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Frozen Fantasy: Trade Upgrades

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.

NHL trade deadline day is one of the funniest days of the year. This year, there were more analysts and experts on TV and radio panels than there were trades. But hey - at least there weren't any Aaron Ward trade exclusives like there was last week.

Ouch.

The winners-and-losers arguments continue to rage on. The only agreements seem tied to Ottawa (winner), Pittsburgh and Buffalo (major winners), and Calgary (supreme loser). The rest? I've seen the analysis go both ways for every other team. And each side raises really good points.

It's easy to chew on the big names or the prominent trades. In fact, we tend to get lost in the so-called glow created by the addition of old, declining, former stars...oops, that was my inside voice again. And if trends hold up, the moves made at the deadline will do little to nothing for the Cup hopes of the teams who got involved.

When will they ever learn?

Fantasy is different. Real-life trades can seriously upgrade - or downgrade - the fantasy value of players. Martin Erat gets an upgrade going to the Caps. Ditto Jaromir Jagr going to the Bruins and prospect Johan Larsson to the Sabres, who'll get to the NHL faster and to a higher spot in the lineup much sooner in his new togs.

So this week, I'm not going to chew too much on the big names. In addition to some hot performers, I'm going to dig into a few role guys whose worlds have been rocked by the arrival of some majorly-talented mates. And it's a whole lot easier to look good being wingman for a guy with a Ferrari than with a dude in Focus.

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

T.J. Brennan, D, Florida (0 percent owned) - Man, this guy owns a rocket from the point. He potted 14 snipes in 36 AHL games this season and he's showing off that shot in Sunrise. It looked like he had two goals Tuesday, but they were eventually credited to other guys, but only because he powered the puck into the net off their butts. He has four points in eight games for the Panthers and fans up in the fire capital would be seething right now if it were not for the haul they got in the Jason Pominville deal. T.J. can help you if you've got an injury issue.

Matt Calvert, LW (0 percent owned) and Brandon Dubinsky, LW/C, Columbus (10 percent owned) - Guess who got to skate alongside Marian Gaborik on Thursday night? Jump on these two and ride the Gabby wave - they each had two-point nights with their new best friend. Riding on someone else's coat tails isn't illegal or immoral, as long as you admit to it. And I'm pretty sure these two will do just that. And you can always drop them when Gaborik gets new mates.

Sean Couturier, C, Philadelphia (5 percent owned) - Couturier's 15-game point drought is a thing of the past. He's struggled with an almost classic sophomore slump, but not any more. He has five points in his last four games and has started to right his woeful plus-minus with a plus-3 rating in that span. I think he's righted the ship. Get on board.

Cody Eakin, C, Dallas (4 percent owned) - Bu-bye Derek Roy, hello Cody Eakin. Eakin is fast, agile and aggressive, and a bit bigger than little Roysie. And his audition on the Stars' second unit began the moment Roy was jettisoned to the rainy part of the Western Conference. He's already a solid, two-way citizen and his compete level is through the roof. Add in solid scoring skills and he's a definite sleeper in the short term. He'll probably ratchet up his effort - and perhaps output - in the next week just to show Joe Nieuwendyk that he can do the job full time. Get in on this little wave and drop him when he plateaus.

Brian Elliot, G, St. Louis (38 percent owned) - Jaroslav Halak is out for three weeks and this is Elliot's opportunity to prove last year's success wasn't just a nasty outlier. He seems to have regained a bit of his swagger on his recent conditioning stint in the AHL, so he's probably not available. But you'll kick yourself if you don't check. However, Jake Allen (14 percent owned) might be available and the hotter of the two - or both - will settle into the blue paint as the Blues drive toward the eighth and final playoff spot. Just don't wait to check them out because they won't last long.

Martin Erat, RW, Washington (23 percent owned) - Check your wire and jump on this guy right now. He's terribly enigmatic - he looks like Superman for a while and then he dons the kryptonite jock and shrivels for a while. But there's a strong chance that Erat joins “superhero” Mike Ribeiro on the second line and that - I can't believe I'm about to say this - will help shield his weaknesses. He won't be a point-per-game guy going forward, but I think he'll establish a new career-best, at least in terms of pace. And that makes him a must-own and not a guy rostered in under a quarter of leagues.

Nathan Gerbe, LW/C, Buffalo (1 percent owned) - Just like Cody Eakin, Gerbe is line for possible upgrade in ice time now that a prominent teammate (Jason Pominville) has moved along. He's fast and talented, but he hasn't been able to put it together at the NHL level. He turns 26 this summer, so his Derek Roy-type upside will never be fulfilled. But he can still be an offensive sparkplug if he's given the chance. Watch for his line assignment on Friday night against Ottawa and snag him if he gets that opportunity.

