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Monday, March 25, 2013
Front Line: Trade fallout

By Sean Allen
Special to ESPN.com

The first domino to fall before the April 3 NHL trade deadline fell on Sunday when the Pittsburgh Penguins picked up Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars. The move has a huge fantasy impact for Morrow, as he gets to immediately line up with Evgeni Malkin, the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner, on the Penguins' second line. Malkin is getting very close to a return from his shoulder injury, and the Morrow trade may just signal that Malkin will be back for the Pens' next contest.

Brenden Morrow
Brenden Morrow should receive a big fantasy boost in Pittsburgh.

Remember that every trade has additional impact, both for the players' old teams and their new clubs. In this case, there isn't much impact left behind by Morrow's departure because it has been a while since he was contributing on a scoring line. But it does hurt Beau Bennett of the Penguins. The rookie has been biding his time through two Malkin injuries in the hopes of displaying his talent as a second-line winger. With Morrow in the fold, Bennett will likely have to wait a bit longer. However, given Morrow's injury history, Bennett should get a chance before too long.

The same formula will apply to any other trades that happen before the deadline. Some of the rumored names that would have a significant fantasy impact include Flames captain Jarome Iginla, Panthers scoring forward Tomas Fleischmann, Rangers winger Marian Gaborik and Stars forward Jaromir Jagr. But remember, it's often the lesser-known players who have a bigger impact at the trade deadline.

For example, Roman Cervenka, Shawn Matthias, Chris Kreider and Antoine Roussel would all be names to look at if the above rumored players were dealt in the next week. Depending on what the return was for each team, additional ice time and responsibility would be available to these young talents. Others would be in the mix, as well, which is why it is difficult (and pointless) to speculate too much about the fantasy impact of potential trades.

But when the deals happen, always remember to look beyond the big names in terms of fantasy impact. Check both the usurped role a player will take on his new team and check the vacuum he leaves behind.

