With the trade deadline fast approaching, I'm hoping there might be a pearl of wisdom or two in what I’m going to write here. Because of the fluid situations on many teams, there are also observations that could be outdated by tomorrow. All we can do now is get into where things stand now and see what happens next.
To put it another way, it should be a crazy 36 hours coming up. You know we’ll be updating things constantly here with our fantasy takes and our Trade Tracker.
In one of the early games, Sam Reinhart recorded a hat trick in the Sabres’ 5-2 win over Washington. Reinhart has been heating up lately with six points in his last five games. There shouldn’t be much concern that Reinhart is not playing on Jack Eichel’s line at the moment. Reinhart’s 55 points in 61 games already represents a career high, so he’s followed the “fourth year breakout” theory to a tee.
Jeff Skinner appeared to dodge a bullet, as he returned to the game in the third period after getting his leg twisted with Carl Hagelin’s stick in the second period. There was obvious concern that the Sabres would be losing Skinner and his 36 goals for an extended period, but this injury appeared a lot worse than it turned out to be.
Bubble wrapping their assets in the event of a potential trade, the Rangers held out all of Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, and Adam McQuaid on Saturday. Yet they still managed to defeat the Devils, who were holding out Marcus Johansson for the same reason. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a season where so many teams have decided to scratch players who are on the trade block. If these teams are out of the playoff race, then there’s no incentive for them not to do this. In fact, I’m surprised that teams haven’t done this sooner. The loser of course is the paying fan, who potentially misses a player or two that they were hoping to see.
The Zuccarello/Hayes scratches meant that Ryan Strome picked up 19 minutes of icetime. He took advantage of the situation, scoring twice. This will be a year or two too late for fantasy owners who were saving Strome in their keeper pools, but Strome has been scoring at a point-per-game pace over his last seven games. Maybe, just maybe, Strome is someone who benefits from Zuccarello leaving and Hayes possibly leaving by Monday.
Back to Zucc: He is expected to be in the Stars’ lineup today (Sunday) against Chicago.
After the Wayne Simmonds hit (see below) on Brian Dumoulin which resulted in both Dumoulin and Kris Letang leaving the game (Letang injured in the ensuing melee), the Penguins’ best hope appeared to be that the outdoor game would be rained out.
Simmonds' hit on Dumoulin. pic.twitter.com/F2trugCpEM
— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) February 24, 2019
Even without one of their defensive pairs, the Pens were able to take a 3-1 lead late into the third period before the Flyers scored twice to tie the game before the end of regulation. Then Claude Giroux scored the overtime winner to seal the Penguins’ fate in what had to be their most demoralizing defeat of the season. Dumoulin has a concussion and will miss time, while Letang was being evaluated for an upper-body injury and may miss time. Between the injuries on defense (Olli Maatta also sidelined) and the division rival Blue Jackets’ recent upgrades, the Pens are now in tough to make the playoffs. That’s something we haven’t heard in a while. You know that GM Jim Rutherford is on the phone looking for blueline help.
If Letang misses time, it goes without saying that Justin Schultz is a must-add. Schultz scored his first goal of the season to give him three points in the five games since his return. I’m crossing my fingers that Letang is back in two weeks when my fantasy playoffs begin. That’s what you live with when you own Letang, as I have for 8+ years. Maybe I’ll start a podcast called Keeping Letang, which will be like a group therapy session for owning injured players. The frustrating part is this injury happened during a scrum when he was tackled by Shayne Gostisbehere (on the same fantasy team, coincidentally) and could have easily been avoided. The silver lining is that I also have Schultz as insurance.
Jakub Voracek, who scored the game-tying goal with just 20 seconds in regulation, ended up with a three-point game. Voracek had been held without a point in his previous three games but had a nine-game point streak before that.
Speaking of the Blue Jackets, things are just peachy right now as they load up to try to win at least one playoff series. Matt Duchene scored his first Blue Jackets goal and added an assist, while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped all 26 shots he faced in a 4-0 win over San Jose. Bob now has shutouts in consecutive nights, so right now you’re getting the Bobrovsky that you thought you were drafting. He’s won seven of his last nine games and has pitched shutouts in three of his past six games. More importantly, he’s out of John Tortorella’s doghouse. At least for the moment.
Anyone else feeling smug as fuck as Bobrovsky posts B2B shutouts heading on a team loading up as we approach H2H fantasy playoffs? The legend of H2H playoff goalie Bob continues to grow.
