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Week 1 - Free Agents and Trade Targets

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Week 1 - Acquisition Recommendations: Free Agents and Trade Targets

Zack Kassian won the linemate lottery playing with the Sedin twins so far this season.
Zack Kassian won the linemate lottery playing with the Sedin twins so far this season.
Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Wow. After what seemed like an eternity, the puck finally dropped last Saturday. Many of us had "extended play" matchups out of the gate. I hope you won. And if you played your nemesis, I hope you totally crushed.

If you got our Scouting Reports, you undoubtedly dominated your draft. But a lot has changed in just a short while. Injuries to key players like Hartnell, Lupul, Versteeg, Downie, Kesler, Burns, Ruutu, Pacioretty, and more, have left holes in virtually everyone's roster. Especially in a truncated season, you will want to be nimble with your chosen acquisitions.

So now that we have some real data on the books, let's scour the wire for possible replacements, upgrades, and trade targets. To win your league's championship, you need consistent, smart in-season management. Who's PP time is going up? At who's expense? Who has a favorable D-pairing or line assignment? How's just plain HOT? (see Jay's LCLs for more on these topics).

A note for the 2013 Season: 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.

On to Week 1's recommendations:

Left Wings

Variously owned LWs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Mikael Granlund 92%, Alex Steen 62%, Cory Conacher 56%.

Toronto Maple Leafs Nazem Kadri

Kadri has 5 points in 5 games (3 goals + 2 assists) to go with 4 PIMs, 12 SOGs, and 2 STGs. It's the latter that's piqued my interest. He's been playing a lot on the third line while getting generous PP time. The former 1st round pick may be blossoming into a regular contributor.

Availability: Owned in 34% of leagues.
Forecast: Add him now and ride him while he's hot. Playing in high-profile Toronto, if he has staying power, he won't be on the wire much longer.

Buffalo Sabres Steve Ott

Ott should be on rosters in all leagues, but his value skyrockets in leagues that count Hits, Blocks, and/or FOWs. In 4 games thus far, Ott has 1 goal, a PP marker, 11 PIMs, 13 FOWs, 10 SOGs, 5 Blocks and 21 Hits. He chips in across the board in every category while being a standout in a couple (PIMs and Hits). Love his insatiable truculence.

Availability: Owned in 12% of leagues.
Forecast: This seems to happen every year where Ott starts out with low ownership numbers that increase as the year progresses. He didn't get any less ornery just because he was traded to another team.

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

Chicago BlackhawksBrandon Saad

On the plus side, the injury to Daniel Carcillo opened up a spot for the Brandon "The Marquis de" Saad. And he moved all the way up to L1 with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. That has to be good for business. On the down side, he isn't get much PP time and, at least so far, he doesn't have great stats.

Availability: Owned in 1.5% of leagues.
Forecast: This is a speculative play for those of you in deeper leagues. During his last full season in the OHL, Saad led the league in points per game average when he posted 76 points (34 goals) in just 44 games for Saginaw. He was once considered a Top 10 talent in draft class, but fell due to consistency issues.


Variously owned Cs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Sean Couturier 82%, Matt Duchene 62%, Mike Fisher 44%.

Ottawa SenatorsKyle Turris

Turris is loving life as in a Senators jersey. He's locked into a Top 6 role on L2 with Jakob Silfverberg (another player who should be on your radar) and Guillaume Latendresse. Turris has scored 5 points in 4 games (4 goals and 1 assist) on 12 SOGs. He won't do much for you in the grit cats, but he is pretty proficient in the faceoff circle (28 FOWs).

Availability: Owned in 44% of leagues.
Forecast: Turris was selected 3rd overall in 2007 and took longer to develop than some had hoped or anticipated, but he appears to be putting it together now and at age 23 he is in his goal-scoring prime.

Toronto Maple LeafsMikhail Grabovski

Grabbo is officially Toronto's L2 centre, but considering that L1 has Kessel saddled with Bozak and MacArthur, his line, which includes James van Riemsdyk and Nikolai Kulemin has the makings of being the de facto #1 line for the Buds. He has 3 goals and 1 assist plus a healthy 6 PIMs in just 5 games so far. He's also piled up 44 FOWs.

Availability: Owned in 37% of leagues.
Forecast: Grab Grabbo and enjoy a player that should score at a 30-goal pace.

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

Calgary FlamesRoman Cervenka

KHL star Roman Cervenka made his NHL last night. He had been out with a blood clot issues, but appears to be fine as he logged nearly 18 minutes TOI, including a healthy dose of PP time (almost 4 minutes). And this was primarily from L3. Cervenka will get elevated to the Top 6 in short order once he gets acclimated. That could be as soon as Calgary's next game.

Availability: Owned in 0.7% of leagues.
Forecast: Top line centres with scoring prowess don't last long on the wire. Cervenka scored 54 goals in 105 games over his last 2 seasons for Omsk in the KHL.

Right Wings

Variously owned RWs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: David Clarkson 87%, P.A. Parenteau 87%.

New York IslandersMichael Grabner

Grabner was a disappointment last season with a paltry 32 points in 78 games and no peripherals of which to speak. But he's only 2 years removed from his spectacular rookie season where he put up 34 goals and 52 points in 76 games. This season, Grabner is off to a hot start with with 5 points (3 goals and 2 assists) in 4 games and appears poised to reprise to his rookie success.

Availability: Owned in 48% of leagues.
Forecast: With speed to burn and an increased role, for those that need scoring (which is pretty much all of us), Grabner makes an attractive acquisition.