Rising and falling

Top 100 Forwards

Note: Sean Allen's top 100 forwards are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Sidney Crosby, Pit (1)
2. Steven Stamkos, TB (2)
3. Evgeni Malkin, Pit (49)
4. Eric Staal, Car (4)
5. Corey Perry, Ana (5)
6. Alex Ovechkin, Was (6)
7. John Tavares, NYI (3)
8. James Neal, Pit (7)
9. Tyler Seguin, Bos (8)
10. Alexander Semin, Car (12)
11. Chris Kunitz, Pit (15)
12. Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (17)
13. Rick Nash, NYR (11)
14. Anze Kopitar, LA (13)
15. Jakub Voracek, Phi (14)
16. Claude Giroux, Phi (9)
17. Daniel Sedin, Van (16)
18. Jonathan Toews, Chi (18)
19. Martin St. Louis, TB (19)
20. Pavel Datsyuk, Det (20)
21. Thomas Vanek, Buf (21)
22. Patrick Kane, Chi (28)
23. Matt Moulson, NYI (22)
24. Marian Hossa, Chi (23)
25. Henrik Sedin, Van (24)
26. Mike Ribeiro, Was (26)
27. Phil Kessel, Tor (27)
28. Henrik Zetterberg, Det (25)
29. Max Pacioretty, Mon (29)
30. Jamie Benn, Dal (30)
31. Jiri Tlusty, Car (33)
32. Patrice Bergeron, Bos (38)
33. P.A. Parenteau, Col (40)
34. T.J. Oshie, StL (37)
35. Nazem Kadri, Tor (51)
36. Wayne Simmonds, Phi (39)
37. Matt Duchene, Col (34)
38. Zach Parise, Min (47)
39. Jarome Iginla, Cgy (41)
40. Taylor Hall, Edm (31)
41. Brad Marchand, Bos (53)
42. Tomas Plekanec, Mon (44)
43. Bobby Ryan, Ana (45)
44. Joe Thornton, SJ (46)
45. Jeff Carter, LA (48)
46. Jason Pominville, Buf (43)
47. Nicklas Backstrom, Was (61)
48. James van Riemsdyk, Tor (35)
49. Scott Hartnell, Phi (32)
50. Jordan Eberle, Edm (36)
51. Evander Kane, Wpg (52)
52. Patrik Elias, NJ (50)
53. Mikko Koivu, Min (58)
54. Andrew Ladd, Wpg (54)
55. Chris Stewart, StL (67)
56. Mike Richards, LA (57)
57. David Backes, StL (42)
58. Joffrey Lupul, Tor (59)
59. Sam Gagner, Edm (69)
60. Milan Lucic, Bos (62)
61. Patrick Marleau, SJ (56)
62. Cody Hodgson, Buf (70)
63. Troy Brouwer, Was (64)
64. Michael Ryder, Mon (81)
65. David Perron, StL (60)
66. Logan Couture, SJ (68)
67. Dustin Brown, LA (78)
68. David Clarkson, NJ (65)
69. Justin Williams, LA (71)
70. Cory Conacher, TB (72)
71. Alex Burrows, Van (63)
72. Damien Brunner, Det (75)
73. Marian Gaborik, NYR (55)
74. Paul Stastny, Col (76)
75. Loui Eriksson, Dal (77)
76. Brandon Saad, Chi (95)
77. Gabriel Landeskog, Col (79)
78. Brad Boyes, NYI (80)
79. Teddy Purcell, TB (66)
80. Jaromir Jagr, Dal (88)
81. Mike Cammalleri, Cgy (82)
82. Jeff Skinner, Car (74)
83. Ryan O'Reilly, Col (97)
84. Alex Tanguay, Cgy (84)
85. Blake Wheeler, Wpg (85)
86. Teemu Selanne, Ana (86)
87. Derek Stepan, NYR (89)
88. Saku Koivu, Ana (90)
89. Pascal Dupuis, Pit (NR)
90. Alexander Steen, StL (NR)
91. Jonathan Huberdeau, Fla (92)
92. Tyler Ennis, Buf (93)
93. Kyle Turris, Ott (94)
94. Daniel Alfredsson, Ott (NR)
95. Ryan Callahan, NYR (96)
96. David Krejci, Bos (98)
97. Brendan Gallagher, Mon (NR)
98. Devin Setoguchi, Min (NR)
99. Brenden Morrow, Pit (NR)
100. Dustin Penner, LA (NR)

Scott Hartnell, Philadelphia Flyers (down 17 spots to No. 49): Hartnell returned from his injury to the elite ranking he held when he left the Top 100 earlier this season. Perhaps we were too hasty in elevating him back to his former status. Hartnell is no longer even playing on the top line for the Flyers, as he was recently bumped to the third line in favor of Matt Read. Hartnell initially looked OK, with three points in his first three games post-foot injury. But in nine games since, he has just one goal and zero assists. Because of his ability to stuff fantasy stats across the board, Hartnell drops down the rankings. If he gets going again, he would quickly become the fantasy beast we know and love to own.

Michael Ryder, Montreal Canadiens (up 17 spots to No. 64): Ryder is not only filling his role for the Canadiens as a power-play specialist, but is making an impact at even strength, as well. Playing with Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec at five-on-five, the second line has been scoring at a modest pace. On the power play, Ryder has seven of his 11 points in 11 games as a member of the Habs. Getting above-average shots on goal and power-play points is a quick way to work your way to the top of the ESPN Player Rater. Ryder is rated No. 11 among forwards for the ESPN standard game during the past 30 days.

David Backes, St. Louis Blues (down 15 spots to No. 57): We can hold out hope for a hot streak to save face for only so long. Backes is just not getting it done for fantasy owners this season. Even in a shortened campaign, being on pace for just five goals is pretty embarrassing for a two-time 30-goal scorer. Over a longer campaign, we would expect things to fix themselves for Backes. His shots on goal are down and so is his shooting percentage. Even with the fewer shots, he should be closer to his career 11.7 shooting percentage, but Backes is shooting just 4.6 percent this season. Only 17 games remain in the regular season, so betting on long-term normalization doesn't seem like a safe play. The good news is that the Blues are healthy and coach Ken Hitchcock is still featuring Backes on a top line. The bad news is that with so many healthy bodies jostling for scoring responsibility, Backes may only remain on top for a short while.

