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Frozen Fantasy: Buyer or Seller?

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.

Keeper league trade deadlines are looming and you’re in the middle of the pack, just a stone’s throw from a playoff berth. A big push and you're in. A misstep and you lose a piece of your future. Or worse, you waffle and miss your one good shot at a title.

How do you decide?

The decision to become a buyer or seller should be linked to several things but ego shouldn't be one of them.

Emotion never wins.

Objectivity is one of the hardest things for keeper leaguers to apply. We all love the guys on our teams. We tend to overvalue them. But bias doesn't win league titles. It just leaves us self-satisfied...

And without a trophy.

I recently made the decision to sell in my head-to-head salary cap league. I'm actually middle of the pack and still have a slim shot at a playoff spot. Realistically, I think my team could be competitive right to the end but finish just on the outside, looking in.

So last week, I quietly started sending out feelers to teams with players whose salary structures and potential fit my goals and objectives. Therein lies the key.

Have you set goals? Objectives?

I have three goals for "selling" trades. Each deal should give me:

1. Consistency in production over the next three years,
2. A positive overall return on investment, and
3. Intangibles, including future asset value.

The sum of the three elements helps determine my decision. That sum is weighed against my pre-established keeper structure and my objective – compete for a title within two seasons. It all keeps emotion out of the equation.

So what does that mean? Young guys who've already debuted in the NHL and are poised for a breakout or a jump in roles are my favorite targets – they're cheap with growing value. And low-cost, mid-career, consistent – but decidedly unsexy – performers give me way more value than guys who have never appeared in the NHL.

Except as trade bait.

Hotshot youngsters have tremendous value in a league where owners value potential over actual production. Their asset value is highest before they even hit the NHL ice. And they net major return.

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

Mikael Backlund, C, Calgary (1 percent owned) - Opportunity has knocked - will Backlund finally answer the door? He's talented but just hasn't had the breakout this season that many - including me - expected. But on Tuesday night, the creative passer slipped between two elite snipers by the names of Cammalleri and Iginla, and netted an assist. His confidence exploded last season when he got a shot at the top line and it could happen again. He's a risk. But like all speculative stocks, his return could be great … as long as you get out before the market correction, of course.

Francois Beauchemin, D, Anaheim (9 percent owned) - Maybe Big Beauch is a Buster Poindexter fan - he's feeling ‘hot, hot, hot' right now, isn't he? Painful 80s references aside, I like what Beauchemin is doing right now. The Ducks head into Saturday on a 6-0-1 run in their last seven games and Beauch has two goals, five assists and a plus-8 rating in that span. He even has 23 PIMs and one PPG, too. His flame will burn out but right now, he has more value than his highly-touted teammate Cam Fowler (52 percent owned). Nuf said?

Jason Blake, LW, Anaheim (3 percent owned) - Wow - does this guy have something to prove or what? He missed almost three months to a wrist injury but he's absolutely ripping it since his return. He has six points (four goals, two assists) on his current three-game scoring streak and eight points in as many games since he's been back. Remember the last time he was coming up as a UFA this summer? This could be a big second half. Very big.

Sean Couturier, C, Philadelphia (6 percent owned) - Five games and a goal in each. A six-game point streak. Plus-six in that span. And all by one of the most complete 19-year-olds currently in the game. Center is deep but right now, he can help you. And long term, I'd take him 10 times out of 10 over his teammate Brayden Schenn.

Evgenii Dadonov, RW, Carolina (0 percent owned) - The experiment in Raleigh's swirling bowl has been in full swing for a while now. The hypothesis? Offensive chemistry is sure to occur if you just rotate enough semi-talented skaters through the top-two lines. Empirical investigation has proven otherwise, at least so far, but the experiment continues. Enter Dadonov. He was mired in the Florida system and has proven he can play - albeit with varying degrees of consistency - at the NHL level. He's small but he's more than willing to go into traffic and throw his body around to score. And he could easily get an immediate audition on the top line beside Eric Staal (94 percent) and Tuomo Ruutu (25 percent owned). There's no harm in grabbing him - he'll be motivated to produce. And if he doesn't, he's an easy drop.

