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NHL Waiver Wire: The Trade Deadline Cometh

Mike Wilson

Mike Wilson writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Dan Waldner

Dan Waldner covers hockey for RotoWire, and has been involved in fantasy hockey pools for 15 years. He's a lifetime Toronto Maple Leafs fan, a passion his wife puts up with and his daughter is starting to emulate.

For the Week Feb. 22-28

As we approach the trade deadline, we'll focus more on potential trade targets this week -- players to add if the price is right, and players to avoid unless the price is unbeatable. Early trades will start coming in this week -- both fantasy and real -- preparing teams for championship runs. Keep these players in mind when the deals become fast and furious:

Buy If the Price is Right

John Tavares C, NYI -
Few gave the Islanders much of a chance this year to make a big impact in the NHL. Some analysts had them positioned for one of the wild-card spots, but most had them missing the playoffs yet again. Aside from a few key acquisitions, the largest reason for their success has been the stellar play of franchise superstar John Tavares. He has been the foundation for the entire team almost since being drafted -- since his third season, he has been a consistent point-per-game player. He's also likely to approach 40 goals for the first time in his career, a plateau that few reach. We're not convinced the Islanders will be a contender this year for the Cup, but seldom do we care about that in the fantasy world. Tavares will be a top-five skater the rest of the year, and should be traded for, if you can get away with it.

Devan Dubnyk G, MIN -
We were fortunate to grab him off the waiver wire the day before he was traded to Minnesota, and we've been riding his hot hand ever since. Minnesota is a very good team, far better it has played much of this year. A lot of the Wild's problems have been in the crease, where Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper were unable to fill the void that Josh Harding left. Enter Devan Dubnyk: a goaltender beaten down in the crucible of Edmonton and shipped around the league -- first Nashville, then Arizona -- to land finally in Minnesota. Dubnyk has revitalized his game playing behind the Wild, posting numbers that might actually get him a Vezina nod: 12-2-1 with five shutouts, a 1.61 GAA and a .938 SV%. His season numbers put him in the top five in all categories other than wins. Granted, we expect the trophy to go to either Carey Price or Pekka Rinne, who have had incredible seasons, but Dubnyk can likely be had for a far more reasonable price, and his performance the rest of the way should be just as good. Also remember: Minnesota will battle for a playoff spot until the last week. Nashville and Montreal will start resting their netminders around the time the fantasy playoffs begin.

Brandon Dubinsky W, CLS -
He may not seem like it, but Dubinsky might be the value pickup that wins you a championship. His ranking makes him a cheap target to grab off another team; players in the high-300s are either available on the waiver wire, or are cheap enough that a mid-level draft pick or comparable 300-level player will get a trade done. His rankings over the last 30, 14 and seven days have put him in the top 50 in most league scoring. He's trending up hard, and he has the gritty scoring touch that heavily impacts all categories. In his last 10 games, he has four goals and four assists with a plus-nine, 16 PIM, a SHG and 22 shots. That's a bounty of fantasy scoring in an accessible package at the deadline. Interesting tidbit: he's the only player in the NHL who has fought both Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.

Be Careful

Jakub Voracek W, PHI -
We predicted that his prodigious scoring this year was bound to dry up, but we've been taken aback by just how fast the points have fallen from the one-time scoring leader. Voracek has four points in his last eight games -- a far cry from the over-a-point-per-game pace he was at when February began. To make matters worse, he's also a minus-6 in that stretch; disappointing for a player who is traditionally a responsible two-way player. We have never believed that his performance was anything more than a career season, and his play lately indicates we may have been right from the beginning. Before the trade deadline hits, we advise cashing in on his early success this season. Get a pair of players who underperformed to start the year in return, and you should be laughing.

Sidney Crosby C, PIT -
Yes, we actually just put the best player in the world on this list. If you look at his last 10 games, he has eight points. Sounds great, doesn't it? He has six games in those last 10 where he didn't do anything productive, aside from racking up PIM. That's great if you're looking for grit, but if you own Crosby -- or are looking to acquire him -- you're doing so with the understanding he's the 100-plus point player we all expect. Since Jan 20, he has the same eight points. Eight in 10 sounds like a bad stretch; eight in 13 is a bit more worrying. Still, few would drop him to waivers, but the mitigating factor in our recommendation is his price is still likely astronomical. It would cost you more to get Sid than aforementioned John Tavares, and the former won't be nearly as good as the latter down the stretch.

Ben Bishop G, TBL -
We're worried about the big Tampa netminder: with Andrei Vasilevskiy taking some of his starts, and Bishop absolutely whiffing on some, we're not sure what's wrong. He looks like he's battling through a potential injury; he had a nagging lower body injury in December - it's possible that it's still lingering. In his last 10 games, he is 6-3-1 with a sub-.900 save percentage in five. Had he played on any other team, that record would have been far worse. Regardless, he's one of the league's best goaltenders, and he's always a threat for a win playing behind a deadly Lightning team. Come the trade deadline, the tires will be kicked, but we advise a pass. The price to get someone like Dubnyk is way lower, and we're not convinced Bishop will play as regularly the rest of the way.

Back to the Waivers

Curtis McElhinney G, CLS -
If there's any way Columbus can claw its way back into a playoff race, it will be on the back of McElhinney. In the absence of Sergei Bobrovsky, who hopes to return sometime next week, Columbus has needed a solid presence between the pipes, and McElhinney has stepped up. In the 10 games since the Russian went down with a groin injury, McElhinney is 6-3-0 (1 ND) with a 2.33 GAA and a .933 SV%. Columbus was a bottom-five team a good portion of the season, but it's only 10 points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand. With 26 games remaining, it's unlikely it will make up that ground, but with numbers like that, anything is possible.

Bo Horvat C, VAN -
The people in Vancouver still wince at his name -- not for anything he did, but for the trade that acquired him. Based on his performance the last 10 games, there's a good chance that Canuck fans might look back fondly at such a transaction. The youngster had a rough start this year but has seven points since Feb. 3. His plus-minus is a disaster in that stretch (minus-five), but that should improve over time -- and doesn't matter if plus-minus isn't a column in your league. He should be a good add for the rest of the season for deep leagues -- keeper or not. His rookie status makes him attractive to leagues where there are rookie keeper exemptions. Pick him up while you still can.

And One Final Note ...

As the early trades start to come in this season, be cautious with how fast you invest. Good players going to good teams often don't work out the way you expect, and decent players going to bad teams are seldom as bad as you think. A second-line talent getting moved to Buffalo may be a fantastic fantasy add because he'll get more ice time and more power-play time as a result. A first-line talent going to a powerhouse might be devastating to his value for the exact opposite reason.

We find the biggest indicator of success is opportunity; if you consider which player in the trade will get more opportunity, you'll probably invest wisely.