St Louis BluesChris Stewart

Talk about players who disappointed last season. Wow. Chris Stewart is at the top of that list. He followed up back-to-back 28 goal seasons (the most recent of which was accomplished in just 62 games) with barely half that -- 15 goals in 79 games. He was regularly in The Cock's chateau bow-wow, and that is clearly a risk again this season; however, his ice time is up and he's scoring again -- 3 goals in the first 5 games.

Availability: Owned in 21% of leagues.
Forecast: I actually just traded for Stewart in the FHS Ultimate Dynasty League. The upside was too good to pass up. Just know that if he starts to go astray from his Coach's directives he'll end up riding pine again so there is risk here.

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

Vancouver CanucksZack Kassian

Kassian hit the linemates jackpot as he's currently matched with the Sedin twins. Unsurprisingly, he has 3 goals in 4 games. Kassian also brings some sandpaper with his game and has chipped in 7 PIMs and 10 Hits over the same span.

Availability: Owned in 8% of leagues.
Forecast: As long as he can stay on Vancouver's top line, he should continue to produce and won't be owned in only 8% of leagues for much longer.

Philadelphia Flyers Matt Read

Read led all rookies in goals with 24 last season. And he did it mostly from Philadelphia's third line. The Flyers lost Jagr to free agency and dealt JvR away in an attempt to shore up there blueline in the wake of what looks to be a career-ending injury for Chris Pronger. All they brought in on the front end is Ruslan Fedotenko and his days as a Top 6 winger are long gone. This means an increased role for the goal-scoring Read.

Availability: Owned in 4% of leagues.
Forecast: Read was bumped all the way up to L1 last night and registered a Hat Trick. Playing with Claude Giroux has its benefits. Hartnell will be back in a few weeks and that may bump Read back down, but he's still going to get more opportunities than last season and that should translate to a 25+ goal pace.


Variously owned Ds worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Justin Faulk 85%, Brent Burns 79%, Dan Girardi 57%.

Tampa Bay LightningVictor Hedman

There was a lot of buzz about Hedman "breaking out offensively" in the KHL this season. He had 20 points in 26 games for Astana which sounds pretty good, but he only had ONE goal. Well, he's doubled that total already, with 2 goal and 1 apple so far in the nascent NHL season. Small sample size, so buyer beware, and don't look to Hedman for big scoring numbers alone; but he should hold his own there and he's a good source for PIMs, Hits, and Blocks.

Availability: Owned in 52% of leagues.
Forecast: Look for a pace of about 30 points, 80 PIMs, 125 Hits, and 150 Blocks.

Boston BruinsDougie Hamilton

The lanky rookie is logging copious minutes with the Bs--a little over 18 per game so far. And he has 3 points in 4 games, including the first multi-point game of his NHL career just last night. His SOGs should be decent (11 so far) and he'll contribute a smattering of Hits and Blocks (more of the former).

Availability: Owned in 46% of leagues.
Forecast: Don't expect this scoring pace to continue, but 20 points in the shortened would not surprise me. He's being paired with Seidenberg, when Seids is healthy, and that will enable to put his potent offensive skills in play.

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

Toronto Maple Leafs Jake Gardiner

Currently in the AHL on a conditioning stint, Gardy is due back any day now. He led all rookie defencemen with 30 points (in 75 games) last season, and should find himself in a Top 4 role for Toronto this season. With improved firepower up front, and a year of experience under his belt, there is reason for optimism.

Availability: Owned in 3% of leagues.
Forecast: Look for something similar to last season, although he may start a bit slowly this year as he'll be playing catch-up with the rest of the league.


Variously owned Gs worth adding (depending on the size of your league) or worth targeting via trade: Cam Ward 100% (because of the dismal start), Tuuka Rask 100% (because he's for real), Jonas Hiller 82% (because his career #s are excellent and the Ducks improved their D), Sergei Bobrovsky 52% (because Columbus is better than you think), Tomas Vokoun 19% (because his career #s are excellent and the Penguins will give him excellent goal support).

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

Toronto Maple LeafsJames Reimer

Reimer is clearly the best option the Leafs currently have in net (sorry, Scrivens fans). That's not to say they won't trade for Luongo and muck this pick up, but it's looking less and less likely that Lu goes to Toronto this season, and Reimer can play. His numbers thus far are decent: 3.17 GAA and a .911 Save%. He's just getting hung out to dry to often by Toronto's poor D play.

Availability: Owned in 7% of leagues.
Forecast: There's a decent chance that the Leafs do NOT acquire Luongo. In that case, Reimer is the clear favorite. Starting goaltenders are tough to come by and in Reimer you might be able to land one on the cheap.

Washington CapitalsMichal Neuvirth

Similarly to the Reimer-Scrivens situation, only here I am betting on the clear underdog. Yes, I know what Holtby did in the playoffs last season, but he's stumbled out of the gate. And Neuvirth is giving the Caps a chance to win. In fact, Washington got their first "W" of the season tonight with Neuvy backstopping them.

Availability: Owned in 1% of leagues.
Forecast: Don't expect Neuvirth to be named the #1 at any point this season, but he looks like he may very well lay claim to an almost even timeshare. Now, if the Caps can ever get their stuff together...

Anaheim DucksViktor Fasth

I touted Fasth earlier this week. See Viktor Fasth to Make NHL Debut and he did not let me down. Fasth played with poise--almost cockiness at times--as he picked up the W in the shootout after stoning all three shooters.

Availability: Owned in 0.6% of leagues.
Forecast: Hiller is a workhorse, so don't expect a ton of starts, but they should be quality when they happen. For those in keeper leagues, Fasth is on a 1-year deal, so he could become a hot free agent signing this July. Keeper leaguers take note.

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

*Availability data from ESPN leagues.