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Frozen Fantasy: Trade Bait

Janet Eagleson

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

We all have at least one – a guy who’s playing way over his head. Your buddies are all whining and you’re gloating a little.

OK, a lot.

But there will soon come a point when that horseshoe you’re packing will start to feel a lot more like a suppository. And all that luck you’ve been carrying will quickly slip away. So what should you do?

Trade his butt. And do it as fast as you can.

There aren’t that many trades made this early in the season. But I think you’ll get your biggest return of the year if you pull the trigger in the next week or so. It all comes down to the size of your stones.

Face it – John-Michael Liles is not going to top 90 points this season. Chris Stewart isn’t a 50-goal man (yet). And Steven Stamkos will not score 70 goals and get 160 points. Ever.

Yes, at least one of these guys is already a stud. And one is clearly on his way to studdom. It’s really easy to hang on tight to guys like these. But even stars play over their heads every once in a while. And we’re seeing that early this year.

There are two types of owners – the calm and the panicky. Go hard after the latter – they’re easy to identify by the volume of their whining. These guys are far more likely to overpay based on emotion. And they’re far more likely to give up one or maybe two guys who are off to relatively slow starts just so they don’t fall too far behind too soon.

And it’s that two-for-one overpayment potential that could give you a major escalation in overall production by season’s end.

Liles will be lucky to hit the 55-point threshold this year. He needs 44 points in his final 72 games to accomplish that feat. And even if Stewart hits 40 goals this year – and that’s an awesome tally – his current eight goals in 10 games will translate into 30 over his next 72.

And you may be able to leverage Stamkos plus a spare part into a pair like Sergei Gonchar (no goals, six assists in 10 games) and Vincent Lecavalier (five points in eight). Trust me – it’s not that outrageous. I watched a car wreck like that happen in one of my own leagues last year. I only wish I was on the winning end of that deal.

It’s the epitome of that buy-low, sell-high mantra you’ve heard a million times. But you’ve never been able to pull it off to its full potential.

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

Troy Brouwer, RW, Chicago (12 percent owned)Marian Hossa is hurt and opportunity is knocking for this 25-year-old power forward. Last season, he showed he could play on a scoring line and the Hawks will need to test those talents again now. I’m playing a hunch that it’ll be Brouwer and not Bryan Bickell or Viktor Stalberg who’ll get to skate with one of (or both) Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. That’s a hard combo to resist…

Peter Budaj, G, Colorado (11 percent owned)Craig Anderson’s injury thrusts Budaj into a spotlight that he’s never handled well. He can be good for short spurts and then flat-out abysmal; inconsistency has been his middle name. Did you see that woof on Matt Stajan’s goal on Thursday night? And how far off the post was he on that Olli Jokinen snipe? Neither would’ve gotten past Anderson. It’s a crapshoot to rely on Budaj for top-flight netminding numbers – super-flake John Grahame (below) could end up with more ice than this guy. Pick your poison if you need help between the pipes. I just hope you have a change of underwear nearby if you have to pick this guy up.

Ryan Callahan, RW, NY Rangers (16 percent owned) – Who is this masked man? Mr. Extra Effort has never been counted on for top-flight offense but he’s delivering that right now. He has eight points in as many games and heads into Friday night on a four-game, six-point streak. I like him a whole lot more as a third-line pest who absolutely pounds (he’s been top-five in hits for the last two seasons). But I’ll ride this point wave for as long as it lasts.

Cody Franson, D, Nashville (7 percent owned) – Nashville is to defensemen as Finland is to goaltenders – the best factory in the business. Franson is big with a great shot. And while he occasionally gets burned because of his gap control, he’s quickly establishing himself as an able replacement for the injured Ryan Suter. He has two goals and two assists in his first nine games and he’s getting ample power-play time. You can do worse. Much, much worse.

John Grahame, G, Colorado (0 percent owned) – This is just a hunch but Grahame appears to be the Avs’ best bet to provide veteran help during Craig Anderson’s injury absence. Admittedly, picking him up is a risk. But then again, so is relying on Peter Budaj to shed his track pants, Velcro shoes and passion for World of Warcraft to become a No. 1 starter in the NHL. Hey, I love a good miracle every now and then, too; I just don’t see Budaj delivering one. I stashed Grahame, not Budaj – it’s those Velcro shoes I just can’t fathom.

Milan Hejduk, RW, Colorado (33 percent owned) – Hejduk is like the beer-league sniper whose once impressive game has been eclipsed by a bunch of cocky, young twerps. He has lost a step, his angles aren’t that sharp any more and he now has to bring the beer, not just sip the suds of stardom. At 34, he’s looking really old. But in the last week or so, he has slurped from the fountain of youth and has delivered three goals and nine points on a five-game streak. It won’t last. But he hasn’t lost that sweet release. Grab him, use him and then drop his grey beard when he goes quiet.

Steve Montador, D, Buffalo (28 percent owned) – How anemic is the Buffalo offense? This gamer has six points in his first 10 games and is just one back of Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis for a share of second spot on the team stat list. Don’t get me wrong – Montador is a decent player. But right now, this No. 4 defender is doubling as a point-producing horse and he has actually fired more shots on net than Derek Roy. Go figure. He can’t keep it up but he won’t hurt you right now, particularly if you’ve drafted a guy who just hasn’t gotten out of the gate yet.

Brendan Morrison, C, Calgary (12 percent owned) – Five teams in two years – traded, cut and then picked up on waivers. That’s enough to bring down a lesser man. But Morrison has skin as tough as a rhino’s and he has delivered close to a point-a-game in Calgary. He’s not done folks – roster him and ride that smile as far as you can. Nothing can seem to pry that grin off his mug right now.

Wayne Simmonds, RW, Los Angeles (31 percent owned) – I love this guy despite his occasional brain farts. He’s lightning fast and tough as nails, and was one of just nine guys with at least 40 points and 100 PIM last season. He’s a multi-category stud whose only drawbacks right now are his lack of power-play time and his propensity for stupid penalties (see that butt end earlier this week?). He’s skating with Michal Handzus and Alexei Ponikarovsky right now, and he’s tracking toward a near 50-point, 150-PIM season. That almost makes him a god in sin-bin leagues where you’re all-too-often forced to roll a pylon to be competitive that one category.

Marco Sturm, LW, Boston (4 percent owned) – Sturm started skating this week and he could be back in three weeks. When he does, he’ll slot into the Bruins’ top six, a spot where he delivered a team-high 22 goals last year. Stash him in your IR spot now – someone else will if you don’t. It’s just that simple.

Alex Tanguay, LW, Calgary (25 percent owned) – General manager Darryl Sutter has done a lot of questionable things in the last 10 months. And admittedly, I thought signing Tangs was one of them. But low-and-behold, fancy pants is looking like the point-per-game guy he was when he first donned the orange and white in 2006-07. He’s a deft passer who can actually get the puck to finisher Jarome Iginla (now there’s something Iggy hasn’t seen in years). And that means plenty of points are coming. He won’t be on the wire for long.

Now back to "that trade."

The deal really has to work for you. A guy like Stamkos will likely deliver another 80 points in his next 70 or so games. That’s exceptional production. But there’s someone in your league who’ll be blinded by his current heat and forget about the practical realities of the rest of his season.

You won’t get a haul like this closer to the trade deadline. There’s no way, at least not in a single-year league. But right now, you can prey on the weak and emotional.

It’d be illegal in any other walk of life. But it’d be criminal not to take advantage if it fell on your lap.

Just promise me you’ll at least think about it.

Until next week.