Martin Erat, RW, Nashville (20 percent owned) - He's hot … again. He's my Mitchum man this season - roll him on, roll him off. He has five points in his last four games and nine in his last seven. And 32 in 39 contests! He has 65-point potential if he's healthy and he's showing that right now. There's no way a guy on that kind of pace should owned in just one in five leagues. Snap him up. Fast.

Roman Josi, D, Nashville (0 percent owned) - Nashville sure knows their D. Josi hasn't gotten the hype that some of the Preds' other young defenders but right now, he's showing why he may be the best all-round player of the bunch. He's a great skater who moves the puck quickly and efficiently. He maintains solid gap control and is getting more and more responsible in his own zone. He's smart and calm walking the line on the power play. Then there's that shot - it's not as big as little Ryan Ellis' but it's hard and accurate. And he has four points - three with the man advantage - in his last seven games. Ryan Suter is a UFA at season's end - can you say heir apparent? Anything's possible.

Ryan Malone, LW, Tampa Bay (12 percent owned) - This big brute is the perfect 50-point, 100-PIM power winger … when he's healthy. And you and I both know what his medical files have looked like over the last four seasons. He's no longer a mandatory draft and hold in any format. But his waiver value is spiking right now with 11 points (three goals, eight assists), 22 hits and 15 PIMs in nine games since the Christmas break. There's probably another injury around the corner but he's definitely worth owning for now.

Kyle Okposo, RW, NY Islanders (11 percent owned) - I've mentioned baby Iggy before so I won't spend much time now. Just this - Santa must have brought him a new low-kick composite for Christmas. Before then, he had 13 points in his first 30 games. Since then? Try 10 points (five goals, five helpers) in 12 games and points in nine of those 12. He's not out of the woods yet but this is one of the most consistent stretches of his young career.

Andrew Shaw, C, Chicago (4 percent owned) - I hope you got to see Shaw's catch-and-release move in the second period of Wednesday's game - it was a beauty. He took a flip pass on the blade of his stick as he skated toward the Sabres' blue line. And with a defender less than a stick length away, he calmly slipped the puck to the ice, chipped it off the right wing board around his stunned opponent and broke into the zone in pursuit. That's a pretty confident move for a 20-year-old, fifth-round pick. Maybe there's good reason - he is on a four-game goal streak (five points total) and has played in all situations, including special teams and top six. He could soon get wing eligibility given his top-six abilities. And there's value in that designation.

Sin Bin Support

Brad Winchester, LW, San Jose (1 percent owned) - The Sherriff was the biggest PIM producer last week after he laid down the law on Columbus' Dane Byers after his ugly hit Andrew Desjardins on Saturday night. But he's not just a pair of pretty fists. He also scored two goals Thursday to Thursday and had 24 PIMs total. He can help you with your sin bin without necessarily hurting your other categories.

Back to trades.

Choosing to sell isn't about giving up. It's about being realistic. And if you can truly do that, you'll be ahead of the competition in leaps and bounds.

But for "buying" trades, I want to:

1. Assess the true value of the upgrade against the roster player my acquisition will replace. Sometimes the upgrade isn't nearly as big as you think.
2. Assess my closest competition to understand where they need help and what they're likely to do. And then stay ahead of them if I can.
3. See if I can get keeper value as a bonus.

Last season, my team was hot and I had no injuries. I evaluated options and felt I had one strong option to upgrade. The deal went to someone else and I stood pat. I could have jumped into another deal. But my forecasts and the potential gains didn't warrant the cost.

The ROI wasn't strong enough.

And I still came within 0.05 points of winning the trophy over a two-week head-to-head contest. It was the closest finish in the history of our league.

The decision is yours. Just commit and do one or the other. The sooner the better. Otherwise all the best deals are gone.

Until next week.

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