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Frozen Fantasy: Stud For Sale?

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Maybe the Mayans were right - the apocalypse is upon us. How else can you describe the news that every Anaheim Duck except Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu is available in trade? And Rick Nash in Columbus, too?

NHL general managers must be sipping fantasy Kool-Aid.

Names like Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Lubomir Visnovsky and Jonas Hiller usually only ever come up in fantasy trades. Not real ones.

But if Joe Thornton can get traded...

Nash says he'd waive his no-trade clause if the Jackets asked. Ducks general manager Bob Murray told Helene Elliot of the L.A. Times that his players are deciding if they stay or go with their play. And he'd be looking for a core-type player in return.

How do you win in a deal like that?

Fantasy general managers have the option of voting down a bad trade. NHL general managers don't have that luxury. They just winge and whine afterward. And mostly because they didn't get the big fish in the deal.

The Joe Thornton deal netted three players, two of which I had to look up because I couldn't remember them. Thornton went on to win the Hart and Art Ross trophies that season. Marco Sturm hasn't played a full season since 2007-08 and Wayne Primeau is now a part-time TV analyst. At least Brad Stuart is a top-four defender with a Stanley Cup ring. And surprise, surprise - Bruins general manager Mike O'Connell and coach Mike Sullivan both lost their jobs at the end of that year.

Ouch.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren is the only guy I can think of right now who actually looks like he came out on the winning side of a not one, but two big deals. Jeff Carter has been hurt and Columbus is a mess. Mike Richards was concussed and Los Angeles can't score.

But Philly is near the top of the Eastern Conference...and NHL.

Still, winning a deal like that is a real long shot, even in fantasy. Bob Murray already threw Randy Carlyle under the bus earlier this season - how safe is his job? And Scott Howson? His Jeff Carter so-called home run hasn't exactly left the park.

The on- and off-ice implications for the Ducks and Jackets are enormous. But at this point in the season, there's probably only upside for the fantasy owners of any of the studs mentioned above. Every one of the studs is under-performing. A change of scenery can't really be any worse.

Can it?

Now let's take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Trevor Daley, D, Dallas (8 percent owned) - I mentioned Daley a month ago and should have taken my own advice. Instead, I held onto the seriously declining asset named Dmitry Kulikov (50 percent owned). Stupid. Since Dec. 10, Daley has 10 points (three goals, seven assists), 26 shots on goal, two game-winning tallies, three power-play points, six penalty minutes and a decent minus-1 in his last 13 games. Since Dec. 9, Kulikov has no points, 10 PIM, 16 shots and is minus-4. The only place Kulikov is better is in the hits department (26 to 7). You get the point. I just wish I had a month ago. I've fixed that now, for better or worse.

Lars Eller, C, Montreal (2 percent owned) - Wednesday was a night for the ages for the Great Dane - four goals, including that spin-a-rama penalty shot, and an assist on home ice. The Montreal faithful absolutely ate it up, showering him with hats and then spilling their beers on that shifty spin. He's still young and painfully inconsistent. But five goals and two assists in his last four games are impressive. Pick him up only if you think you can parlay him into a nifty trade with a Habs' lover. He's still more like Jan Bulis, the Habs' last four-goal guy and current KHLer, than Rick Nash (95 percent owned).

Sam Gagner, RW/C, Edmonton (5 percent owned) - It's easy to forget this grizzled veteran is only 22. It wasn't that long ago that Gagner was the shiny young thing under Edmonton's tree but he has been since overshadowed by the likes of Taylor Hall (82 percent owned), Jordan Eberle (80 percent owned) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (77 percent owned). Still, he has 13 points in his last 15 games and five on his current four-game streak. And - oh yah - a gig centering Hall and Ales Hemsky (19 percent owned) now that RNH is out. I snapped him up in one of my keeper leagues last weekend and put him on my Friends and Family roster Thursday night. You'd be wise to take a look, too.

Carl Gunnarsson, D, Toronto (1 percent owned) - Shhhhh - the sound you hear is Gunnarsson quietly picking up his game...again. He seems to do that every second half. Last year, he blossomed once Tomas Kaberle (50 percent owned) was traded. This year, he's flourishing with John-Michael Liles (68 percent owned) out. He picked up an assist Thursday to extend his point streak to three games and three points (one goal, two assists including one power-play assists). He might just deliver at a 35-point pace going forward. That's valuable in deep leagues.

