The Waiver Wire – For The Week of November 23-30
Better Than You Think
Max Pacioretty C, MTL – He never seems to get the recognition due to him for his stellar play, but “Patches” is a big reason why Montreal has been a success for the last few years. Since 2011-2012, he has exerted his will on the top line for the Habs and improved his fantasy value each and every year. He’s on pace to eclipse career marks for points while being among the best in the league in defensive play, and could very well find himself on the ballot for a Selke nomination. In terms of across-the-board contributions, he’s one of only a handful of players in the league that can put up serious number in each category. That type of ability is worth its weight in gold to fantasy GMs – and should be sought after if a trade presents itself.
Eric Staal C, CAR – How badly did Carolina miss Eric Staal? In the games that he missed, Carolina did not win a game (0-8). Upon his return, they are above .500 (6-5) and look to have righted the ship. In that time, the eldest Staal has put up 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) and has provided much needed leadership, both on the scoresheet and in the dressing room. He also averages five shots per game, and isn’t shy about taking penalties. While he’s gotten a bit older than the 100-point youngster of 2005-2006, he’s a solid contributor, and is especially valuable in leagues that count shots as a category. Many fantasy GMs overlook his solid value due to the team he plays on, but Staal is good enough to warrant acquisition should the opportunity present itself. Bonus: there has been rumours that he may get traded, which could drive his value through the roof if he ends up on a better team.
Jake Muzzin D, LAK – While nobody is happy with the news that Slava Voynov will be out for an extended period of time due to a run in with the law, Jake Muzzin will likely be the beneficiary of his absence. A talented defenseman in his own right, Muzzin has nine points in 14 games this year, but since the departure of the beleaguered Voynov, Muzzin has all of his points in that time – seven games. Voynov in the lineup – no points for Muzzin; Voynov out of the lineup – nine points in seven games. It doesn’t look like the young Russian will be back any time soon, so if you have a need for a defenseman, grab Muzzin if he’s still available.
Dennis Wideman D, CGY – Prior to the start of this year, if we had said that Dennis Wideman would be the third-best defenseman in Calgary, we’re fairly sure we would have lost a few readers. A quarter of the way through the season, and that statement holds true – but that’s certainly not a discredit to the 31-year old. His leadership on the backend has allowed Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie to shine; he’s also no slouch himself, registering eight goals and four assists in 20 games, while also contributing 12 PIM and 42 SOG. With ownership rates just over 50%, he’ll be available in a large amount of leagues, and his play this year warrants a pick up.
Nick Bjugstad C, FLA – What a week this youngster has had; in three games against strong competition (SJ, LA, and Anaheim) the 22-year old has four goals and three assists, while also netting a plus-five and 11 shots. He led the Panthers in points last year with 38, and while that wasn’t necessarily an astounding amount, it’s something to build on. Based on his play this year, he looks set to tally close to 50 points in his sophomore season, and if his recent play is more indicative of what to expect, 60 is not out of the question. We have been a big fan of his since he was drafted, and we expect him to be a top 25 center in the game when he fully matures into his position. Poolies in a keeper league would be wise not to underestimate him.
Tyler Bozak C, TOR – The troubles in Toronto are well publicized, but quietly, Tyler Bozak has put up a very respectable season. With six goals and 11 assists in 20 games, he’s in the top 50 in league scoring, and with a minus-one, he’s also not a defensive liability – even with the acknowledged weakness in Toronto defense. His biggest knock has always been that he’s not your prototypical “number one” center, but he does everything increasingly well, and is one of the league leaders at faceoff wins. With ownership levels in the high-50s compared to a rank in the mid-60s, he’s a solid bet in most leagues. He may not win many awards for flashiness, he’s consistent, responsible, and a good offensive contributor, with one of the best wingers in the game on his right, Phil Kessel.
Aaron Ekblad D, FLA – Someone forgot to tell the 2014 first-overall pick that defensemen take a few years to ripen. With ten points in 17 games, he’s playing with the maturity of a player in his late-20s, and he’s only 18. While it goes without saying that he should be owned in absolutely every keeper league, based on his performance this year, he should be owned by any league with more than two defensive spots. His plus-minus is likely to be hit-and-miss with the anemic offense that Florida has, but any question about how he would react to the NHL game are gone. He’s going to be the franchise defender that the Panthers were hoping, in the mold of Victor Hedman, but without the wait that Tampa Bay had.
Blake Comeau LW, PIT – The news that Pascal Dupuis’ blood clot will keep him out of the lineup for a significant period of time must have been bittersweet to Blake Comeau; nobody ever wants to see a teammate out with a serious illness, but playing on Sidney Crosby’s line would benefit his production. Comeau has had success in the past with the Islanders where he registered 46 points in 77 games; one would imagine that given any amount of time with the best player in the world, that he should be able to eclipse that total rather easily. We’re big believers that success is predicated on opportunity – there are none better in all of hockey than what Comeau has in front of him.
Brenden Dillon D, SJS – News broke this week that the Sharks had acquired Dillon from the Stars in exchange for Jason Demers and a pick; we’re torn on the trade. On one hand, Demers is a talented defenseman that we have suggested in the past for his ability to quarterback the power play; on the other, Dillon has shown a lot of fantasy promise in the past that may come to fruition in San Jose. While not the first name that comes to mind in shallow leagues, Dillon offers a heavy shot from the point with a punishing physical presence that the Sharks could use well. If he’s able to get some power play time – especially on the big first unit – you may see his fantasy stock rise. Keep an eye on him in his new surroundings – he could be a big add in deep leagues.
Michael Hutchinson G, WPG – We’ve kept our eyes on the crease in Winnipeg for the first part of this year, because we believe that the goalie of the future in Manitoba is not Ondrej Pavelec, but rather Michael Hutchinson. In six appearances (four starts) this year, he has gone 3-1-1 with a 1.38 GAA and a .948 SV%, including one shutout. If you compare that against Pavelec’s decent numbers – 7-7-2 with a 2.25 GAA and a .919 SV% - and you have the makings for a goalie battle that can only help the Jets. We don’t think that Pavelec has it in him to continue, and that before very long, Hutchinson will take the crease from him. Right now it’s far too early to invest, but it’s wise to flag him for review in a few weeks.
Paul Stastny C, STL – We were sure that his addition this year was going to put the Blues over the top; while St. Louis has been a juggernaut this year, the talk has not been kind to the most recent Stastny incarnation. With two goals and three assists in 11 games, combined with an uncharacteristic minus-11 rating, he’s had one point with a minus-seven in the last 10 games. Sure, it’s unlikely that he’ll be kept off the balance sheet for the rest of the season, even his SOG in his game log have been poor, sometimes going two or three games without registering even a shot. It looks like his role on the Blues will be a shut-down center; fantasy GMs don’t win championships owning such players. If you can trade him, do so – we don’t forecast a change in value anytime soon.