Grand Theft Roto: Rumors affect fantasy deals

I'll apologize ahead of time. I promised myself I wouldn't start getting excited about trade deadline day until the calendar flipped to February. The deadline is a holiday, as far as I'm concerned, and I usually gear myself up a little too much. Thus far, I haven't let too many trade rumors sneak into Grand Theft Roto, but today is a turning point. Please take the rumors in stride. Trust me, if I weren't holding myself back for next month, there would be a lot more on my ideas for trades.

I also wanted to quickly highlight Sunday's Box Score Blog by my colleague John Pereira. He made sure to point out that Shawn Matthias scored his first two career goals for the Panthers. It is indeed exciting. It's rare for a team to haul a prospect out of the junior leagues because there is only a 10-game window before a decision must be made to return him to the juniors or keep him and assign him an entry-level contract. If Matthias sticks around for 11 games, you are going to want to pay attention.

Players to trade for

Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, Sharks: This is more of a gut feeling than anything else, and I know I've said it a couple of times over the past two months, but Cheechoo is going to go off and he is going to go off soon. The man from Moose Factory has been spotted on Joe Thornton's wing again lately, and that is the only variable that needs to be in place for him to take off. He still should come on the cheap.

Todd Bertuzzi, RW, Ducks: It was Bertuzzi's idea to switch from his traditional right-wing position to the port side, and ever since the switch, he has been a man on fire. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf play the perfect style of hockey for Big Bert: down-low puck control. If an owner in your league picked up Bertuzzi and hopes to sell high, take him up on his offer. This isn't a hot streak. As long as Bertuzzi is with Perry and Getzlaf, his recent point-per-game pace is for real.

Tyler Arnason, C, Avalanche: With Joe Sakic, Paul Stastny and Ryan Smyth all on the shelf, the Avalanche have turned to some other offensive weapons. Besides contemplating the merits of putting bubble wrap on Marek Svatos and Wojtek Wolski, the Avs have had to find a centerman to set them up. Arnason is that man for at least the next three weeks. If you can acquire him now and pawn him off in late February, you will come out ahead.

Martin St. Louis, RW, Lightning: The Lightning are in dire straits. It is becoming all too clear that one of the big three is going to have to go. You could argue that Vincent Lecavalier is the best offensive player in the NHL. You could argue that Brad Richards is the best all-around player in the NHL. That leaves Marty as the most palatable loss for general manager Jay Feaster. Although he gets to play with all-world talent as the situation stands, a change of scenery would be a good thing for St. Louis. Lecavalier and St. Louis both are goal scorers by trade, and St. Louis would be better served by a setup man.

Duncan Keith, D, Blackhawks: If you need some help on the blue line, I have a few suggestions. At the top of my list is Keith, who should get a confidence boost from representing his team in the All-Star Game. He remains Chicago's most versatile defenseman (at least until Cam Barker is ready) and leads the team in ice time. The Blackhacks also are rumored to be in the market for a veteran defenseman. Any top acquisition likely would be paired with Keith and would improve his game.

Duvie Westcott, D, Blue Jackets: Westcott just hasn't been the player we saw two seasons ago. Injury problems aside, he hasn't produced since his 28-point, 133-penalties-in-minutes 2005-06 season. He was waived and sent to the minors, but there is a distinct possibility he could be placed on re-entry waivers in hopes another team will pick him (and half his salary) up. There are plenty of NHL squads that could use help on the back end, and Westcott could be rejuvenated by a change of scenery.

John-Michael Liles, D, Avalanche: Strike while the iron is ice cold. Colorado has some serious problems on offense (as noted above). Liles is a proven point-producing defenseman on the power play who has done jack squat this season (by his standards). He could be on his way out of Denver via trade so the Avalanche can address their concerns up front. If he lands in the right situation, he could turn back into the 40-point defenseman we know and love.

Dick Tarnstrom, D, Oilers: Another candidate for being dealt away by his club, Tarnstrom is a former fantasy star on defense. In the two seasons before the lockout, he posted 41 and 52 points on a bad Pittsburgh team. After being coaxed out of Sweden with the promise of regular ice time, Tarnstrom has voiced his displeasure with being a regular healthy scratch for the Oilers. A prime candidate to get moved soon, Tarnstrom could contribute, given the power-play opportunities on another club.

Rob Blake, D, Kings: I'll keep the prose on Blake short and sweet. He has been quite useful this year in a very bad situation in L.A. If he were moved to a contender for a playoff run, he would be worth a lot more. If you make a trade for Blake now and he doesn't opt for a trade, you still have a useful asset.

Daniel Briere, C, Flyers: With Simon Gagne back in the fold, I expect a turnaround to Briere's season. Although not disappointing, Briere hasn't been a star. But with a sniper like Gagne to work with, he should improve his pace. The minus-12 should make him an attainable target.

Peter Forsberg, C, FA: Although it's tough to trade for someone who isn't guaranteed to play, Forsberg is a good target if you want to move up in the standings quickly. If you aren't in the money spots in your league right now, this is the kind of risk you should be taking anyway. For what it's worth, I think Forsberg will come back, and I think he will have a huge impact down the stretch, wherever he lands.

Drew Stafford, RW, Sabres: To steal a phrase from my colleagues John Pereira and Victoria Matiash: "For real." Although he is not on pace for the bold 60-point season I hoped for, I think Stafford has an outside chance of catching fire and coming close to that threshold. He finally has broken through onto the first line in Buffalo and gets quality ice time with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek. Stafford is the kind of impact player who might manage close to a point per game if he can stick with the top unit. If his owner in your league is looking to cash in on Stafford after his five-point night last week, take him up on the offer.

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