Value shifts for Dubnyk, Scrivens
Are the recently traded netminders worth a pickup?
Following an afternoon of goalie shuffling in the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers have a new starting netminder, the Nashville Predators have a perceived new (albeit temporary) top banana, and the Los Angeles Kings have settled on one quality, full-time backup. So now what? Here's the lowdown on the fantasy fallout from Wednesday's two trades.
First off, Devan Dubnyk -- sent to Nashville in exchange for forward Matt Hendricks -- will be a better goaltender, at least on paper, for the Predators than he was for the Oilers. There's really no comparing a permeable Edmonton squad to the Preds' defense-first system preferred by head coach Barry Trotz. If Dubnyk (owned in 29 percent of ESPN.com leagues) is even 80 percent as capable as he was projected to be when drafted 14th overall in 2004 -- or even performs as well as he did last season -- he'll do just fine at the very least.
We also don't expect Carter Hutton or Marek Mazanec to offer much opposition to Dubnyk as Nashville's go-to goalie. If either was good enough to seize the reins and run with the temporary gig, GM David Poile wouldn't have had cause to make this trade in the first place. Until No. 1 Pekka Rinne is fully recovered from his hip infection -- and there's no return date yet on the horizon -- Dubnyk should steer the goaltending ship most nights. And if you've owned the 27-year-old former Oiler all this time, congratulate yourself on falling on such good fortune.
On the flip side, Ben Scrivens -- acquired by Oilers GM Craig MacTavish in exchange for a third-round draft pick -- will not be as good a goaltender statistically in Edmonton as he was in Los Angeles. From a team-defense point of view, he's going from one extreme to the other: While the Kings lead the league with the lowest goals-against average (1.98 per game), the Oilers are dead-last with the highest (3.51). Yikes. Starting Thursday night against the Minnesota Wild, the 27-year-old will have his work cut out for him.
But this isn't to suggest Scrivens (owned in 18 percent of ESPN.com leagues) should be ignored entirely in fantasy play. While he was very good for the Kings, the Alberta native was solid (2.69 goals-against average, .915 save-percentage) for a mediocre Toronto Maple Leafs squad in 2013. And we'll argue the Cornell grad they called "The Professor" in L.A. has improved further this season.
So, if you're flailing in the netminding department, either Dubnyk or Scrivens might suit your needs. Neither is a fantasy slam-dunk -- particularly Scrivens in Edmonton -- but could still well be worth the accompanying risk.
It's also worth noting that Martin Jones (owned in nine percent of ESPN.com leagues) re-enters the existing fantasy scene as entrenched No. 2 to Jonathan Quick with the Kings. Jones probably won't play much in relief of Quick, but should do well enough when the opportunities present themselves.
Mikael Backlund, C, Calgary Flames (owned in two percent of ESPN.com leagues): We'll spare you the "flame/hot/burning bright" metaphors and stick with the fact that Backlund is playing up a level at the moment. Skating on line with Jiri Hudler and Lee Stempniak, the 24-year-old has scored a goal in each of his last three games. With Michael Cammalleri out indefinitely with a concussion, the Flames require that type of production from Backlund and others.
Jakob Silfverberg, RW/LW, Anaheim Ducks (owned in 12 percent of ESPN.com leagues): It seems that everyone up front is contributing for the high-flying Ducks these days, Silfverberg naturally included. Skating on a line with Saku Koivu and Andrew Cogliano, the 23-year-old winger has six points in his past seven games, and he's earning well-deserved minutes with the man-advantage. There's a lot of upside to this kid, especially where keeper leagues are concerned.
Olli Jokinen, C, Winnipeg Jets (owned in seven percent of ESPN.com leagues): Playing on a forward line with the ever-versatile Dustin Byfuglien (classified as a defenseman for 2013-14) looks good on Jokinen and third linemate Devin Setoguchi. Combining Byfuglien's physical presence and Setoguchi's speed appears to be giving the 35-year-old a boost. And it's not like Jokinen has been terrible to date, with 29 points. Plus, every player on the Jets' roster is skating with a extra spring in his step, in hopes of impressing new coach Paul Maurice.
Artem Anisimov, C, Columbus Blue Jackets (owned in two percent of ESPN.com leagues): As Nathan Horton's linemate, Anisimov faces a bright second half to the season. Throw in another big body and feisty presence in rookie Boone Jenner, and the Blue Jackets may have a fairly potent trio on their hands. Fantasy owners in deep leagues should give the under-performing (to date) 25-year-old Russian an extra-long look, especially as long as Marian Gaborik (broken collarbone) remains out.