Patric Hornqvist, RW, Nashville (14 percent owned) - This former 30-goal scorer had a great week and it's about to get better. He's on a three-game, four-point (one goal, three assists) scoring streak heading into Saturday night and has five points in his last five games. He also has 18 shots in those five games. Add in Martin Erat's departure and that means a move up the depth chart. The Preds won't score a lot, but they won't be repeatedly shut out, either. See if fits your needs.

Darcy Kuemper, G, Minnesota (0 percent owned) - Kuemper is now the undisputed backup in Minny, a team near the top of its division. The Wild will (or should) keep Niklas Backstrom rested so he's at the top of his game for the postseason. And that means Kuemper will see his share of action and wins. Handcuff him to Backstrom or pull him out from under Backstrom's dozing owner. Do it now and enjoy the wrath.

Mark Letestu, C, Columbus (4 percent owned) - No, that wasn't the aurora borealis you saw over Ohio on Wednesday night. That was the glow off Mark Letestu's Chiclets when he thought he'd be skating with Marian Gaborik on Thursday night. It didn't work out that way, but he'll likely get that shot if Brandon Dubinsky doesn't work out with Gabby. Watch the Jackets like a hawk and stick your talons in the guy who settles into that spiffy gig.

Steve Mason, G, Philadelphia (4 percent owned) - My stomach churned a bit Thursday night watching the Flyers' Ilya Bryzgalov flop around like a fish out of water. I own him in a head-to-head league where I'm embroiled in a tight playoff battle. And his disorientation in the blue paint and the trapezoid was stunning. Paul Holmgren brought in Mason as insurance (I know, I know - that feels like an oxymoron with emphasis on moron). But Mason could actually slide into the starter's role if he can continue to steady his game. Keep your eye on the Philly situation - Mason didn't win the Calder trophy with spit and chewing gum.

CATEGORY SPECIALISTS

PIMs

Tim Jackman, RW, Calgary (0 percent owned) - Jackman will never be mistaken for a scorer. But he's your man if you need PIMs. He picked up 29 minutes in his last four games and added a surprising two assists, too. Stick him into your lineup if a couple fights could gain you a few points.

Assists

Mikkel Boedker, LW, Phoenix (15 percent owned) - This talented Dane has four helpers in his last four games. He's still rather streaky, but so are a lot of 23-year-olds. Those four points came against the Preds, Kings and Wings. So perhaps he can do the same over the next week against lesser opponents like the Avs, Oilers and Flames...who the Yotes face over the next week.

Plus-Minus

David Schlemko, D, Phoenix (0 percent owned) - This once one-dimensional power-play specialist has really tightened up his game of late and has delivered a plus-six rating in his last four games. He also chipped in two points. There are lots of offensive types who get more profile, but he's there when they go cold. Now let's just hope the “ailment” that forced him from Thursday's game can be solved with a little Pepto-Bismol (or Imodium) and he won't be out long.

ONE TO AVOID

Marc-Andre Bergeron, D, Carolina (2 percent owned) - Bergeron was brought in to Raleigh to give the power play a boost and he did just that in his first game in his new uni. But Joni Pitkanen's fractured heel has forced MAB to start chewing minutes for the Canes. He's best used in controlled doses, so this will definitely expose his shortcomings, particularly in his own zone. Let someone else take the bait. He's going to be over-extended very quickly.

Back to trade deadline day.

Hey - at least the last hour was worth watching. I can honestly say I was surprised by the Marian Gaborik deal - I thought John Tortorella was closer to out than Gabby was. And the prices paid for marginal talent was through the roof.

My two favorite teams of the day were Columbus and Buffalo. Jackets president John Davidson is a fantastic executive and should be considered one of the best minds in hockey.

Seriously.

But Darcy Regier may have saved his job...or at least for a little while. Johan Larsson will be a better and smarter all-round center than Cody Hodgson will ever be. Matt Hackett will soon start in Buffalo and fans will absolutely love him. And he got a first and a second round pick in the same deal. Add that to the three, second-round picks and a fifth for Robin Regehr and Jordan Leopold, and the restocking has begun in earnest.

Next up, the playoffs and then the Entry Draft. That's when Roberto Luongo gets a compliance buy-out and Ryan Miller (and his whining) gets traded to Siberia. Or Columbus.

Wait - they already have a great goalie.

Until next week.

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