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Tuesday, July 8, 2003
Updated: July 11, 1:00 PM ET
Fantasy Spin: Dominik Hasek returns

By Graham Hays
ESPN Fantasy Games

Dominik Hasek
Detroit Red Wings
65418905.915 2.17

Dominik Hasek is back, Patrick Roy is gone and Mario Lemieux is somewhere in the middle. It's enough to drive any fantasy owner to distraction, and it's only July. Rare is the offseason when potential first-round fantasy picks both leave and return to the league. Retirements and comebacks usually occur when players are well past their fantasy prime, but Roy and Lemieux were among fantasy's best last season, and Hasek occupied similar territory before retiring prior to last season.

The first issue of fantasy concern is what Detroit does with incumbent goalie Curtis Joseph. Payroll aside, it's tough to imagine two elite goalies -- with the requisite egos -- splitting starts for an entire season. That means trading Joseph, but as the free-agent market has shown, few teams are eager to take on salary. Assuming they find a taker for Jospeh, it's tough not to slide Hasek right back into the first round. He won 41 games with a 2.17 goals-against average and .915 save percentage for Detroit in 2001-02. Granted, that was his worst save percentage in nine seasons as a regular goalie, but it would have placed him in a tie for 13th in the category last season. Similarly, he would have ranked tied for first in wins and sixth in goals-against average.

At 38, it's reasonable to assume Hasek might slip or show some rust -- although he played competitively in Europe last season -- but adding a defenseman like Derian Hatcher to a group that already includes Nicklas Lidstrom and Mathieu Schneider will help cover Father Time's fingers. And hey, while losing Sergei Fedorov wouldn't help Hasek's goal support, it wouldn't exactly hurt his defensive support, either. The passing of time likely means neither the Wings nor Hasek will be quite as good this season as they were in 2001-02, but even a reasonable facsimile will produce outstanding fantasy results.

So with Hasek back in the mix -- and assuming reports that Lemieux will return prove true -- how does the first round of a fantasy draft look at this point in time?

TOP 10
1Martin BrodeurGTrailed only Marty Turco and Roman Cechmanek on last season's Player Rater and proved in the postseason that he still has the goods to be No. 1.
2Marty TurcoGLosing Hatcher hurts the defense in front of him, and losing winger Bill Guerin would hurt almost as much from an offensive standpoint, but he's as good as any goalie when healthy.
3Peter ForsbergFLet him skate with any two out of Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne and 100 points is a lock. Also chips in with healthy penalty minutes.
4Dominik HasekGEssentially takes Roy's place in the first round. The Wings will still be among the West's best, and Hasek is only one season removed from fantasy greatness.
5Jean-Sebastien GiguereGFantasy owners will be leery of repeating the Jose Theodore fiasco, and win potential is an issue with Kariya leaving town, but Giguere's postseason legacy ought to land him in the middle of the first round.
6Markus NaslundFArguably the league's best bet to score 50 goals and he's a monster on the power play.
7Paul KariyaFSure, he could become something of a superstar role player with all that talent in Colorado, but all that help could also give him the room on the ice to score 40-plus goals for the first time in five seasons.
8Todd BertuzziFWhile he has the look of a career-year guy (see: Jarome Iginla), Bertuzzi offers too much of everything but plus-minus to overlook at the end of the first round.
9Nicklas LidstromDYou know exactly what you're getting from Lidstrom every season -- 60 points and a jumpstart on a 10 in the defensive-points category.
10Joe ThorntonFTotaled 101 points in 77 games last season, and you get the feeling he still has more to give. The most obvious upside of any player likely to go in the first two rounds, but is he a 50-goal scorer?

Next In Line
11. Joe Sakic: Just two seasons removed from 54 goals and 118 points, although he may be content to set up everyone else on the Avalanche.

12. Curtis Joseph: It all depends on where he lands. He makes almost any team a playoff contender, but put him on a team like Boston or Vancouver -- unlikely but fun to imagine -- and he jumps back into the first round.

13. Mario Lemieux: Even if he returns, it's tough to overlook last season's minus-25 rating or to expect him to play 67 games again. The first round is all about safety, and Lemieux just doesn't provide it at this point in his career.