Jonas Gustavsson, G, Toronto (11 percent owned) - Trade rumors aside, the Leafs are going to roll the hot hand in the twine tent - they desperately need the wins at home right now. And that hot hand belongs to none other than Monster. He rang up a 24-save shutout on Thursday night for his second straight win and the blue ice will be his until he falls apart. Pick him up and ride the wave. Or you could just scoop him up and then offer him to James Reimer's (64 percent owned) owner - he could get desperate quick.

Carl Hagelin, LW, NY Rangers (4 percent owned) - Rookies aren't usually my thing in one-year leagues. But Hagelin has been getting some primo playing time with Brad Richards (97 percent owned) and Ryan Callahan (77 percent owned) in the last week and this shifty speedster has delivered four points in his last five games. He's still more of a checking type but monitor his opportunities - he's clearly smart enough to fit in on a scoring line. You just might have to drop him as fast as you grabbed him, that's all.

Clarke MacArthur, LW, Toronto (19 percent owned) - I've been waiting for the streak to be over. But MacArthur has won me over...at least for now. He started the season on a sour note and then took forever to fire up on all cylinders. But he's now on a seven-game, eight-point (three goals, five assists) scoring streak - the longest of his career. Who knew? Maybe the success and surprising consistency of teammates Phil Kessel (98 percent owned) and Joffrey Lupul (90 percent owned) is rubbing off. Honestly? I thought it'd be MacArthur's play that would drop off this season and not his former linemate's, Nikolai Kulemin (25 percent owned). Jump on board (for now).

Frans Nielsen, C, NY Islanders (4 percent owned) - Two Danes on one list? Wow. Nielsen doesn't have the offensive upside of Mr. Eller but he squeezes every ounce out of what he does have. And right now, that's four points, including three with the man advantage, and nine shots on a three-game streak heading into Friday night. He's smart and responsible with an underrated shot, and might just be a short-term fill-in if you're suffering through injuries.

David Perron, LW, St. Louis (16 percent owned) - Yes, he's an injury risk. But Perron is an absolutely lethal passer with an uncanny gift for turning defenders inside out with shifty moves and no-look dishes to his mates. And he has 13 points in 15 games since his return from his concussion. This may be the last time you have any shot at adding him to your roster - a second-half surge is on the radar. And what risk is there adding him if you're rolling guys on and off your roster any way?

Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Florida (7 percent owned) - The man of many “issues and ouchies” is finally back. Now fingers crossed he doesn't trip over the blue line or forget to take the guards off his skates before he next steps on the ice. When healthy, Samuelsson is strong on the puck and can deliver streaky offense. He had two points in the three games before his most recent injury and he returned Thursday with two helpers. I've held onto him since draft day in one very deep league and I'm glad I did. He'll provide depth scoring in deep formats. Just watch for his streaks - the droughts are as cold as the streaks are hot.

TRADE TARGET

Tuukka Rask, G, Boston (56 percent owned) - Use his so-called number-two status to sell his owner on the deal. Use Tim Thomas' Vezina-like play to de-value him. And sweeten the pot with whatever you need to add. Why? Tim Thomas turns 38 during this year's playoffs and he has already played a season-and-a-half over the last year, what with the Bruins' Stanley Cup run. This is just a hunch but I can see the Bruins employing a platoon after the All-Star break. And that ratchets up Rask's value in a serious way. Move now if you're so inclined before the others in your league think this through.

Back to the apocalypse.

What team - NHL or fantasy - wouldn't line up to try to get the likes of Perry, Getzlaf, Ryan, Nash et al?

Wouldn't Corey Perry look great in blue and green beside Ryan Kesler? No one would be sticking their fingers in Henrik Sedin's face any more now would they? Ryan Getzlaf would pretty much triple the size of the Sabres' top lines.

And wouldn't Rick Nash make the Caps an instant contender again? Mind you, I wouldn't be surprised if Caps' coach Dale Hunter is in general manager George McPhee's office lobbying - no begging - for a deal that would move Alexander Semin for his former London Knight buddy Corey Perry. And the Caps do have the Avs' first-round pick this year...

Fantasy Kool-Aid - make that a double.

We can speculate all we want. And remember - that's all I've been doing here. But stupider things have happened. And NHL GMs like Murray and Howson have little to lose by making a monster deal.

Their jobs are already on the line. One of them might just try to save himself by making the ultimate fan sacrifice.

The next little while should be interesting to watch...in a watching a train wreck kind of way, that is. We'll all be uncomfortable - even a little on edge. But I know I won't be able to take my eyes off the carnage.

The Mayans will be right about the end of the world for one of those GMs. Maybe they should just take up fantasy instead.

Until next week.