Forecast:   At present, he's being paired with Nicklas Kronwall at ES and Nicklas Lidstrom on the PP.  Gotta like that.  When Ian White returns, his role is likely to change, however, by then he may have earned a full-time gig with the Red Wings.  In any event, esp. in deep leagues, he is worthy of consideration as at least a short-term injury replacement.

 

Goaltenders

Commonly owned Gs worth adding or targeting via trade:
Josh Harding, Wild
(36%).

Colorado Avalanche Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Avalanche
Not wild about JS as his last 4 years in the NHL saw him just barely scrapping by the .900 Save% line (not good!), but...with compliments to Mike B for coining the phrase, Semyon Varlamov has been looking like "The Russian Steve Mason," that has opened the door opportunity w-i-d-e open for him.

Availability: Owned in 31% of leagues.
Forecast:   Near-term, he's hot -- in 6 starts, he's 4-2, with a 1.68 GAA and .934 Save% -- and he will see the majority of the starts until the aforementioned Varlamov improves his play.  Long-term, Varlamov is the more skilled netminder and should win out.  That said, stranger things have happened.  If you need help in net, you could do worse.  Just temper expectations.

Deep league specials (owned in a small % of leagues):

Florida Panthers Scott Clemmensen, Panthers
This is as much a play on lack of confidence in Jose Theodore and/or needs of other teams (Toronto and Columbus, esp, come to mind) as it is on Clemmer himself.  Due to injury, he's only played in one game so far this year, but it was a gem--a 25-save shutout of the Dallas Stars.

Availability: Owned in 1.7% of leagues.
Forecast:  Florida's crowded crease could work to his advantage if he is dealt to a team in need of a starting goaltender.

Now check your wire, good luck, and enjoy the games!

NOTES:
*Availability data from ESPN leagues.
**
Player analyses are based on their projected value in standard scoring categories:  Goals, Assists, Power Play Points, Shots on Goal, Plus/Minus, Penalty Minutes, and Average Time on Ice.

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