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Thursday, January 30, 2014
Cammalleri's fantasy value

By Victoria Matiash
ESPN.com

T-minus two days (and a bit) until Mike Cammalleri rejoins the lineup for the Calgary Flames. That's the plan, anyway.

Mike Cammalleri
Mike Cammalleri is poised for a return, and he may be playing for a contender soon.

After pulling the plug on a comeback versus the San Jose Sharks on Thursday -- the winger apparently doesn't have his "legs under him" yet, per media reports -- the Flames hope a concussion-free and geared-up Cammalleri benefits further from a couple of extra tours in practice.

After missing eight, soon to be nine, games with post-concussion symptoms, the veteran winger wouldn't be unleashed without the required confidence in his good health. Pegged to skate on a line with rookie center Sean Monahan and winger T.J. Galiardi, Cammalleri is in position to enjoy a relatively fruitful final third of the season for his NHL squad and fantasy owners alike.

But say you're concerned about plus/minus and, sensibly, turned off on the idea of adding a Flames forward. Or, you haven't been all that impressed with what Cammalleri has contributed (21 points in 37 games) with the Calgary club this season. No prob. The dynamic scorer isn't likely to be based in Alberta much longer.

A pending unrestricted free agent on a rebuilding team with little (read: nil) hope of securing a playoff berth, the 31-year-old is almost certainly headed for plusher pastures. The Los Angeles Kings are said to be keen on reacquiring their second-round draft selection of 2001. The Vancouver Canucks are believed to be willing to give him a good go. Just imagine the numbers -- including a fatter plus/minus -- the dynamic winger would be able to put up as a top-six skater with either contending club. Or, as ESPN Insider Craig Custance discussed earlier this month, say he lands with the East-leading Pittsburgh Penguins:

"We already know that GM Ray Shero is aggressive at the deadline in adding wingers to augment superstar centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. We also know he has the currency of choice in young defensemen to pull it off, as Pittsburgh's success while its defense was completely depleted showed. ... The salary cap could derail this deal, but injuries and Calgary's ability to take salary back in a trade might alleviate that concern. Cammalleri had seven goals in seven games against the Penguins in helping the Canadiens upset Pittsburgh in 2010. They might want him on their side this time around."

Now the Penguins have said they'd like to acquire a huskier winger to play alongside Crosby and Chris Kunitz, but the more diminutive Calgary forward may be too tempting regardless (if the trade price is right). This is a guy who has averaged 0.75 points per game throughout his 11-season NHL career. In essence, the current Flames winger is poised to make a big fantasy splash between now and season's end, and he's owned in only 21 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Trending up

Marian Gaborik, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets (owned in 37 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Due back from a broken collarbone after the Olympic break, Gaborik is fixed to reclaim his prominent spot among the Blue Jackets' top six (presumably bumping rookie Boone Jenner) and No. 1 power-play unit. And if the Columbus club falters much between now and then, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen might try to ship the pending free agent to a contender. Either way, Gaborik, and his fantasy owners, should be sitting pretty for the final stretch.

Chris Higgins, LW, Vancouver Canucks (owned in 62 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Filling a top-six role on a line with Ryan Kesler suits Higgins nicely. After a sludgy start to the new year, the 30-year-old winger has six points in his past six games. Grab him if available.

Sergei Gonchar, D, Dallas Stars (owned in 27 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Gonchar's reputation as a slow starter with a new squad remains impenetrably intact. Excepting one small, productive spurt in December, it's apparently taken the veteran defenseman nearly four months to jell with the Stars. With five points in his past four contests, the 39-year-old offensive defenseman finally appears to have found his groove. If you're hurting for D-men, one of the elite fantasy performers of days gone by could fit the bill.

Martin Erat
Martin Erat has been producing at a higher level lately, as his name has been bandied about in trade rumors.

Martin Erat, RW/LW, Washington Capitals (owned in 7 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Hey, Martin Erat has four assists (and is a plus-5) in his two most recent games! Sadly, he still hasn't scored a goal in 2013-14. But, the versatile winger hasn't relented in his desire for a trade out of Washington, and that window is closing shortly. It would be in Erat's best interest to make as much hay as possible between now and March 5. On a line with Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich (after center Mikhail Grabovski fell hurt), skating on the Capitals' second power-play unit and with a resume of 504 points in 777 career regular-season games, the 32-year-old is more than capable, whether he sticks in Washington or not.

Trending down

Bryan Bickell, LW, Chicago Blackhawks (owned in 3 percent of ESPN.com leagues): A healthy scratch in two of three recent contests, Bickell is clearly being encouraged to smarten up by Coach Quenneville & Co. The thing is, the Blackhawks played two very good periods against a hungry Canucks team Wednesday and emerged with two points ... without Bickell. And it's not as though he's had a productive 2013-14 campaign (nine points in 40 games) otherwise. Drop or bench the imposing 27-year-old until, or even if, he rediscovers his industrious and enchanted scoring touch from this past postseason.

Wayne Simmonds, RW/LW, Philadelphia Flyers (owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com leagues): If three contests suffice as a reasonable sample size, Simmonds isn't the same productive player without Scott Hartnell by his side. So now that Hartnell is comfortable entrenched on a Flyers' top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, and Simmonds is "stuck" skating with Brayden Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier, there could be more goose eggs on the score sheet in store for the 25-year-old. With good numbers overall, consider Simmonds a "sell-high" candidate at present.

P.A. Parenteau, RW, Colorado Avalanche (owned in 52 percent of ESPN.com leagues): A healthy scratch for two straight games and rumored to be on the trade block, Parenteau doesn't appear to fit within the Avalanche's top-six plans any longer. Lower your fantasy expectations of the 30-year-old winger until he lands with a new team or Colorado's coaching staff and/or management has a change of heart. Injury to another top-six winger could provide adequate stimulus for the "B" scenario to unfold.

Short-term substitutes

Thomas Greiss, G, Phoenix Coyotes (owned in 10 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Coming off his second shutout of the season, Greiss is scheduled to make a second-consecutive start (against the Buffalo Sabres) Thursday. While there's no arguing that Mike Smith remains top dog with the Coyotes in the grand scheme, Greiss could see additional regular action, if he continues to perform well. Feel free to exploit the reliable backup as a fantasy plug-in, particularly in the short term.

Chris Thorburn, RW, Winnipeg Jets (owned in less than 1 percent of ESPN.com leagues): It is with great hesitation that we, ever-so-mildly, endorse Chris Thorburn as a temporary, dark-horse fantasy commodity. He's playing in place of Evander Kane (infected hand) on a soaring Jets line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, and he scored a goal from that position the other night. Not only that, but Kane isn't due back until after the Olympic break. So, we'll see. At the very least, Thorburn could net you a few extra penalty minutes.

Brian Gibbons, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (owned in less than 1 percent of ESPN.com leagues): So, the experiment of playing Chuck Kobasew on a top line with Crosby and Kunitz lasted all of a game and a half. Can't say we're all that surprised. Moving on, a 25-year-old rookie, with a total of 14 NHL games under his belt, now apparently owns that plum gig. On the upside, the speedy Gibbons does have seven points in those 14 games. So until the Pens add their much-coveted experienced, top-six forward via trade, the AHL regular could pad your stats for zero cost.

Injury notes

Elite defenseman Shea Weber is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. The Nashville Predators host the New Jersey Devils on Friday and visit the St. Louis Blues on Saturday ... While Henrik Zetterberg (upper-body) aspires to return for the Detroit Red Wings on Friday, Pavel Datsyuk (groin) is ruled out for his 12th straight game. On the upside, Datsyuk took part in full practice with the Wings on Thursday.