Week 6 - Free Agents and Trade Targets: Trade Deadline Edition

Brandon Dubinsky looks to return this week - USA TODAY Sports

NHL Fantasy Hockey - Week 6: Free Agents and Trade Targets - TRADE DEADLINE Edition

Greetings GMs! This weekend, with the calendar flipping to March, our focus on trades shifts into high gear as many leagues have their Trade Deadline in the next 7-14 days.

Don't let this important opportunity to improve your team slip by without at least kicking tires.
For purposes of this post, I will assume that you are in a Keeper league of some sort.
Even if you are in a re-draft league though the majority of the concepts discussed here will apply, so let's get right to it...

Part 1 of this post will be "Top 10" Tips on Trading.
Part 2 will be the usual Free Agent recommendations.

Part 1 - "Top 10" Tips on Trading

1. Win-Win

Successful individuals in ALL walks of life approach every negotiation as a Win-Win opportunity.
And let's face it, everything is a negotiation.
So get in this mindset.
Embrace this mindset.
Stay in this mindset.
Live this mindset.
Win-Win, FTW.

Yes, you need to help your trade partner.
Not just because you're a good guy, but also because it is essential to your reputation in your league, and--even more importantly, perhaps--because no deal is going to be accepted that does not benefits both teams. In the rare instances a bad deal is accepted, it is more trouble than it's worth as it may create a veto controversy and/or otherwise create hard feelings.

EVERY trade you make must be Win-Win.
Start here.

Win-win_medium

2. Review Your League Rules

Make sure you thoroughly understand your league rules.
What is your league scoring system?
What is the league format (Roto vs. H2H)?
What are your keeper rules?
Now, analyze how best to exploit these rules to your advantage.

If you are in a Roto, for example, and you are 1st in Goals, but last in Hits and Blocks, find a team that is highly ranked in Hits and Blocks, but low in Goals and look to make a trade along these lines:

SEND: James van Riemsdyk
RECEIVE: Nicklas Grossmann + Matt Martin

No way!
(I can hear you say)

Well, you are precisely making my point.
Your team won't win because you own the flashiest players, your team's result is tied to production, ONLY.

James van Riemsdyk is tied for 4th in the NHL with 12 Goals.
He's in the midst of a major breakout and plays in the largest media market in the NHL.
JvR's trade value is soaring.

Nicklas Grossmann is 1st in the NHL in Blocks
Matt Martin is Top 3 in the NHL in Hits.
Neither of these players tend to register much on GMs radar screens.
Perfect.

Bottom line is: This deal could boost your team's production substantially.
Analyze your league rules and be objective.

3. Strengths and Weaknesses: Know Your Team

Take a fresh look at your roster.
Anyone starting to break out?
Do you have injuries clustering at one particular position?
Do you have a strength like Goals that are an "easy sell?"
What about your weakness(es)?
Do you need help in peripherals, which may generally be acquired at a discount, or do you need help between the pipes?
If it is the latter, what kind of help do you need?

Check your league scoring system. Look at your best goaltender and then ask, "What complements him the best?" If your league scores Wins, GAA, Sv% and Saves, for example, and your "best" goaltender is Ryan Miller (2nd in GS and 1st, by a LOT!, in Saves) identify goaltenders who see less volume, but have higher ratios. See what team they are on, and what their GMs need most. One or two teams should have a player that will boost your ratios.

4. Strengths and Weaknesses: Know Your Competition

This is one crucial area separates the men from the boys: analyzing EACH roster in your league.
If you think this sounds like a long or arduous process, you have probably just gained valuable insight into why you don't win championships.

The longer you are in a league, the more you will notice certain trends emerge.
Owner A may have a penchant for goaltending (like me).
Owner B may prefer power forwards (the much sought-after multi-cat offensive players). Owner C may be a former defenceman (and carry 1-2 "extra" D).
Owner D may not value prospects highly (his impatience, their unpredictability), etc.

Each of these situations creates an imbalance of some kind that may be to your advantage if you are able to craft a win-win proposal to put things back into balance.

5. Identify Buyers and Sellers

A quick check of your League Standings should get you about 85% of the way home on this one.
Look at the current division leaders?
They are probably Buyers.

Does your league offer a first-round BYE for division winners?
(It should!)
If so, that enhances the demand of Buyers.
As we know, almost anything can happen in a particular matchup and if a strong regular season can earn a BYE, that has considerable value.