— Stephen Laidlaw (@SteveLaidlaw) February 24, 2019
To expand on that, here are the post All-Star Game numbers for Bobrovsky:
2017-18: 15-7-3, 2.36 GAA, .921 SV%
2016-17: 13-8-3, 1.99 GAA, .936 SV%
2015-16: 4-6-0, 3.00 GAA, .899 SV%
2014-15: 14-2-1, 2.39 GAA, .927 SV%
2013-14: 12-6-2, 2.13 GAA, .932 SV%
If you’re drafting Bob, it’s for this time of year. Aside from the 2015-16 blemish, he’s been lights out when you’ve needed him the most.
I wrote a few paragraphs about the Dzingel trade and how the Blue Jackets and Senators are affected. You can check them out here. The two teams are essentially swapping left wingers, so I’ll summarize my piece by saying that one could theoretically replace the other on their new teams.
By the way, bad news for Erik Karlsson owners. Karlsson didn’t play in the third period and may have “retweaked his groin,” an injury that forced him to miss nine games this earlier this month and last month.
It was a good day for shutouts if you needed one. Aside from Bobrovsky, here are three more.
Curtis McElhinney stopped all 24 shots he faced in a 3-0 win over the Stars. Curtis Mac is timesharing with Petr Mrazek, but that hasn’t stopped him from posting wins in 9 of his last 11 games. During that stretch (since New Year’s Eve), McElhinney has a 2.18 GAA and .925 SV%. Mrazek has pitched shutouts in two of his last four starts, but I’d still give lifetime backup McElhinney the upper hand in this goaltending battle if Rod Brind’Amour had to pick a starter for Game 1 of the playoffs.
Philipp Grubauer made 38 saves to earn his first shutout as a member of the Avalanche. The Avs are invested in Grubauer beyond this season, but I’m wondering if there’s at least an outside chance that they bring Semyon Varlamov back next season. Varlamov has had significant stretches of the kind of numbers that you don’t want near your fantasy team, but he has been playing better lately with four wins over his last five starts and six quality starts over his last seven games. So the shutout won’t necessarily result in more playing time for Grubauer.
The legend of both Robin Lehner’s personal turnaround and the Islanders’ team turnaround continues, as he stopped all 36 Canuck shots in a 4-0 shutout win. The Isles’ goaltending situation mirrors the Canes’, as both goalies from each team are worth owning while both teams sit in the league’s top 10 in goals against (the Islanders first overall in team GAA). Lehner and Greiss are owned in the majority of Yahoo leagues. Surprisingly, McElhinney and Mrazek are not (both owned in around 30% of Yahoo leagues).
The Canes/Stars game featured two significant “outjuries” (as the Keeping Karlsson podcast calls them).
Ben Bishop returned for the Stars, stopping 28 of 30 shots he faced in a 3-0 loss. Bishop is posting his best numbers (2.29 GAA, .924 SV%) since the 2015-16 season, when he was the starting goalie for the Lightning. Get him back into your lineup.
Jordan Staal was back in lineup after missing the past two months with a concussion. He recorded an assist in just under 14 minutes of icetime centering Micheal Ferland and Teuvo Teravainen. Injury returns can be just as effective as trade deadline upgrades, particularly if the team has been getting by without the player.
Some contract news that probably flew under the radar for many: According to Ren Lavoie, Frank Vatrano has signed a three-year extension with the Panthers that will pay him an average of $2.53 million per season. Now that he has received a regular NHL opportunity, Vatrano has scored a career-high 20 goals in just 59 games while seeing icetime with some of the Panthers’ big boys. At age 24, Vatrano has sleeper potential, and the new contract should solidify his spot on the Panthers.
With Connor McDavid serving the first game of his two-game suspension, Sam Gagner moved up to the Oilers’ first-unit power play. He scored his first goal (even strength) in his second stint with the Oilers, helping them to a 2-1 win over Anaheim. With no McDavid, there isn’t really much to the Oilers offense beyond Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, which wasn’t the case when the Oilers first drafted McDavid. Maybe that asset mismanagement will result in them adding one of Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko in the draft this summer. I bet Twitter would explode if the lottery balls bounced that way.
Things that make you go….— Oilersnation.com (@OilersNation) February 24, 2019
Enjoy the trade deadline coverage, wherever you are watching!
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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