Week 3 - Free Agents and Trade Targets

Expect more Kulikov receiving congratulations than we saw in the early going. - Joel Auerbach

NHL Fantasy Hockey - Week 3: Free Agents and Trade Targets

Greetings GMs! In this shortened NHL season we are rapidly closing in on the quarter pole mark. Some teams are already there. Some teams will be there after today's games. The remaining teams will follow soon after.

Apologies on last Sunday. I was stomping and surfing in warmer climes and thought someone on the FHS team was going to fill in for Week 2, but we got our signals crossed. Mea culpa.

In any event, Let's get right to scanning the waiver wire to see who may be out there to bolster your roster...

Left Wings


Variously owned LWs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Taylor Hall 100% (because he's only scored 2 goals and may be demoted to 2nd line tonight), Milan Lucic 100% (take advantage of the semi-slow start), Daniel Sedin (because his market value will only increase as Vancouver gets healthier), Nazem Kadri 60%, Brandon Dubinsky 55%, Steve Ott 25%, Jamie McGinn 21%, Antoine Vermette 15%.

Philadelphia FlyersBrayden Schenn

Since the calendar flipped to February, Schenn's switch has been flipped to "on." He has 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists) in his last 5 games, a +2 rating, and 10 hits.

Availability: Owned in 58% of leagues.
Forecast: Should be added in all but the shallowest formats. The former 5th overall pick (2009) is a prime candidate for a breakout season, and the last 5 games may be only the tip of the iceberg.

<a class='sbn-auto-link' href=Marcus Foligno

Over his last 8 games, Foligno has 7 points (1 goal, 6 assists) and 16 hits. He's heating up at the same time as his centreman, Tyler Ennis.

Availability: Owned in 13% of leagues.
Forecast: This is a pretty deep cut and there may be better options on your wire (see above), but the line of Foligno-Ennis-Stafford ended the prior season with a bang and they are heating up again, so check him out. There could be at least good short-term value here.

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

Toronto Maple LeafsNikolai Kulemin

Kulemin doesn't have monster stats and you wouldn't expect that from a player that is almost universally available, so what's his story? Playing time, mostly. Last season, he averaged 15:13 TOI/game. This season, that number has leapt to 18:20 TOI/game. Similarly, his PP TOI/game is up from just 0:51 last season to 1:23 this season.

Availability: Owned in 2% of leagues.
Forecast: In a deep league, adding Kulemin now could pay dividends. As his 30-goal, 57-point campaign in 2010-11 attests, he can score--and he's actually getting more playing time this year than he did then.

Centres

Variously owned Cs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Henrik Sedin 100% (see Daniel Sedin, above), Adam Henrique 90%, Patrik Berglund 81%, Martin Hanzal 72% (when he's healthy anyway), Sean Couturier 37%, Tyler Bozak 28%, Alex Galchenyuk 13%.

<a class='sbn-auto-link' href=Frans Nielsen

Full disclosure: I'm not wild about this recommendation. There just isn't that much available at the C position in this availability range. To his credit, Nielsen does have 8 points in his last 9 games, however, they are all apples. He doesn't win a ton of FOs, if that is a cat for you, but he does get a good number of blocks--for a forward--with 9 in his last 9 games.

Availability: Owned in 49% of leagues.
Forecast: Nielsen is a good add in deep leagues where he has flown under the radar. He's got good linemates in Grabner and Okposo and he is 5th on the team in PP TOI/game at 2:29, so his mini-hot streak could continue or even accelerate (a goal, perhaps?) from here.

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

<a class='sbn-auto-link' href=Brandon Sutter

From the Penguins perspective, Sutter was the centerpiece of the draft day blockbuster trade that sent Jordan Staal to Carolina. (The Penguins also received the 8th overall pick in the draft [Derrick Pouliot], defenceman prospect Brian Dumoulin, and much needed cap space. Advantage: Ray Shero). Sutter is a former 1st rounder himself: 11th overall in 2007 and has acquitted himself well after an initial acclimation period.

Availability: Owned in 3% of leagues.
Forecast: Sutter should easily be a 20-goal man in this offence. He has 5 points in his last 5 games (3 goals, 2 assists) including 1 PP goal (he's 5th on the team among Fs in PP TOI/game) and gets a good number of blocks for a F (8 in his last 9) and he's proficient in the faceoff circle 7.25 wins/game if your league uses that category.

Right Wings

Variously owned RWs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Corey Perry 100% (just 1 goal so far this year, he'll pick it up soon), Patrick Sharp 100%(last goal was 8 games ago), Zack Kassian 87%, Drew Stafford 72%, Ryan Callahan 68%, Kris Versteeg 63%, Jiri Hudler 49%, Chris Stewart 19%, Brendan Gallagher 0.8%.

Philadelphia FlyersMatt Read

Read appeared in this column in Week 1 when his ownership was just 4%. It's up 12x as much now, but he's still woefully under-owned. Over his last 9 games, Read has 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists), a +3 rating, 21 SOGs and he's chipped in with 10 hits and 7 blocks.

Availability: Owned in 48% of leagues.
Forecast: One knock on Read is that he doesn't receive a lot of PP time in Philadelphia. On the other hand, you have to wonder how long the Flyers will keep last year's rookie goal-scoring leader off the man advantage given his nose for the net. There could be even more upside here.

