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Frozen Fantasy: Anyone For Leftovers?

Janet Eagleson

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

Canadaís next national holiday Ė NHL trade deadline day Ė is just around the corner. You know I find it a bit overrated, at least in terms of the true short-term impact of guys who are moved. But Iím still glued to my computer like a moth to a light bulb, waiting to see who goes where.

The anticipation is better than Christmas.

The Sochi trade freeze happens starts Friday and lifts Feb. 23. That means weíll have two-and-a-half weeks to follow the Olympics AND keep an eye out for trade rumors. Thatís a lot of time to analyze what might happen if a guy on one of your rosters gets moved.

But honestly, Iím more interested in the leftovers.

Sure, the guy who gets moved gets a new lease on life. A chance (perhaps) to finally pursue glory, to drink from the coveted chalice. But every time a guy gets moved, another guy might get his wings. See the Christmas reference again?

I digress.

The guys left behind after trades often get brand-new opportunities to show off their skills. Take Marc Staal, for example. Michael Del Zotto has disappeared and look what Staal has done Ė Friday night marked his second, two-point game in three and heís plus-6 over that span. Heís not getting the power-play time, but it might still come.

Iíd take a chance on that in my lineup any day.

Sure, thereís no guarantee of improved performance. Some guys just canít step up to fill the boots of a bigger man. But some can. Can Chris Tanev step up if Alexander Edler gets moved? He has almost three weeks to heal that broken thumb and even pass-first defenders can pick up points in this league. And does Zach Bogosian finally fulfill his stud promise if big Dustin Byfuglien gets shipped out?

Yes, this kind of thinking is certainly more keeper-focused. But smart single-year owners are watching this, too.

Projecting now-to-year-end output is difficult. We tend to think a stud veteran is more likely to deliver for us so we overpay for them in a trade. But letís be objective for a second Ė that vet might be lucky to deliver just three or four more points than a quote-unquote replacement-value kind of guy by end of the year.

Leftovers arenít sexy, but theyíre still damn good. You already know you like them.

Iím going to spend the Olympic break glued to every device that can feed my patriotism. But Iím also going to be evaluating rumors for the leftovers they might deliver for my squad

Deee-lish. Now letís take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Mikael Backlund, C, Calgary (3 percent owned) Ė Iíve talked about him before and he has always rewarded me by immediately falling on his face. Or being stapled to the bench in the press box. Is this time different? I dunno, but his sweet, sweet hands have been on full display this week. Heís rung up three straight two-point games and has an equal number of goals and helpers in that span. Heís actually picked up his game over the last couple months and looks likes heís finally dialed in to what it takes to be an NHLer. And that might actually give him a shot at bringing consistency to that truly elite tool kit. Take advantage.

Sean Bergenheim, LW, Florida (3 percent owned) Ė Bergie lost last season because of hip/abdomen injuries, so he wasnít on anyoneís radar on draft day. Rightfully so Ė his pic is on Jockipedia on the Ďwaiver fodderí page. He might get hot, but probably not. But every once in a while, he gets dolled up just enough to catch my eye. And heís done that Ö to the tune of a five-game point streak (three goals, two assists) that includes 10 hits and 17 shots. He might help in deep, deep leagues.

Martin Erat, RW/LW, Washington (3 percent owned) Ė No, Iím not crazy Ė I know has only scored one goal in 60 games, including playoffs, as a member of the Capitals. I honestly think that jersey is his kryptonite. And the moment he sheds it Ė and he and his agent are pleading for a trade Ė his game could just bounce back, at least a little bit. Put him on your watch list. He had two, two-assist games back-to-back this week. And the guy did average over 50 points a season for eight seasons in Nashville.