Nazem Kadri, C/LW, Toronto Maple Leafs (owned in 84 percent of ESPN.com leagues): The threat of demotion to the third line must hang heavy over the head of the former seventh-overall draft pick (2009). In reality, Kadri isn't getting it done (four points in his past 15 games) often enough on a second line with Joffrey Lupul and Mason Raymond. So third-line center Peter Holland may get his chance soon. Plus, all the Kadri-centric trade talk in and around Toronto must be an extra, unwelcome distraction for the 23-year-old center.
Jason Spezza, C, Ottawa Senators (owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Playing on a third line with Mark Stone and Colin Greening isn't doing much for Spezza's numbers theses days. And despite his role on the top power-play unit, the Senators' captain has only one goal (and zero assists) since returning from a minor hip flexor injury. Until another forward line-shuffling takes place in Ottawa, Spezza's owners could be in for a more modest ride than usual.
Matt Niskanen, D, Pittsburgh Penguins, (owned in 100 percent of ESPN.com leagues): With defenseman Paul Martin (fractured leg) set to return early next week, Niskanen's role as the Penguins' No. 2 offensive defenseman is in jeopardy. Unless No. 1 Kris Letang hurts himself (again) or Martin suffers a setback, Niskanen should see his numbers drop off in the next few weeks.
Ryan Strome, C, New York Islanders (owned in two percent of ESPN.com leagues): Overstating the obvious, Strome can't contribute much for the Islanders when competing in the American Hockey League. If you haven't heard, the 20-year-old was demoted to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Wednesday so he can continue competing in the AHL through the Olympic break. Apparently it's an NHL rule thing. Those in deep, keeper leagues may want to hold tight, as Strome is expected to return to the Isles' roster after competition in Sochi concludes.
Dany Heatley, RW/LW, Minnesota Wild (owned in four percent of ESPN.com leagues): He's like that no-good boyfriend or girlfriend you couldn't quite shake; untrustworthy and loutish most days, but unnervingly charming just often enough. When inspired, or when the stars are aligned exactly right, Heatley is a very good, productive hockey player. Unfortunately, there's simply no telling when such "inspiration" will strike. At present, in the absence of top forwards Zach Parise (foot fracture) and Mikko Koivu (ankle surgery), Heatley is rising to the occasion on a forward line with Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker, and seeing minutes with the team's top power-play unit. He has four points (plus three) in his last three games. But it won't last. You know it, we know it, and the devoted hockey fans of Minnesota know it. So, strike while the iron's hot.
Tyler Johnson, LW, Tampa Bay Lightning (owned in 71 percent of ESPN.com leagues): Spitting (figuratively) in the face of medical convention, Steven Stamkos and his recovered broken tibia are seemingly on track to rejoin Tampa Bay's lineup before the Olympic break. For those keeping track, that would be weeks ahead of the original schedule. It's wonderful news for everyone -- supporters of the Lightning, Team Canada, and hockey fans in general -- excepting those who own Tyler Johnson in their respective fantasy leagues. Presuming Stamkos reclaims his spot on the top line with Martin St. Louis, and Valtteri Filppula maintains a grip on the second-line center's role, Johnson would drop down to the third line. Exploit the rookie center now for all he's worth.
Jason Demers, D, San Jose Sharks (owned in 48 percent of ESPN.com leagues): On an unprecedented tear, Demers has averaged nearly a point per game since Dec. 21. As just reward for his efforts, coach Todd McLellan has entrenched the 25-year-old on the Sharks' top power-play unit (in place of injured forward Logan Couture). Unfortunately, this scoring flurry is exceptional for Demers; the closest he's come to contributing with this much gusto was in his rookie season (2009-10). So we're wary. Prepare to cut Demers loose once he shows signs of going cold.
Jamie McGinn, LW, Colorado Avalanche (owned in one percent of ESPN.com leagues): With forwards P.A. Parenteau and Alex Tanguay scheduled to return from injury in the not-too-distant future, McGinn's tenure as a top-six skater with the Avalanche is likely coming to an end. But the 25-year-old winger isn't done skating with Matt Duchene quite yet. With four goals and two assists in his past eight games, McGinn has more to offer before falling out of his prominent spot.