Neal is a Crosby away from fantasy hockey stardom.
The NHL’s trading deadline has skated past like a Detroit Red Wings worker picking up a post hat trick octopus.
There was plenty of player movement as the have-nots traded some of their better guys to the haves in exchange for draft picks, prospects and salary cap space. And as fantasy poolers well know, a player who changes uniforms normally gets a bump in his fantasy value, as he joins a new team that has more ice time and more talented teammates for him to work with.
Here are the players who were traded and what their fantasy futures are from here on out on their new teams.
James Neal, Pittsburgh Penguins
Neal has tons of talent and could very well turn out to be a point-per-game player, skating alongside either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. The problem is that neither Crosby or Malkin is around, so Neal is stuck with Jordan Staal as his center, possibly for the rest of the season.
Neal makes scouts' mouths froth with his package of speed, size and skill, but this is the second season in a row he has suffered a second-half swoon—two points over his past 13 games—so fantasy owners have to be concerned. Fantasy value: The same this season, up next season.
Alexei Kovalev, Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins are as desperate for healthy bodies as Dr. Dre fans are for an album, so re-acquiring old friend Kovalev for just a seventh-round pick was genius. Kovalev is a streaky sniper who saves his best for the ultra-meaningful games at the end of the season. Hopefully he checks his calendar and realizes what time of the year it is.
Like Neal, Kovalev’s fantasy stock would skyrocket if Crosby or Malkin were around to pass him the puck, although Kovalev is a puck hog who can create his own scoring chances better than Neal can. His best days are behind him, but Kovalev is better off in Pittsburgh than in Ottawa and should have a few goals left in his stick. Fantasy value: Up.
Alex Goligoski, Dallas Stars
Goligoski is one of the most underrated defensemen in fantasy hockey. He used to get lost in the scoring shuffle in Pittsburgh, where his point every other game would largely go unnoticed except by the keenest fantasy eyes. There is no denying his numbers, though—34 points, plus-23 in 64 games.
Dallas needed a quarterback who could run its power play like Tony Romo can run the Cowboys offense, and Goligoski should be the perfect man for the job. Goligoski’s fantasy value will be just fine in Dallas. It was not like he had been playing with Crosby/Malkin on the power play the past couple months. Fantasy value: Same.
Dustin Penner, Los Angeles Kings
Penner was the biggest name and the one with arguably the most fantasy value traded on Deadline Day itself (Goligoski was traded days earlier). The slow-footed, soft-handed power forward scored a career-high 63 points in 2009-10 but has trailed back a little this season with 39 points in 62 contests.
Penner skates and scores better when he is motivated, so you would think escaping Edmonton and jumping into the thick of a playoff race would light a bonfire under his britches. The key will be which L.A. center he plays with. If Penner gets on the top line with gifted Anze Kopitar, he could score 20 points in 19 games. If he is placed with Jarrett Stoll, 12-15 points is more likely. Fantasy value: Up.
Bryan McCabe, New York Rangers
Let’s hope McCabe turns out better for the Blueshirts than Wade Redden and Bruce Driver did in the past. McCabe is the 23-minute man they need on the blue line. Part power-play quarterback, part rugged defender, his veteran leadership on the back end will help calm the nerves of one of the league’s youngest defensive corps.
McCabe is not the 50-point scorer he once was, nor is he a 120-PIM guy anymore. But he should be a plus player who scores 9-11 points the rest of the way. The same would have been hard to say if he remained with the Florida Panthers. Fantasy value: Up.
Brad Boyes, Buffalo Sabres
Boyes is a decent second-line scorer who can fit in at center or at right wing, although the Sabres will stick him in the middle because they have had a hard time filling the gigantic hole left by Derek Roy’s season ending injury.
Boyes netted 76 goals over a two season span between 2007-2009, but he only scored 14 last season and 12 in 61 games this season before the swap. He is a rare shoot-first center who will probably not make the wings around him better, but sharing space with Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek will boost his worth. Fantasy value: Up.
Dennis Wideman, Washington Capitals
Mike Green was the best defenseman in fantasy hockey coming into the season, but countless injuries, personal problems, shoddy play and Washington’s new mantra about playing defense have made him one of the most disappointing players in fantasy hockey.
Wideman was acquired to help while Green is out again. Wideman has been a plus-minus nightmare this season (–24), partly because he has been playing like a blind man in his own zone, and partly because he was on one of the worst teams in the NHL with the Florida Panthers. This is the same man who was a plus-32 two seasons ago with the Boston Bruins, so he can play defense when he wants to, especially when he is on an above average team.
Wideman played over 26 minutes and was plus-2 in his first game with Washington. That is hopefully a precursor of things to come and not a one night wonder. Green’s eventual return will dent Wideman’s value, but not enough that fantasy owners will be wishing he was back in Florida killing their plus-minus on a nightly basis. Fantasy value: Up.
Jason Arnott, Washington Capitals
Washington needed another middle man to compliment shifty Swede Nicklas Backstrom, and found him with Arnott who still looks like an NBA rebounder on skates at age 36.
Leadership and faceoff percentage are not normally two categories in fantasy pools, and Arnott does not post the points he did during his younger days, but skating on such a super skilled team should propel Arnott back towards decent fantasy shape. The difference between the Capitals and the New Jersey Devils, Arnott’s former team, is about as great as the difference between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals.
The one wild card is that Arnott looks like he will be paired on the second scoring unit with mercurial goal-getter, Alexander Semin. Arnott has played with slick wingers before and it has worked out fantasy-wise for all involved. However, I have a feeling an Arnott-Semin marriage could have the same chemistry and ending as the Sandra Bullock-Jesse James union.
Anything is better than playing on Kovalchuk-less lines in New Jersey. Arnott’s value has nowhere to go but up with Washington. Fantasy value: Higher than Charlie Sheen’s.