Kaberle's fantasy stock rises now that he has escaped Toronto.
The NHL has a notoriously late trading deadline considering it comes with only 20 games left in the season, so teams in the thick of the playoff hunt have not wasted any time getting the guys they wanted a few days before February 28.
So how have the fantasy values of the big-name players traded in the past two weeks changed now that they are on different teams? Here is a look at whose fantasy values have shot up, dropped down and stayed the same post-trade.
Tomas Kaberle, Boston Bruins
This silent assist machine has a new lease on life now that he has escaped the frozen, cellar-dwelling hell of Toronto and is with the Northeast Division-leading Bruins. This is like going from prison to Cancun in the blink of an eye.
Kaberle’s smooth, accurate passes should be turned into goals more consistently by Boston’s talented forwards, especially on the power play. Who knows how many points he lost thanks to Toronto’s inexperienced, inconsistent wingers plunking his certain assists off posts? Kaberle is ninth among defensemen in scoring now. He could be ranked right up there with Phoenix’s Keith Yandle for first among back-liners if he were on the Bruins all season.
Fantasy value: Up! Kaberle should be one of the top five scoring defensemen from here on out, and he should also elevate Zdeno Chara’s value as well.
Kris Versteeg, Philadelphia Flyers
Another former Maple Leaf saved from the sheer boredom of playing in months of meaningless games, Versteeg has gone from one of the most promising players in the NHL to a kid on his third team in a year. He has plenty of skill and speed and was looking like a sure 60-point scorer after being a Calder Trophy nominee during his rookie campaign in 2008-09, but his numbers have tailed off during his second and third pro seasons.
Even though Philadelphia handed Nikolai Zherdev a first-class ticket to Waiver Wireville, Versteeg still has many other wingers to battle for ice time. He has only averaged 16 minutes per game and scored one goal and one assist in his first six contests as a Flyer. The good news is that because of Philly’s depth at center, Versteeg will always skate alongside an above-average playmaker as long as he stays off the dreaded fourth line.
Fantasy value: Slightly up. The jury is out on how much top-line and power-play time Versteeg can get with all of the snipers the Flyers have up front. His plus-minus (minus-12) will definitely improve thanks to the Toronto-to-Philly move, though.
Chris Stewart, St. Louis Blues
Just like no one saw The Rock returning to pro wrestling as the Wrestlemania host, no one predicted that Colorado would trade arguably its best player away for a former No. 1-pick overall in one of the most surprising deals of the year.
Stewart is poised to become one of the premier power forwards in hockey. He is probably a season or two away from being the next Brendan Shanahan or Keith Tkachuk. His rugged style and soft hands get him as many garbage goals as pretty goals and that should not change no matter what uniform he dons.
Fantasy value: Up. Stewart had a good thing going in Colorado as he grew up along with the rest of the Avalanche’s young phenoms. He may need some time to adjust to St. Louis’s system, although he has eight points in six games with his new team and he has blended well with the Blues’ veterans, plus he is playing like someone wanting to make his old team look bad for trading him.
Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
The former first-pick overall of 2006 was not a bust in St. Louis, but he was not Ray Bourque, either. He scored 91 points in 203 games and showed flashes of brilliance and flashes of inexperience, yet the promising punisher definitely took a step backward this season with just 19 points in 55 games before getting dealt.
Johnson has a toolbox full of Chris Pronger-like skills. He is massive, he has a cannon for a slap shot and he has the mobility and stickhandling to move the puck up the ice. In a year or two he could score in the 50-point range. But he will not turn into that special player immediately just by putting an Avalanche jersey on.
Fantasy value: Stays the same. The future could be brighter for Johnson now that he is with a new organization, although there will be intense pressure for him to produce quickly because Stewart was a popular player. Hopefully a couple early boo birds do not stunt his growth because he should end up in the same group with the likes of Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Los Angeles’s Drew Doughty before long.
Rich Peverley, Boston Bruins
Normally a trade helps a player’s fantasy value, but that will not be the case with Peverley. The shifty centerman goes from being Atlanta’s No. 1 center to Boston’s No. 3 pivot.
Peverley will fill in at the center slot vacated by the severely-concussed Marc Savard, but with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci taking up the top two center spots, he will be hard-pressed to find the same playing time and scoring chances he had with the Thrashers.
Fantasy value: Down. While Peverley’s plus-minus will prosper in Beantown, it will not even out how his offensive numbers will suffer.
Blake Wheeler, Atlanta Thrashers
Wheeler is a lot like the previously mentioned Versteeg, a forward who burst onto the scene during his rookie campaign and has steadily slipped since. After scoring 45 points and posting a plus-36 rating in his first season, Wheeler’s fantasy numbers have declined in his sophomore and junior NHL seasons.
Atlanta has been a boon to the fantasy values of other newcomers this season like Chicago castoffs Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, who are both putting together career years down south. The same could happen to Wheeler, who has first-round skills but has been playing like a mid-round pick the past two years.
Fantasy value: Up. Wheeler has wheels, size, and he is as responsible in his own end as Charlie Sheen is irresponsible in his personal life. Look for Wheeler to score 15 points over the last 20 games of the season with the Thrashers.
Brian Elliott, Colorado Avalanche
Elliott goes from an Eastern Conference team with no chance of making the playoffs that played little defense in front of him, to a Western Conference team with no chance of making the playoffs that will also play little defense in front of him.
It is highly unlikely that Colorado’s defense will start playing like six Adam Foote clones now that Elliott is between the pipes. The “Lanche" is not known for clamping down on defense, which seems to be a state trait for sports teams, as the Denver Nuggets and Denver Broncos do not play much defense themselves.
Fantasy value: Down. Elliott would never have to worry about starting with the Senators because Pascal Leclaire is the most injury-prone goalie in the NHL. Peter Budaj will stay healthier. Elliott’s horrible numbers—3.24 goals-against-average, .892 save percentage—will remain horrible, if not get worse.
Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators
What a difference a year makes. Just ask Obama. Just ask Anderson, too. Anderson was the fantasy toast of the town when he stood on his head on a nightly basis during the 2009-10 season and was a pleasant fantasy surprise. A season later, he ranks close to the bottom in several major goalie categories.
Mr. Anderson is not going to find stellar defense in Ottawa, nor will he get much in the way of goal support since the Sens have traded away many of their top forwards over the past month. Look for many 3-1 and 4-2 Anderson losses where only Jason Spezza puts up points in defeat.
Fantasy value: Same. Do not be fooled by Anderson’s 2-1 record with a 1.30 GAA and .963 SP in his opening three starts as a Senator. His two wins came against Florida and Toronto, two teams in the same non-playoff boat as Ottawa. Anderson will end up getting as shell-shocked as a Georges St. Pierre opponent as his fantasy stats will remain below-average.