NHL teams opened their wallets this offseason and tapped into the free-agent forward market as much as News of the World tapped into unsuspecting people’s phones.
So which forwards who switched teams should see their fantasy values rise after they don their new uniforms? And are there any forwards whose worth might actually decline? Here is a look at the forwards who changed teams and my projected point or penalty minutes totals for each of them.
Brad Richards, New York Rangers
Richards was the most sought-after free agent in the NHL and was courted by more teams than Mila Kunis is courted by Marines. He signed with the Rangers for $60 million over nine years and now has the unenviable task of scoring 80-90 points while keeping Marian Gaborik healthy at the same time.
Richards is such a fine playmaker that he does not Gaborik on his line to average a point per game, but it sure wouldn’t hurt. Ryan Callahan, Brandon Prust and even surly Sean Avery could work well with Richards, too. But if Gaborik and Richards can find a Hall and Oates-like chemistry and keep off the injured reserve, Richards could finish in the top 10 in scoring.
Prediction: 85 points.
Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia Flyers
Last I saw Jagr he and Alexei Yashin were opposing captains in the KHL All-Star Game, a scoring spectacle where the lack of defense would have given Jacques Lemaire a heart attack. Jagr wanted one more go-around in the NHL before he calls it a career, so the 39-year-old went where the money and the cheese steaks were and signed with the Flyers.
Look for Jagr to play on a line with either Daniel Briere or Claude Giroux, but do not be surprised if this ends abruptly like a Peter Forsberg comeback, or if Jagr scores as infrequently as Nikolai Zherdev did last season.
Prediction: 43 points.
Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo has broken the bank on good-but-not-great players this off-season, and Leino was one of the free agents who cashed in. Is a player coming off a 53-point breakout season worth $27 million? His fantasy worth is questionable at best considering he has netted just 30 goals in 149 career contests and rarely takes penalties.
Maybe he teams up with the returning Derek Roy and tops the 60-point plateau. Or maybe he turns out to be a decent two-way player who ends up in the 40-point range for fantasy owners.
Prediction: 51 points.
Tomas Kopecky, Florida Panthers
Florida general manager Dale Tallon is grabbing every Chicago Blackhawk like Peyton Manning grabs every commercial. Kopecky can play wing or center and is coming off a career year where he scored 15 goals and added 27 assists. But the skilled players in Florida are not of the same caliber as they are in Chicago, and Kopecky will find that out the hard way.
Prediction: 39 points.
Jason Arnott, St. Louis Blues
Size, leadership, and a stable veteran presence are the things Arnott brings to the table these days, not offensive ability. His scoring numbers fell off the charts quicker than a Taylor Hicks album last season (31 points in 73 games), and considering he isn’t getting any younger and he is not exactly going to a high-scoring team, the point projection for Arnott should not be very high.
Prediction: 36 points.
Zenon Konopka, Ottawa Senators
The 2010-11 penalty minutes champ (by far!) is taking his fighting majors and 10-minute misconducts to lovely Ottawa after racking up over 300 PIM with the New York Islanders. Franchise player Jason Spezza will be happy to have Konopka around to drop his gloves against any opponent who dares to look at Spezza funny. Konopka’s fight card should not change much with his different team, so he will be the favorite to lead the league in PIM again next season.
Prediction: 282 PIM.
Daniel Carcillo, Chicago Blackhawks
Carcillo cannot pile up enough penalty minutes to be a top-five fantasy enforcer if he is a healthy scratch, and that was happening too frequently in Philadelphia. Now that he is taking his “talents” and his boxing gloves to Chicago, look for Carcillo to play regularly and protect cornerstone scorers Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews from any rough stuff. If he keeps himself out of the doghouse and in the lineup, Carcillo should spend 200 to 250 minutes in the sin bin.
Prediction: 231 PIM.
Erik Cole, Montreal Canadiens
Cole is still not the same player he was before major neck surgery almost ended his career a few years ago, but he has settled in as a solid 50-point, second-line player who can help fantasy owners. Montreal’s up-tempo style suits his game, and playing with either Tomas Plekanec or Scott Gomez can only help his scoring totals.
Prediction: 53 points.
Tim Connolly, Toronto Maple Leafs
The concussion-prone Connolly has been one of the more underrated centermen in fantasy hockey—when he has been able to get on the ice. After Toronto failed to get a true No. 1 center to play with right wing Phil Kessel, the Leafs chose Connolly to be their prime passer. If he can suit up for 70 games, he can score 65 to 70 points. Too bad he has only done that once in the past six seasons, though.
Prediction: 50 points.
Tomas Fleischmann, Florida Panthers
Flesichmann is a solid second-line center/left wing who has underrated offensive skills that were often overshadowed during his time with Washington because of all of the all-star firepower surrounding him. He scored 21 points in 22 games in a short stint with Colorado after a mid-year trade before having his season ruined by a pulmonary embolism.
Where Fleischmann has been a secondary scorer in the past, he should be slated for top line work with Florida, who has been beefing up their collection of skilled players this offseason. If Fleischmann can stay injury-free he can definitely finish around the 60-point range.
Prediction: 58 points.
Simon Gagne, Los Angeles Kings
Hernias, concussions and neck problems have reduced Gagne to a shell of his former self. No longer the creative center in a left wing’s body who scored 60 to 79 points on several occasions, Gagne is coming off back-to-back 40-point seasons and is skating closer to the sunset of his career.
There is plenty of sun in Los Angeles, though, along with familiar faces like former Philly Flyer teammates Mike Richards and Justin Williams. If Gagne is destined for one last hurrah it should be playing with his old friends in L.A.’s wide-open attack. Fifty to 55 points is not out of the realm of possibility, but one vicious check from an opposing defenseman could end Gagne’s fantasy value immediately because of his brittle body.
Prediction: 45 points.
Michael Ryder, Dallas Stars
From Stanley Cup hero to fantasy hockey zero? Dallas’ game plan this offseason seemed to be to sign every mediocre-to-somewhat-good forward they could find to make up for losing Richards. Ryder had not even finished drinking out of the Cup yet when he joined the Stars.
Ryder is on the downside of his career and does not provide much punch in the assist, plus-minus or penalty minutes departments, but the possible saving grace for his fantasy value is that he will re-team with former friend Mike Ribeiro, who played alongside Ryder when Ryder had his highest-scoring seasons early in his career with the Montreal Canadiens.
Prediction: 52 points.
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