The big story this week was the blockbuster swap of two disgruntled young stars: Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic head to Columbus while Pierre-Luc Dubois and a 2022 third-round pick head to Winnipeg. This was a rare trade that addressed glaring deficiencies on both teams, and while salary was retained by Winnipeg, this was a hockey trade, not a cap-related move. These trades don't happen often; you'd probably have to go all the way back to 2005, when Dany Heatley asked out of Atlanta and was subsequently dealt to Ottawa for Marian Hossa.
Immediately, once Dubois is allowed to join the team after quarantine, it'll give the Jets the depth at center that they had always dreamed of and perhaps the best in the league. He has historically been a very strong playmaker who drives play, finishing with at least 50 CF% every season since he entered the league, even with his lackadaisical final days in Columbus. Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler likely will stick together, but it's a boon for whoever ends up on playing with Dubois on the second line, likely to be Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp, with Mathieu Perreault having an outside shot.
It also means the wingers on the third line, currently 2017 first-round pick Kristian Vesalainen and former AHL top scorer Mason Appleton, get a boost as well with Paul Stastny sliding to the third line. Dubois' fantasy value increases because he's playing with good linemates and will also no longer have to face opponents' top defensive pairing every shift, and a change in scenery should also boost his effort.
The Jets, who are 4-for-23 on the power play thanks to a slow start, will miss Laine's shot, but the lineup should be more balanced overall. In fact, Laine's production and shooting efficiency had dipped the last two seasons because opposing penalty killers learned to focus on him. Dubois will likely take Laine's place on the top power-play unit, and without Laine, it'll open up more opportunities for other players to shoot — namely Scheifele and Connor, who combined for 19 PPG last season.
How this trade impacts Columbus and Laine is a little murkier. We know, with some confidence, that their normally anemic power play, which ranks last the last three seasons at just 16.2 percent, will get a big boost from a proven 40-goal scorer. Last season, Winnipeg's power play generating 18 percent more expected goals than the league average, according to Hockeyviz, with many of those chances coming from Laine's spot on the left faceoff dot and the rebounds he can create from his heavy shot. Columbus' power play, on the other hand, generated nine percent fewer goals than expected, and generated very few chances from the slot. This is where Laine can make a huge difference, and also gives the quarterback, be it Seth Jones or Zach Werenski, someone to feed one-timers.
But, Laine's playing style and even-strength play might be a problem. First, he doesn't drive play like former Jacket Artemi Panarin, and his on-and-off effort and poor defensive play probably means that he'll get benched by John Tortorella at one point or another. Whoever plays opposite of Laine, most likely Cam Atkinson or Oliver Bjorkstrand, will get a boost on offense, if only because opposing defenses won't be focusing on them with Laine on the ice. But, as mentioned before, Laine's poor defensive play might negate all of this.
Second, Laine had previously complained about not being able to play with quality centers; Columbus has a dearth of them and just gave up its No. 1 pivot. Max Domi is the obvious choice to pair with Laine, but he's been just OK so far, and it remains to be seen if Domi can even be a full-time center. There are other options (Boone Jenner, Nick Foligno, Mikhail Grigorenko, Mikko Koivu), but none have high-end offensive skill.
The most intriguing one may be Alexandre Texier, who has been one of their best players this season. Texier led KalPa in the Finnish Elite League in scoring as a 19-year-old in 2019, so he's got some offense; more important, he's a tenacious checker who wins a lot of puck battles and creates turnovers, which may generate chances for Laine to shoot. Pay close attention to see how Tortorella handles his lines, though it might be a fluid situation all season.
Then there's Roslovic, who returns home to Columbus and will get opportunities he never received in Winnipeg. Drafted as a center but rarely deployed as such by the Jets, Roslovic gets a chance to play in the top six, partly due to Columbus' lack of depth down the middle. However, we should temper our expectations; in 180 career games, Roslovic has scored just 26 goals, and last year's 29 points were a career high. The good news is that Roslovic played very well in the AHL, but his improvement in the NHL the last two seasons has been marginal, so it's a wait-and-see approach because the Jackets have plenty of vets ahead of him on the depth chart. There's a chance Roslovic breaks out in his third full NHL season, but this is Tortorella's Jackets, where defense comes first.
The fantasy play is more about how Dubois and Laine impact the rest of the roster, and not so much about their own fantasy value, which remains largely unchanged though I lean toward Dubois because I don't trust Laine's ability to carry an offense on his own. Copp (1percent rostered), who scored two goals Saturday and has 12 shots in his last two games, is worth a look if he can stick on the second line. Ehlers (76 percent rostered) could be a point-per-game player and should already be rostered in every league. Stastny (16 percent), who drops down the depth chart, can be dropped to the waiver wire when Dubois joins the lineup. Domi (53 percent), a good playmaker who's struggled this season, will get first crack at centering Laine, but don't forget about Texier (7 percent), a Tortorella favorite whose play continues to trend up and worth picking up in deeper leagues. Between Bjorkstrand (60 percent) and Atkinson (45 percent), one of whom will play opposite Laine, Bjorkstrand is the smarter waiver pickup. Roslovic (2 percent) is worth stashing if you have an extra bench spot given his new role.
The Forgotten Stars
There were 116 days between the Stars' final playoff game and their 2021 season debut, and during that time it's like we've forgotten about them. That's the only explanation why Joe Pavelski is rostered in just 41 percent of leagues, a number that should jump up after his four-point effort, three of which came on the man advantage. Despite being 36, Pavelski remains a very good top-six forward and no one is better at tipping pucks in front of the net. That gives Pavelski a lot of fantasy value, especially with Tyler Seguin sidelined and Jamie Benn potentially missing time. It's absurd Pavelski is rostered in so few leagues.
The same goes for Roope Hintz (22 percent rostered), who is currently centering the top line in Seguin's absence and looked very good doing so with two power-play assists, seven faceoff wins and two hits in his debut. Seguin is not expected to return for another couple months, which means Hintz's role on the top line and the top power-play unit is safe for now. He deserves to be rostered in all leagues for the time being, and his dual position eligibility gives managers added flexibility.
Lost in the Desert
The Coyotes get overlooked until they do something extraordinary, like winning a playoff series or ending Vegas' unbeaten streak with an emphatic 5-2 victory Friday. Their pace is noticeably faster this season, and it's led to strong starts by both Conor Garland, last season's top goal scorer, and Nick Schmaltz, last season's points leader. Garland, who broke out with 22 goals last season, is on pace for another strong season. He's tied with Nathan MacKinnon and Patrick Kane for 10th in the league with 20 shots, and if you combine the high-volume shooting with his strong possession numbers (career 51.9 CF%) and his above-average shooting percentage (career 12.5 percent), you're looking at someone who can score 20 goals in this shortened season. Schmaltz has also improved, though not by the same degree and his underlying numbers aren't as impressive, but he's formed a very productive partnership with Garland the top line and the top power-play unit. Don't be shy just because they play for a team nobody really follows — Garland (30 percent rostered) and Schmaltz (11 percent), both of whom have dual-position eligibility, deserve roster spots in deeper leagues.