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Friday, February 29, 2008
Open Ice: Time to 'leap' on Emery, Hagman

By Sean Allen
Special to ESPN.com

On this Leap Day, fantasy owners of Brad Richards are probably the ones doing the leaping, while owners of Marian Hossa feel they are being leaped on. Those are the breaks when it comes to trade deadline day: Value can swing way up or way down.

Several of the players mentioned in this week's free-agent column are here because of what happened on trade deadline day. But I am leading off with three goaltenders who I strongly feel should be 100 percent owned, as I have pegged them as being top-10 goaltenders from here on out.

Pick 'em up

Carey Price, G, Canadiens: Price is a painfully obvious choice, but he remains available in many ESPN leagues (although the number shrinks daily). Get in on him right now if you still can. I feel as if he has been in every one of my Grand Theft Roto, Open Ice and Box Score blogs lately, so I won't rehash everything. Suffice it to say that challenges have been stacked against the young goaltender, and every time he has stepped up to the plate. Own him with confidence.

Ray Emery, G, Senators: With Bryan Murray back behind the bench, Emery should get his confidence back quickly. Murray turned to Emery to start the first game since the firing of John Paddock, and despite the 3-1 loss, Emery turned in a solid game. He stopped 35 of 38 shots, and really only the Jim Dowd goal can be pinned on Emery. The Sens are too good to be playing in this kind of funk, and Emery should come out on top more often than not. In fact, my jaw wouldn't drop if he won another 10 games this season.

Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Penguins: Fleury came in to relieve Ty Conklin in Thursday's 5-1 loss to Boston. Although he allowed two goals on 18 shots, Fleury outplayed Conklin in every facet. After watching the first three Boston goals scored against Conklin, you wonder how he has managed to play so well for the Penguins since taking over as the starter in mid-December. Three weak shots from the outside beat him, and Michel Therrien didn't hesitate to hook him. Fleury likely will get the next start, and he should be able to walk away with the starting job from there.

Jussi Jokinen, LW, Lightning: Jokinen is riding shotgun on the wing of Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis for the rest of the year. That in itself should be enough to like him, but I also will note that he has some nifty moves and a nose for finishing plays that is just beginning to translate to the NHL. We saw evidence of his skills from the get-go when he was a rookie sensation in the shootout last season.

Niklas Hagman
Niklas Hagman will be doing more celebrating with Brad Richards now playing alongside him.
Loui Eriksson and Niklas Hagman, LW, Stars: Brad Richards' arrival has allowed coach Dave Tippett to create three lines of offense. Eriksson remains with Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow and has six goals in his last four games. Hagman is playing with Richards and was the beneficiary of Richards' good nature, scoring three goals Thursday against the Blackhawks that were assisted by the new arrival. Both Eriksson and Hagman are good to go for medium-sized leagues, and Hagman might even be worthy in shallow leagues if he and Richards continue this quick-found chemistry.

Braydon Coburn, D, Flyers: Coburn quietly slipped back into the Flyers' lineup after missing four games for surgery to repair a torn buttocks muscle. He is a solid choice for plus/minus and a few points from the blue line. Consider picking him back up if he is available in your league.

Patrick O'Sullivan, C, Kings: Michael Cammalleri's return to the lineup in L.A. is starting to pay huge dividends as he, Alexander Frolov and O'Sullivan have caught fire as a trio. O'Sullivan remains the most available of the three. He is an emerging talent who should eventually look like Jason Spezza on the ice and in the box score.

Jaroslav Spacek, D, Sabres: In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a huge fan of Spacek. However, he played the most power-play minutes among Buffalo's defense in the absence of Brian Campbell on Wednesday and possesses decent skills as a puck mover. The added bonus with Spacek is his awareness in his own end of the ice, creating a nice formula right now for plus/minus.

Jason Williams, RW, Blackhawks: With five points in five games since his return from a two-and-a-half-month injury hiatus, Williams looks as if he didn't miss a beat. He has had different linemates in almost every contest since his return, but his best game actually came Thursday with Martin Havlat out of the lineup. Consider Williams as a point-per-game player from here on out.

If you're hardcore

Steve Bernier, RW, Sabres: Yeah, he has a good spot in the lineup and looked good in his Sabres debut, but I don't buy it. Bernier is a grinder and won't last with Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy. Sure, pick him up for now, but don't look for him to maintain his high value for more than a week or two.

Joe Pavelski, C, Sharks: If you could put him anywhere but center, I'd have him among the regular pickups. But Pavelski worked the point with Brian Campbell on the Sharks' power play on Wednesday. With players like Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek on the ice at the same time, Pavelski is in for some decent power-play stats.

David Vyborny, RW, Blue Jackets: Vyborny's best game of the season came on Wednesday, when he played parts of it on a line with Rick Nash and Fredrik Modin. There's no guarantee he'll stay there, but it is at least worth noting, as Vyborny is in a horribly down season after being the only Blue Jacket to rise above the team's collective plus/minus woes during the previous two seasons.

Brian Boucher, G, Sharks: The man famous for his NHL-record shutout streak has landed a backup gig in San Jose. Not that he is any threat to take starts away from Evgeni Nabokov, but it's good to note who would take over if anything were to happen to Nabokov. The Sharks are one of those teams in which you could plug almost any goalie and have fantasy-worthy stats.

Eric Fehr, LW, Capitals: I have been waiting impatiently for the former WHL standout to succeed in the NHL for two years now. I figured his size (6-4, 212) and skill (seasons of 50 and 59 goals with the Brandon Wheat Kings) would make him a nice fit as the muscle alongside Alexander Ovechkin. Fehr has had pesky injuries to deal with during his development and is finally getting back on track. Though Brooks Laich and Tomas Fleischmann are hardly linemates worth noting, Fehr's line was on the ice for all four of Washington's goals Tuesday. Definitely file his name away for next season, and possibly give him a chance in deeper leagues now. If he impresses coach Bruce Boudreau, he could land on a genuine scoring line.

Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.