RotoWire Partners

Frozen Fantasy: Hockey Turned Upside Down

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.

What exactly does $5.2 billion buy you? A multi-national software company? An animation giant? A small Italian car company?

Complete hockey dominance, Canadian-style. That's what.

The news broke this week that Rogers Communications and the NHL had inked a 12-year, $5.2 billion deal for the Canadian rights for NHL hockey on every platform imaginable. Starting in 2015.

Hello, $80 million salary cap. Goodbye, Phoenix and Florida. Maybe even Nashville, and the NY Islanders. The cap floor could be $60 million in three years. And $70 million in five.

Ouch. The NHL landscape is about to seriously change.

Fantasy owners, particularly those of us in keeper formats, need to start thinking ahead. The NHL is about to become a league of haves and have-nots. All of a sudden, the free agent classes of 2015 and 2016 become even more interesting. The Blackhawks will now be able to keep both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane without sacrificing a Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook or Brandon Saad. And they might even be able to add another stud veteran who is looking for a ring.

Shudder.

And the likes of the Leafs, Pens, Wings or Kings can also dangle some serious cash at a guy like Jason Spezza or Tomas Vanek. And heaven forbid Steven Stamkos gets lured north. He could hit the market in 2016...

Maybe money really can buy you happiness. And a Stanley Cup.

The players are certainly going to benefit. And there are going to be dynasties for the first time since the salary cap came into vogue. Rich teams are going to be seriously star heavy. Poor teams are going to be patched together with chewing gum and bloated contracts.

And suddenly Canadian cities like Quebec City and the Greater Toronto Area become far more attractive for expansion. But I digress...

Fantasy owners will need to overinvest in the big guns - there just won't be a middle class in terms of fantasy production. Goalies will be even more tiered. After all, how many miracles will be available for those guys toiling for the lesser lights?

Fantasy drafting will require massive risk taking. And planning for plus-minus will become just as important as point projections. There are going to be just too many guys who spend a lot of depressing time in their own zones when those dynasty teams come to town.

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

Darren Helm, C, Detroit (4 percent owned) - Helm is on fire. He's best known as an injury-prone, abrasive forechecker, but since mid-month, he has put together eight points (six goals, two assists) in eight games. Yah, you read that right. The little guy has actually pulled that off. Does he have second-line upside? I don't think I'd go that far, but I sure would take advantage of the production right now. He's a far better own right now than that (theoretically) more-talented Stephen Weiss guy.

Jonas Gustavsson, G, Detroit (13 percent owned) - Funny things are happening in Detroit these days. Jimmy Howard has been struggling, so they've turned to the Monster to right the ship. And he has. He has gotten three of the team's last five starts and he's won them all. Sure, he two of those wins came against the Canes and Sabres, but he also allowed just one goal in a win over the Bruins. The Wings have finally realized that Jimmy Howard is better with a bit more rest (You think? His one win in November smells worse than that open can of salmon you left under the seat of your buddy's car last summer.) Daily leaguers should take advantage - the Monster's 2.17 GAA and .925 save percentage are real.

Jan Hejda, D, Colorado (11 percent owned) - Yah, he's old. And he's a shutdown guy. And I've talked about him before. But he's totally grooving the youth movement in Colorado and he has remarkable fantasy value this season. His offense is going to come and go, but those four points in his last five games are pretty sweet. And his plus-17 overall (plus-5 in his last five games) is exactly the kind of ballast you need to be able to roll a high-risk, no defense cherry picker.

Roman Josi, D, Nashville (6 percent owned) - I nearly wept when Shea Weber took that puck to the face Thursday night. That's the kind of injury that can keep a guy out for weeks (not that we have confirmation of that just yet, so breathe). Now what will Nashville do? Seth Jones and Roman Josi will need to pick up the slack, but for fantasy purposes, Josi has to be your man. Jones is owned in close to half of all fantasy formats, while Josi is available in almost 95 percent. Name value doesn't matter; production does. He has talent, but has struggled to find his own groove this year. Still, pick him up, but be prepared to look elsewhere if the burden of carrying the tune in Music City proves too much.

