Even the casual hockey fan knows all about the “major” transactions that have unfolded over the past couple of weeks and the potential fantasy implications that they could have. The impact of Marian Hossa to Detroit or Brian Campbell to Chicago is easily apparent to all fantasy hockey aficionados.
There were, however, several less publicized deals that on the surface, wouldn't appear to have the same significance for fantasy owners, but could, if the stars fall correctly into place, have major fantasy implications.
Here's our list of the 10 most significant “minor” deals that you should consider heading into your league draft or auction.
1) Todd Bertuzzi signs with the Calgary Flames. The popular consensus among poolies is to assume Todd Bertuzzi is washed up and recent evidence (i.e. since the Steve Moore incident) would seem to support that theory. But Bertuzzi is only 33-years-old and only two-years removed from producing 71 points in 2005-06. Flames' captain Jarome Iginla wanted Bertuzzi on his team, and if the 2006 Olympians can develop some chemistry, a 60-70 point payoff might be in the offing for a fantasy owner willing to take a chance on “Big Bert”.
2) R.J. Umberger traded to Columbus Blue Jackets. Fresh off a career 50 point season in 2007-08, the 26-year old moves from a situation where he was behind Daniel Briere, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on the Philadelphia Flyers depth chart, to centering the top line in Columbus with sniper Rick Nash on his left side. Umberger is a natural play maker (in spite of his goal scoring heroics in this year's playoffs) and should fit in well with Nash, one of the most talented goal scorers in the game. Expect another career season.
3) Markus Naslund signs with New York Rangers. Like Bertuzzi, many feel Naslund's best years are behind him. The 35-year-old will get a chance to play with an elite center this season (either Scott Gomez or Chris Drury). Plus, a fresh start in the big apple should make the former Canuck captain a consistent fantasy producer once again. 35 goals and 70 points are possible.
4) Miroslav Satan signs with Pittsburgh Penguins. The 33-year-old Slovak hit the jackpot when he signed on to ride shotgun for former Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner Sidney Crosby. Satan's production has declined the past two years after a 35-goal-season in 2005-06, but let's face it, he wasn't exactly surrounded by future Hall of Famers in the Islanders' lineup. Satan has great hands and goal scorer's instincts and should do well with either Crosby or Evgeni Malkin making the plays. A return to 35-40 goal form is quite possible.
5) Sean Avery signs with Dallas Stars. While we don't think Avery is likely to hit 70 points this season (although an improvement on his career high of 39 is quite probable), we think his biggest impact may be in the space he creates for his prospective line-mates. Number one on the list could be former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brad Richards, who with Avery on one side and young sniper Loui Eriksson on the other, could return to the point-a-game player he was in Tampa in 2005-06—when you could actually recognize his wingers.
6) Joni Pitkanen traded to Carolina. The offensively gifted Finn has been plagued by inconsistency and spotty defensive play throughout his career, but showed some flashes of maturity last year. His talent at the offensive end, however, is unquestioned and Pitkanen will get plenty of opportunity to play in key situations for the Hurricanes. A Pitkanen/Joe Corvo tandem has the potential to become a dynamite power play combination. It all could add up to the 24-year olds' first 50 point season.
7) Ty Conklin signs with Detroit Red Wings. The Wings plucked the Penguins back-up off the free agent market for the bargain basement price of $800,000. The 32-year-old native of Anchorage, Alaska, revived his career and almost single-handedly saved the Penguins season, posting an 18-8-5 record during Marc-Andre Fleury's injury absence. Detroit starter Chris Osgood hasn't played more than 43 games since 2003-04, so that adds up to plenty of starts for Conklin. And if Chris Osgood wakes up someday and remembers he's, well, Chris Osgood not Ken Dryden, then maybe Conklin will get a chance to save another team's season.
8) Matt Carle and Ty Wishart traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Most of the analysis of the recent trade between Tampa and San Jose focused on the impact Dan Boyle could have on San Jose's Stanley Cup chances. But lost in the chatter was the potential of the two young defensemen the Lightning received in return. Carle, who turned heads with an impressive 42 point performance in his rookie season in 2006-07, regressed last year, scoring only 15 points in 62 games. But a fresh start and, a potential chance to quarterback a power play featuring Vinnie Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis could return the young blue-liner to the 40 point level. And if Carle isn't the long-term answer, Wishart, a 6'5" giant who led all WHL defenseman in scoring in 2007-08 with 67 points, might be.
9) Nikolai Zherdev traded to the New York Rangers. Like Naslund, Zherdev, a super-skilled winger who finally showed some consistency in 2006-07, will get an opportunity to play on a line with a front-line NHL center. The 23-year-old Russian seems to bask in the limelight and could be a perfect fit on Broadway. Career highs in goals and points seem almost guaranteed.
10) Gilbert Brule traded to the Edmonton Oilers. A junior hockey scoring machine, Brule has struggled in his first two NHL seasons. The 21-year-old has the ability to be a major contributor at the NHL level and could benefit from joining a team who play an up tempo style and have a reputation for giving young players a chance. Maybe more of a project than the other players on the list, Brule could be a 20 goal scorer this season if he gets a chance on a scoring line.
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