The Avalanche are considering tearing it down. The Stars may finally make an attempt at a warm body in net. Marc-Andre Fleury may get starter’s minutes again. Ben Bishop may finally cede the Tampa starting job by getting traded. These are the big storylines of the NHL trade deadline, but you knew about them already. The fantasy impacts of moves like these are more understated, however.
The Avalanche have been a fantasy dumpster fire this season, even going beyond the lack of goaltending and defensive production. The forwards like Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and others have been brought down just by being on a bad team. Their poor +/- ratings due to playing on a team that gives up way more goals than it scores have put a fairly low ceiling on their usefulness unless you’re willing to completely sacrifice a category.
If, say, Duchene gets sent to even a team that looks like a professional hockey team like Carolina or Nashville, he’s not going to have that giant problem bearing down on him. Even if he’s the exact same player making the exact same plays, having better teammates and actual defense and goaltending behind him make him a much more viable fantasy player while on Colorado he’s on the fantasy roster bubble right now, which is insane for a Team Canada-caliber player.
Any goalie or single defenseman Colorado gets, if they hold onto all their forwards, isn’t going to solve their problems, even if they’re Dominik Hasek and Nicklas Lidstrom back there. One single player isn’t going to fix everything. This isn’t the NBA, so don’t go all in on the Avs players even if they bring someone competent in somehow. It’s just a fantasy wasteland this year and nothing is going to fix that.
The flipside of that, though, is that they’re so bad that if anyone with a fantasy pulse gets traded from that team, whether it’s Tyson Barrie, Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog or whoever, they immediately become undervalued at their current rankings because of how much better literally any team is going to be for them even if they’re the exact same player. They are absolute death in one category now. But if they’re traded anywhere else, they suddenly aren’t. Such is the fantasy life.
For a similar reason, if Dallas can bring in someone like Fleury to be a goalie, someone who has, in the past, proven to be a solid if unspectacular regular season goalie, everyone on that team immediately becomes more valuable. The rest of the team can be the exact same group of players making the exact same plays, but their +/- ratings will all conceivably go up by some degree, raising their overall value. Plus/minus is a dumb stat and tells little in actual evaluation, but it does matter in fantasy and teams that have better even strength goal differentials obviously have better players in this category.
There’s also the issue of teams that finally realize they’re sellers. Teams like Detroit, Carolina and Vancouver may soon finally realize that they’re not actually good and then give substantially more minutes to younger players to see what they have for the following season. That can yield fools’ gold in the form of Marcus Foligno or Steve Bernier in short sample sizes, but those are extremely valuable during fantasy playoff time.
Jacob Markstrom may finally get a solid run in net for Vancouver if that happens, even if they don’t trade Ryan Miller. Maybe Teuvo Teravainen and Noah Hanifin start taking more minutes from Lee Stempniak and Ron Hainsey and show what they can do. Maybe the Red Wings throw Petr Mrazek in goal for the rest of the season to see what he is no matter how well Jimmy Howard’s playing and give Andrea Athanasiou top six minutes.
Eventually these teams will realize that they aren’t going to make the playoffs, even as their odds are extremely already at this point. That could cause Sven Baertschi to get top line minutes with the Sedins in a reduced role. Maybe Troy Stecher gets more powerplay and top pairing minutes.
There are a lot of variables to address and teams to look at as we go. Are the regimes in trouble? Those are more likely to play for now and aim for that ninth place finish rather than throw out young players to save their jobs. Looking at you, Jim Benning.
But someone more safe like Ron Francis in Carolina or Jim Nill in Dallas may play more younger players as their playoff hopes dwindle. Ken Holland, you would think, would fall under this category, but seems to have more faith that the Wings will somehow be good. They also have an arena to open and opening it coming off a tanking season may not be particularly wise.
But, regardless of what happens at the trade deadline, there will be new fantasy options available with all these variables. Players’ roles will change and some will diminish. But things will change and that could make all the difference come fantasy playoff time.