Conversely, "cellar-dwellers" are likely Sellers.

Still it depends on the individual GMs.
Some never give up. Fierce competitors that cannot see when the battle is lost.
That may be admirable -- or stupid, depending on your perspective -- but in any case, it is what it is. Accept it and factor it in.
And, of course, there are some GMs that seem to enjoy being in a constant state of rebuilding.
These guys are a curious lot, but again, nothing you can do. Accept it, and know that you may be able to pluck a rental from them for future considerations rather more easily than most.

One other note...
You will also have Fence-Sitters.
These GMs cannot decide whether to buy or sell. (cough, Calgary Flames, cough).

Avoid these guys like the weak and worthless scourge that they are.
If they can't make this basic call, you can guarandamntee they won't be able to make a more complex decision on a trade proposal.

Lastly, and, this may go without saying, but don't be a Fence-Sitter yourself.
Be honest in your appraisal of your own team.
Be decisive.
Take action accordingly. (aka, don't be a Feaster).

**If you find yourself lacking in decisiveness, you may want to consider a special enhancement:

Enzyte-swelling_medium

6. You Have One of Two Objectives: Championship OR Rebuild?

That's it.
There is no middle ground.
I don't care if you get your league fee back for a 3rd place finish, that's irrelevant.
All or Nothing.

If you are going for a championship (Buyer), look for a team that needs to rebuild (Seller) and offer future assets (prospects, picks, young players who are still developing, perhaps a star player at a discount because he's on IR (Karlsson?).

If you are focusing on a rebuild (Seller) yourself, offer any and all non-keepers for future assets. For example, if your league rules indicate 10 keepers per team, consider offering your 10th and 11th best players for a player who would become your 5th or 7th best keeper.

Okay, you've generated some trade ideas. Next...

7. How to Structure an Offer Sheet and/or Initial Inquiry

First, let's dispose of the canard that all savvy GMs get the other GM to show his cards first.
Obviously, if ALL GMs employ this faulty logic nothing will ever happen.
Not good.
This is another a variation of weak and worthless fence-sitting.
Don't do it.

Instead, be Direct and Honest.
You have a Win-Win mindset.
You've identified relative strengths and weaknesses.
You've identified Buyers and Sellers.
Your offer, properly constructed, will help you AND the other GM.
No reason to be coy about that.

In fact, it may lead to an immediate acceptance.
If so, congratulations!

If it leads to rejection or a counteroffer...

8. Listen, Be Flexible and Respond Promptly

Listen to what your trading partner says in his reply.
No, really listen.
Read it.
Read it again.
Look at his roster.
Read it again.

Does it make sense to you?
It should.
Even given all your good work on the front end, there is a strong chance he knows his team better than you.

Reevaluate based on this new information.
Is the other GM being direct and honest with you?
If not, move on.
If he is, what is he saying?

Be flexible.
Is there a way you can restructure your offer to make it a go?

He may suggest something that works even better for you than your intial idea.
I cannot tell you how often that has happened to me.
And those are usually my best deals.

9. Don't Waste Time

If the other owner reviews your offer, then sends you an absolute terrible "lowball" counter, move on. Conversely, if other GMs contact you and then quickly move on, ask yourself why? Trade talks that end quickly CAN be productive provided both sides are direct and honest. Everyone appreciates when others interact with them this way and not wasting anyone's time is an additional plus. The next time that GM is considering a trade, you will be right where you want to be -- on his shortlist of GMs he contacts first.

Also, you never know when a GM is considering a competing offer for one or more of the same assets in play in your talks. When I send out one offer, I usually send out 3-4 others (depending on the size of the league), to see what kind of interest there is my player(s), get a sense of the market, and ultimately to have some options before finalizing a deal. If something terrific comes in, I take it. You snooze, you lose.

10. Evaluating Trade Proposals

Use the principles outlined above.
Does the offer address a weakness by exchanging assets from a position of strength?
Will the offer improve your team's bottom line--actual results on the scoreboard?
Is this offer in line with my timing (ie, if I have declared myself a Seller, am I receiving assets that will help me more NEXT season than THIS season -- and vice versa)?
If the answers to those questions are YES, then you very probably ought to accept.