Chris Kreider, LW/C, NY Rangers (13 percent owned) - Kreider is a thoroughbred, but unfortunately for the Rangers, he's still a colt. He had just a single goal in 14 games before Saturday, when he broke through with a hattie, doubling his goal total for the season. Bam! Can you imagine if he, Rick Nash and Derek Stepan stay together? His 16 points in 20 games foreshadow his elite future. But they also project to a 60-point season and there's plenty of room for those in most fantasy formats.

Tyler Myers, D, Buffalo (7 percent owned) - I hear you, I hear you - the Sabres have all but ruined him. But check out his work under new coach Ted Nolan. Heading into action Saturday, he had a goal and three assists in seven games under his new bench boss. But most impressively, he's only minus-2 in that span. Not bad for a guy who's minus-11 on the season. Dig a little deeper and you'll see he's only minus-4 in the last 20 games - the bulk of his struggles (minus-7) happened in the first five games of the season. I know - that surprised me, too. Just don't wait too long on him. Savvy owners are catching on and stashing him away. Nolan might just be the guy to help Myers resuscitate his game.

Chris Neil, RW, Ottawa (10 percent owned) - Need PIM? Hits? The pride of Flesherton has delivered a delicious 30 PIM and 19 hits in his last five games. Oh yah - he also put in a goal and an assist in that span. He's second in the NHL in PIM and is arguably the best hitter among the quote-unquote pylons. And he is charting toward almost 225 PIM and 280 hits on the season. That's the kind of impact that can change the course of both of those categories for an owner. Go ahead. Indulge.

Gustav Nyquist, RW (12 percent owned) and Tomas Tatar, LW/C, Detroit (1 percent owned) - Nyquist and Tatar are the Wings' top two prospects and both have near-elite offensive potential. Trouble is, the Wings tend to ease their young players into the lineup with limited ice, two-way roles and time. They're usually well into their mid-20s (or beyond) before they really start contributing. But Nyquist (24) and Tatar (22) are already making contributions. Nyquist has five points (four goals, one assist) in his first five games while playing with Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg. And while Tatar doesn't have marquis linemates, he's still delivering - he has a goal and two assists in his last four games. They're both worth a look.

Andrej Sekera, D, Carolina (9 percent owned) - What a leap. This outcast from Buffalo took a seven-point leap Friday and with good reason - he had five points (three goals, two assists) and a plus-6 rating in the five games that ended Wednesday. Sure, he missed Friday night with an ouch, but the injury appears minor, at least so far. I don't see the harm of stashing him until we know how long he'll be out.

Dale Weise, RW, Vancouver (0 percent owned) - Weise is the ultimate mucker. He'll do whatever is asked, almost blindly - he's 100 percent team-first. He'll fight if that's what's needed. He can lay guys out. And he can score. And he does all of it with the enthusiasm of a guy who's living the dream of wearing an NHL uniform every day. He has picked up four points (one goal, three assists), 11 hits and seven PIM in his last four games in seriously limited ice time. Don't be afraid to use him in deep formats.

Back to the cap.

The idea of a $90 million cap has to at least partially paralyze some general managers. I know it does me. Or it did for a little while. Some teams are already precarious. $90 mil means they're gone.

The good news? You and I both have a couple years to start running some numbers based on these possible new scenarios.

I'm pretty sure my theory of targeting good players on bad teams will get tossed out the window. Those guys just won't have a good enough supporting cast to help them get points. And they'll spend all their energy defending against wave after wave of powerful lines.

There is only one John Tavares. The rest just don't have wide enough shoulders. I'm going to start looking at trading off those other types right now. You know me - I'm always scheming to get the upper hand.

You should, too.

Until next week.