Nikolai Kulemin, LW, Toronto (5 percent owned) Ė Kuleminís game fell right off the edge of the earth after his 30-goal, 57-point season in 2010-11. I donít need to itemize just how bad heís been since then. But he has been elevated to the second line in the Big Smoke and is providing line mates Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul with some time and space to work their magic. And magic is the right word, at least with Kadriís recent output. But surprisingly, Kulemin has five points, including three goals, in his last eight games. Thatís still weak production for a lot of leagues, but itís not far off whatís needed in deep formats. I never thought Iíd say this again, but heís actually worth a sniff.

Dmitry Kulikov, D, Florida (2 percent owned) Ė Is Kulikov quietly finding his game again? Itís been an awful year for the talented, young defender and he even ended up in the press box on Dec. 3. Kulikov took that one-game benching to heart and his game almost immediately improved. But he has taken it to an even higher level of late. He has a point in each of his last three games and five points, including four goals, in his last seven games. And yeah, heís only owned in two percent of leagues? Not if I have anything to do about it.

Jamie McGinn, LW, Colorado (2 percent owned) Ė McGinn works his tail off every game and that includes tossing his body around like a muscular rag doll. His hit totals will always be solid, but perhaps not good enough to help you as a one-category wonder. Well, thatís no longer an issue. McGinn has actually seen some ice time on the Avsí top line and has managed nine points, including six goals, in his last 15 games. Itís modest production, but more than enough to ratchet his value up in standard leagues. He might just be worthy.

Mark Methot, D, Ottawa (2 percent owned) Ė Methot is a defensive specialist Ė he typically helps his netminder deliver better numbers than he brings home himself. But he has opened up a can of Popeyeís spinach in his last four games and has somehow mustered three points in that span. Heís in the leaguesí top 50 in hits and might be worth eyeballing for that last roster spot. But only if your league counts hits Ė there isnít enough stability in his other categories to make him truly helpful.

Lee Stempniak, RW/LW, Calgary (4 percent owned) Ė Stempniak has had a crummy season, even by his standards. Itís not like heíll ever be Willy the Wonderstud, but heís been a sturdy, if not streaky, performer for most of his career. He caught my eye Tuesday with a trio of helpers, so I started to dig. And low and behold, he actually has eight points, including six assists, in his last eight games. Thatís rather remarkable given he had just 14 in his previous 39. Roll the dice Ė if youíre reading this, youíre already shuffling the deck chairs. A lot. Consider him a short-term play and then shuffle the chairs again when he falls off the deck.

Tom Wilson, RW, Washington (1 percent owned) Ė I donít really get why the Caps are deploying a recent (2012) first-round pick as an enforcer. Power forward? Yeah. Meathead? Not so much. But in limited time (and this odd role), Wilson has managed to push his way into the top 55 for hits and sits tied for third in PIM. Yes, third. He doesnít have many points (yet), but he does have three in the last five games. And his offensive upside isnít a mirage. Add in 14 PIM and seven hits in those five games and you have a standard roto-league stud. Heís cheap. Iím desperate. Seems like a marriage made in heaven, even if I have to divorce him in a couple weeks.

Travis Zajac, C, New Jersey (7 percent owned) Ė Praise the Lord Ė his game has come. Finally. I own this guy in one of my leagues and Iíve waited all season Ė less than patiently, I might add Ė for him to snap out his funk. Iíd almost given up hope, but then he rang off eight points in his last six games. Is he going to keep it up? Hell, no. Not even close. But heís not a complete pylon, so maybe he can hike up his current scoring pace a couple notches. After all, he did rack up more than 60 points in two separate seasons. I think thereís nowhere but up for his game now that Patrick Elias is healthy.

Back to the leftovers.

Donít expect a leftover to be something itís not. Leftover pot roast will NEVER be prime rib. Tim Gleason will never be a scorer, so donít expect him to put up points should, say, Cody Franson gets moved.

But a guy like Alex Tanguay, however ancient he is, can certainly fill the boots of P.A. Parenteau. He may already have.

Leftovers can be utterly delicious. Now Iím hungry.

Until next week.