Scoring lines

Keith Ballard, Vancouver Canucks: Looking at Brent Burns' player profile photo, it's hard to believe he could be trend-setting, but lo and behold we have yet another West Coast NHL defenseman playing forward. Keith Ballard played second-line wing for the Canucks for the second time in three games on Sunday, drawing an assist on linemate Alex Burrows' game-winning goal. There's no question that the Canucks are short on forwards right now, but Ballard likely returns to defense sooner than later. However, there may be a small window to capitalize on Ballard's positional adjustment. Any defenseman playing as a forward is more valuable than the majority of defensemen playing their proper roles.

Charlie Coyle, Minnesota Wild: Lost in the mix while Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi light up opposing defenses, Coyle has been playing on the Wild's top line for a while. Plus, the rookie is starting to look pretty good on the ice with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. Coyle still isn't playing a ton of power-play minutes, but that will come with time as he continues to roll as a top-line forward. Using his 6-foot-3 frame well, Coyle helps create room for Koivu and Parise, and often ends up collecting points himself thanks to above-average offensive acuity. Does he need to be on your fantasy roster right away? Probably not, especially if one of the aforementioned Bouchard, Cullen or Setoguchi is available. But does Coyle have a chance to continue to heat up through the remainder of the season and start becoming relevant to fantasy owners? Absolutely.

Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres juggled their lines recently to try and find some offensive spark from their talented ranks. Surprisingly, Leino came out smelling good from the wash. Playing on a line with Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek, Leino has picked up three assists in the past three games. It's not as if Leino doesn't know how to pass the puck -- he just doesn't generate fantasy value in a vacuum. But if he is sharing the ice with the Sabres' two most talented goal scorers, it stands to reason that Leino might pick up a few assists going forward.

Tuomo Ruutu, Carolina Hurricanes: It makes sense that Ruutu made his season debut from injury on the third line for the Hurricanes last Thursday. But given the team's lack of scoring punch lately, it won't be a shock to see Ruutu begin his second game of the season alongside Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner. Ruutu creates offense by throwing his weight around on the ice and battling in corners, something Staal and Skinner could use. Their current linemate, Patrick Dwyer, is good defensively, but doesn't come with the same tenacity as Ruutu. Who knows, Ruutu could wind up getting enough points to be relevant in your fantasy league in the process.

Infirmary

Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils: With fewer than five weeks remaining in the NHL's regular season (therefore the fantasy season), it's discouraging to hear that Kovalchuk is out two to four weeks. At maximum, that means Kovalchuk has three games left in the season. If he misses only two weeks with his shoulder injury, it means he has nine games remaining. Either way, it's not good for fantasy owners. There is no one to step up and completely fill the void for the Devils, but whenever Adam Henrique has faced pressure in his career, he has answered the call. Perhaps he can help drive a new top-scoring line with Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac. Whatever the new line combinations, be clear that only the top line for the Devils will have fantasy relevance now as the team is too thin to have two lines without Kovalchuk.

Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes: He hasn't made a lot of fuss in two games since returning from a foot injury, but Vrbata is back and playing on the Coyotes' top line with Martin Hanzal and Steve Sullivan. Vrbata finds a way to generate value and could make one more quick run up the fantasy rankings before the season is through. He was dropped in more than half of ESPN leagues during his injury.

Andy McDonald, St. Louis Blues: With McDonald and T.J. Oshie both back in the fold, the Blues are basically back to full strength. The lines are pretty scary on paper and go three deep. David Backes, Alex Steen and Chris Stewart have been playing together, while Oshie, McDonald and Patrik Berglund have generated some scoring in the past two games. That leaves David Perron with Vladimir Sobotka and Vladimir Tarasenko on the third line. These new combinations are good news for McDonald, Berglund and Oshie as the trio form the most complete line for the team and should become the team's No. 1 line soon enough. This return to health by everyone could also be bad news for the red-hot Chris Stewart. No longer forced to carry the team on his back through injuries, Stewart may slow down in the days ahead.