This week’s column is a little delayed because I spent the weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina to watch some East Coast Hockey League games.
Let me tell you, as a Torontonian, being able to see hockey in a 20,000 seat arena for a fraction of the Leafs' price was quite a treat.
Those guys in the ECHL know how to treat a fan.
But you didn’t come here to read about my adventures—you want the fantasy goods, and I got ’em for you.
Both Ryan Malone and Jonathan Cheechoo have been lighting up the nets like I predicted they would. I hope you were able to pick them up while you still could. They’re long gone in your league by now.
We are at a very exciting point of the season for fantasy players now. With one major trade already in the books the rest of the NHL is sure to follow suit.
Who will the trade deadline help out this season?
Andrew Ladd (CAR – LW)
Andrew Ladd was drafted fourth overall by the Carolina Hurricanes. They have been waiting patiently for three years for the winger to blossom.
Health issues have plagued his short career, and he’s been buried behind a deep roster. But shipping Cory Stillman to Ottawa has opened up a spot on the top line for Ladd.
Last night he lined up with veterans Rod Brind’Amour and Sergei Samsonov. He responded by pumping two pucks past Boston netminder Alexander Auld.
If Ladd can find a home on the top line, and I think he will, he’s a solid pick for the remainder of the season, and an immediate pick-up in any keeper league.
Michael Ryder (MON – RW)
Ryder has been a healthy scratch for half of the Canadiens' six games this February. He has only scored eight goals so far this season, and when he is in the line-up he’s playing a checking role. It seems to be a certainty that Ryder will be traded within the next two weeks.
Regardless of where Ryder ends up, he will be in a better situation than he is in playing for Montreal. He will be on a team that wants him, rather than the white-hot Montreal Canadiens who are content to let him sit on the bench.
It is only a matter of time before another team decides to take a gamble on the speedy winger, and when they do, jump on him. Michael will prove that his back-to-back 30 goal seasons were no fluke.
Nik Antropov (TOR – C)
The rumour mill says that Maple Leafs’ centre Mats Sundin has agreed to consider waiving his no trade clause. Once the negotiations are done and the dust has settled, Mats will have picked his destination and be on a playoff-bound team.
If Cliff Fletcher does his job, that means rookies, prospects and picks will be coming back to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
So who will be the Leafs new number-one centre in the interim? For the balance of the year at least it should be Nik Antropov.
Nik started out the season strongly, but has since cooled off. He is probably owned in your league, but by a manager who is frustrated with his lack of production in 2008. In the month of December he had 12 points, but in January that total dropped off to a mere six.
Wrangle him out of the hands of his current owner and wait for Sundin to get traded. If Antropov remains on the Leafs, he will be the new pivot on their top power-play unit. Of course, if Antropov himself gets traded his value will plummet, as he’ll likely end up on the third line of any other team.
Jack Johnson (LA – D) and Matt Moulson (LA – LW)
Los Angeles is set to have another fire sale. The exodus should begin this week. Los Angeles has a lot of veteran players to offer: Rob Blake, Ladislav Nagy, Brian Willsie, Tom Preissing, Brad Stuart, Scott Thornton, and Jaroslav Modry are all said to be on the shipping block.
Defenceman Jack Johnson was selected third overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005. While still in the NCAA, his rights were a key piece in the deal that sent Tim Gleason and Eric Belanger to the Carolina Hurricanes.
So far, he only has nine points in 59 games this season. But with Stuart, Preissing, Blake, and Modry out of the way, he should get ample power-play opportunity to show the Kings they did not make a mistake when they acquired him.
Another graduate of the NCAA system will benefit greatly from increased ice time. Already starting to pile up points, Matt Moulson is set to be a prominent piece in the Kings future.
Since being recalled at the end of January, Moulson has five points in 10 games. He is already seeing icetime with the likes of Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, but if the Kings ship out some veteran players, it will only solidify his place on the roster.
Sean Bergenheim (NYI – RW)
Last year, Garth Snow made a splash at the deadline when he acquired winger Ryan Smyth. Although the team made the playoffs, the results were not what he expected. The Sabres ousted the Islanders in five games, and Ryan Smyth left for Colorado.
This year I expect Garth Snow to be a seller rather than a buyer. Mike Comrie, Trent Hunter, Miroslav Satan, and Ruslan Fedotenko could all have new jerseys by the end of the month.
If this is the case, then coach Ted Nolan will look toward Sean Bergenheim to step up his game and earn his increased icetime.
Bergenheim had 33 points in 36 games last year in the Swedish Elite League, and 47 points in 55 games the year before for the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He can perform in either a North American or European setting—which shows that his game is well-rounded and that he’s ready for the NHL.
If he falters, Nolan may look toward Blake Comeau, but I suspect Bergenheim will rise to the challenge.