Toronto Maple LeafsMatt Frattin

For some reason Leafs players keep showing up in this space. Must be years of Toronto fans wounded psyches failing to believe a good thing even when it is right before their eyes. Matt Frattin could be just such a case. He didn't break camp with the team, but was called up after game 3 when Lupul went on IR. Since that time, he has 8 points in 9 games (6 goals, 2 assists) a +4 rating, 15 SOGs, and 11 hits.

Availability: Owned in 12% of leagues.
Forecast: Don't expect Frattin to maintain this torrid pace, but if you need short-term help at RW you could do worse.

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

Washington CapitalsTroy Brouwer

Amidst the wreckage that is the Washington Capitals, Brouwer has more than carried his weight. In his last 7 games he has 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists), a nearly miraculous +1 rating, 13 SOGs, and 14 hits.

Availability: Owned in 3% of leagues.
Forecast: Watch his line assignment. If he continues to play with Nicklas Backstrom, he could continue to provide good value--esp. for someone at his current ownership level.

Defencemen

Variously owned Ds worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Kris Letang (currently on IR, but has 9 points in 10 games and is worth waiting for), Ryan Suter 100% (zero goals so far this season and he's due), Justin Faulk 72%, John Carlson 63%, Lubomir Visnovsky 59%, Marc Staal 57%, Andy Greene 55%, Brent Burns 51%, Francois Beauchemin 24%, Braydon Coburn 12%, Luke Schenn 4% and Kevin Klein 0.4%.

Vancouver CanucksJason Garrison

Garrison was a free agent coup for the Canucks, who signed the BC native to a 6-year, $27.6M package. So far, he hasn't lived up to his contract with just 2 points in 11 games.

Availability: Owned in 88% of leagues.
Forecast: While it is always possible that yet another player got "fat and happy" after a big payday in free agency, it is more likely that Garrison is just getting acclimated to his new teammates and a new system. Acquire him now at a discount if you can.

Phoenix CoyotesDerek Morris

Derek Morris has been nothing short of a multicat beast this season. He is scoring at a 30+ point pace, is 3rd among NHL defencemen in hits (34) and 20th in PIMs (16) while chipping in a healthy number of blocks to boot (19).

Availability: Owned in 63% of leagues.
Forecast: Morris makes an excellent addition in leagues that count real-time stats like hits and blocks in addition to PIMs. Esp. in a shortened season, his point totals may also be sustainable.

Florida Panthers Dmitry Kulikov

Kulikov is another highly talented player who may just have needed a bit of time to gel with his teammates. During the lockout, DK played in the KHL and was a late RFA signing--he missed the 1st game of the season. He's perking up a bit though now with 2 points in his last 2 games.

Availability: Owned in 54% of leagues.
Forecast: Kulikov scored at a 40-point clip last season and the departure of Garrison opens up more PP opportunities in FLA. Don't let his sluggish start deter you from adding him to your roster.

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

Pittsburgh PenguinsSimon Despres

Speaking of opportunity...it is banging hard on the door of Simon Despres. The Penguins are dealing with injuries to two of their Top 4 defencemen (Letang and Niskanen) and Despres has responded well. In his last 6 games, he has 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists), a +5 rating, 10 PIMs, 9 hits, and 8 blocks.

Availability: Owned in 2% of leagues.
Forecast: Although his current pace is unsustainable, with the opportunities he's getting on a loaded offensive team Despres makes an attractive add in medium to deep leagues.

Goaltenders

Variously owned Gs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Ryan Miller 100% (because of his suboptimal start), Jaroslav Halak 100% (because Elliott cannot carry the load and the Blues are loaded), 100% Semyon Varlamov (because he's really good), Viktor Fasth 88%, James Reimer 67%, Sergei Bobrovsky 37%.

Pittsburgh PenguinsTomas Vokoun

In the 6 seasons prior to last, Vokoun posted a .922 Save% -- with a low of .919 -- on pretty awful Panthers and Predators teams. Last season, he battled groin problems and a major coaching/system change in Washington and yet still posted a .917 Save%. The long off-season afforded him time to fully heal and he landed on a Stanley Cup favorite. This season with Pittsburgh, Vokoun sports a .927 Save%, 2.09 GAA, and 1 shutout in 5 appearances.

Availability: Owned in 70% of leagues.
Forecast: Vokoun is officially #2 on PIT's depth chart, but he's demonstrated over a large body of work that he's the better goaltender. With the Penguins in "win now" mode, if he proves to be the consistently better option -- a trend that has already begun -- look for Bylsma to turn to him with increasing frequency.

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

Boston BruinsAnton Khudobin

So far in his NHL career, Khudobin has generated sparkling numbers: a 6-1 win-loss record, 1.59 GAA, and .953 Save%. Granted, that is a small sample size, but he does appear to rise to the occasion when called upon.

Availability: Owned in 1% of leagues.
Forecast: Boston may be the most goaltender-friendly team in the NHL (See: Thomas, Tim and Rask, Tuuka). In daily leagues, Khudobin makes for a solid #3 for those of you in need of quality starts more than quantity. Should Rask go down, Khudobin would vault to must-add status.


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

NOTES:
* Availability data from ESPN leagues. [Availability in Y! leagues is almost always higher].
* Player analyses and recommendations will now reflect the growing popularity of broader based scoring systems, so we'll be evaluating free agents and trade targets on the following categories: Goals, Assists, Shots on Goal, Special Teams Goals, Hits, Blocks, PIMs and DEF points (for skaters -- for goalies it will still be Wins, GAA, and Save%). Also, like last season, "Free Agents and Trade Targets" will post here every Sunday evening.

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