Do not be overly concerned about whether the other GM "won" the trade or not.
If the assets being exchanged can be quantified (say, on a 1-10 scale) and you are improving your team a +7 and he's improving his team a +8, that's a good deal for both parties.
Do it.

If the assets being exchanged are: +3 for your team and +9 for his team, stick with it.
There IS a deal there.
You should ask for a little more in return, and he should be happy to provide that to you.

If the additional asset makes it a +7 for you and a +9 for him, that's also a go.
Again, don't be overly concerned about who "wins" the trade -- you are in a Win-Win mindset.
Any small bit you "leave on the table" will pay dividends in the form of goodwill--both from the GM with which you are currently dealing with on this occasion as well as from the rest of the league who will view you as a reasonable trading partner.
Most importantly, however, your team will be significantly improved.
And that's the primary goal, right?

11. Don't Be Afraid to Pull the Trigger

Even with a Win-Win approach there will be times that ostensibly "lose" a trade.
Examples include:
A) when the player you acquired goes on season-ending IR three days later,
B) when the player you acquired goes into an extended slump, loses his All-Star centre, etc,
C) when the prospect you acquired busts out or signs a multi-year deal in Europe, etc. etc.
The ways in which you can "lose" a trade are myriad.

But, if you follow the principles outlined above, you never really "lose."

First, there is the sheer fun of the rush of completing a trade.
Our game is something we do first and foremost for fun.
Enjoy it.

Second, even if in hindsight you wouldn't do the trade over again, at the least you have a happy trading partner. And the other teams in the league won't be afraid to engage you in trade talks. I know that may sound empty, but you can't win ‘em all. And there are silver linings in even the worst of post-trade outcomes.

Also, you never know, those things can just as easily work out in your favor: the player you trade away gets injured (not your fault) or goes into an extended funk (also not your fault), etc.

Even without those post-trade factors falling your way, any deal you make has the possibility of being a "Franchise Creator" (if you are in rebuild mode) or a "Championship Maker" (if you are going for it this year). Given such great potential, ALL trade ideas should receive full consideration.

Championship Maker - EXAMPLE

Lastly, Midnight tonight will mark the 12 year anniversary of one of the greatest NHL trades of all-time (March 4, 1991):

GM Craig Patrick SENT Zarley Zalapski, Jeff Parker, and John Cullen
to the then Hartford Whalers
IN EXCHANGE FOR Ron Francis, Grant Jennings, and Ulf Sameulsson

...Patrick's team went on to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.

Francis
Ronnie Franchise back in the day. Not flashy. Just awesome.

Part 2 - Free Agents

Since I just spilled a fair bit of ink on trade tips--including how to identify appropriate targets--this section will focus exclusively on Free Agents with an emphasis on deeper leagues. There are seven (7) names suggested at each position with the player in italics being the #1 recommendation and worthy of additional research.

Left Wings


Variously owned LWs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Brandon Dubinsky 35% (returning from injury), Steve Ott 26%, Brandon Prust 18%, Clarke MacArthur 6%, Antoine Vermette 6%, Kyle Palmieri 4%, and Matt Beleskey 0.1%.

Centres

Variously owned Cs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Derek Stepan 77%, Mikhail Grabovski 25%, Ryan O'Reilly 20% (returns to action tonite!), Drew Shore 12%, Matt Stajan 11% (now on L1 with Iggy and Tanguay), Andrew Shaw 2%, Marcel Goc 1%.

Right Wings

Variously owned RWs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Chris Stewart 59%, Patrik Hornqvist 42%, Tomas Kopecky 32%, Daniel Cleary 17%, Chris Neil 12% (excellent combination of PIMs and Hits who won't kill you in the scoring categories), Derek Dorsett 6%, R.J. Umberger 3%.

Defencemen

Variously owned Ds worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Dennis Seidenberg 54%, Roman Josi 46%, Dougie Hamilton 44% (production improving and receiving boatloads of prime opportunities), Brenden Dillon 22%, Mark Fraser 4%, Grant Clitsome 3%, Andrej Meszaros 1.6% (may return from IR this week).

Goaltenders

Variously owned Gs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Ondrej Pavelec 87%, James Reimer 70%, Jonas Hiller 58%, Ben Bishop 45%, Jonathan Bernier 17%, Jacob Markstrom 3% (injury to Theodore could finally open the door for young phenom), Jonas Gustavsson 1%.

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

Enzyte-smilingbob2_medium

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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