It's the calm before the storm in the National Hockey League. In just one week's time, we'll be dealing with the fallout from the draft and looking (not too far) ahead to free-agent signings starting July 1. There are some big names available on the market with no guarantees that they will be returning to their clubs, but that's another column altogether.
So what's different today than it was this same time last year? We have a Stanley Cup champion from a nontraditional hockey market beating a Canadian team to hoist the Cup. Rampant rumors about an American franchise being moved to a Canadian city. Mike Keenan somehow keeps finding work. OK, so not much has changed, but that doesn't mean there isn't some fantasy impact to talk about.
Having two Norris Trophy-winning defensemen is nearly a guarantee for a Stanley Cup. Let's face it. The Ducks would have had to mess up pretty bad before the Cup would have escaped their grasp. Depending whom the Ducks hire as a goaltender next year, there is no reason to think they won't be the favorites again.
The real story of the postseason run by Anaheim for fantasy owners has to be the coming out party for Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The top offensive threat for the Ducks was not the Teemu Selanne-Andy McDonald line; it was Getzlaf, Perry and Dustin Penner. Fantasy owners would be best not to forget how the two future stars played, and it might not be a stretch to say the two will lead the Ducks in points next year whether Selanne returns or not.
If Jean-Sebastien Giguere uses his unrestricted free agency to sign anywhere other than Anaheim or Detroit, you want no part of him. Giggy is big, and he blocks shots as long as they are easy. He needs top-of-the-line defensemen in front of him to be as good as he can be.
Ray Emery is a top-five goalie and a second- or third-round draft pick next fall.
There is some exciting talent in this year's draft for fantasy owners in keeper leagues. Owners have been spoiled by the Crosbys, Ovechkins and Staals of recent years, but this NHL draft will feature some premier talent that will not be ready to burst onto the scene. If any of the top names called out in the first round in Columbus, site of this year's draft, get an immediate call to the NHL, it would be a shock and a mistake (Karl Alzner is the exception). That does not mean fantasy owners should tune out. Names such as Kyle Turris, Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner will be top picks in fantasy drafts as early as 2009-10.
Chicago is getting hosed by having the top pick. The separation between not just the top five picks but even the top 20 is just not that great. Every team will come out of the first round of this year's draft smiling (except the eight teams that dealt away their pick, of course). Some of the top talent has questions surrounding mind-set or attitude, which will make for some terrific high-risk/high-reward picks fantasy owners know all too well.
There will be much more to come on the draft in this space the next week or two.
As exciting as it would be from a personal standpoint (I live 20 minutes from Hamilton), the Predators aren't and shouldn't be going anywhere. The only way the NHL is going to sustain itself is to hammer nontraditional American markets over the head with hockey until they cry uncle and tune in. Besides, Nashville fans only have to increase attendance by about 20 spectators per game, which shouldn't be hard to do under threat of having their team taken away.
However, If Peter Forsberg re-signs with the Predators and I have a chance to watch him 40 times a year, I'll sing a different tune. Not that it will make a difference.
From a fantasy perspective, it means nothing. Such things in hockey don't distract players. The talk of moving a franchise might be detrimental to a baseball player -- as the mind always has to be in the right place -- but it has no effect in the sport of hockey. The Preds will go out there, play their game and win the Central Division. Don't shy away from any Predator on draft day because of all the "team is moving" rhetoric.
Moving and signing
Sergei Samsonov, LW, CHI -- Yawn. It's hard to even feign interest in Samsonov signing with yet another team that "thinks he still has talent." Chicago is going to have more skilled players next year, and there is a slight chance Samsonov can find a groove with one of them, but we are talking about a guy you shouldn't touch until the last round of your draft. In a very deep league
Mike Komisarek, D, MON & Jassen Cullimore, D, MON -- By re-signing Komisarek for a significant amount of money, the Habs are anointing him as a full-time player. Cullimore is also an established third-pairing blueliner who will play every night. Although these two shouldn't have too much fantasy impact (Komisarek is a deep sleeper), it means Sheldon Souray likely will move on to greener pastures. That will give another team a power-play quarterback, and leave all the Canadiens' man-advantage blue-line duty to Andrei Markov. Josh Gorges also should be moved up sleeper lists as the next defenseman in line for points.
Tony Salmelainen, LW, MON -- More talented than he's been given credit for, Salmelainen could be an asset if he lands in a top-six role for the Habs, which is possible given their troubles finding two-way forwards who can score.
Antero Niittymaki, G, PHI -- The Flyers believe almost as much as I do. We've seen so many flashes of brilliance from Niitty, but he has never put it together for Philadelphia. Remember, he was getting cortisone shots in his hip for most of last year and had surgery to repair the hip in the offseason. Martin Biron is still around and will get first crack at starting, but Niittymaki has a better skill set if he can tap into it.
Magnus Johansson, D, CHI -- A prolific puck-moving defenseman from the Swedish Elite League, Johansson landed in the perfect place to excel in the NHL. He's little for a D-man (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) but has a track record of joining rushes and racking up assists. If he can adjust to the more physical North American game, he has very few challengers for the role of Blackhawks power-play quarterback.
Jan Hlavac, LW, TB -- It's been seven years since he was almost a 30-goal scorer in the NHL, but Hlavac will get the opportunity to fill out a Tampa Bay top six that includes some of the best players in hockey. After his 64-point season with the Rangers in 2000-01, Hlavac bounced around the league before heading back to Europe in 2005. He had a couple of subpar seasons there before getting his scoring touch back last year. He's definitely a sleeper.
Sean Allen is a fantasy hockey and baseball analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at alla_rino@TalentedMrRoto.com.