Another week and another turn in the Jonathan Drouin saga. He’s turned in his skates for a TV converter. For those of you who took my advice a couple of weeks ago to stash Jonathan Drouin on your bench, sit tight – I think. At this rate, Drouin may be 30 by the time he plays another NHL game.
In all seriousness, the NHL trade deadline is just over a month away (February 29th) and undeniably, we’ll see lots of activity. All-in-all, the Winnipeg Jets are the most intriguing team to watch here.
The contract year phenomenon is just that. For some unbeknownst reason, professional athletes always seem to have their strongest years when a new contract is hanging in the balance. That being said, several of the more notable UFAs to be are having so-so seasons to date. Obviously, a lot can change.
FREE AGENT TO BE OR NOT TO BE (Not Shakespeare)
Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning – C
There’s no doubt that if Stamkos hit the market on July 1st, he’d be widely considered the biggest unrestricted free agent in NHL history. If he does – here’s hoping that he does a TV special to notify us of his decision. In terms of fantasy hockey relevance, the 26-year-old had an uncharacteristically slow start but don’t be surprised if he absolutely goes off soon. He’s one of the best pure goal scorers in the league for a reason. A potential buy-low of Stamkos could be just what you need to ignite your roster heading into the fantasy hockey post-season.
Dustin Byfuglien – Winnipeg Jets – RW, D
With each and every painstaking loss, it’s getting more and more likely that the Winnipeg Jets will become a seller ahead of February 29th’s deadline. While it’s never fun to throw in the towel, the Jets do hold arguably the two biggest pieces in the form of Byfuglien and captain Andrew Ladd – both, if not signed, will become UFAs on July 1st. If Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff does decide to deal Byfuglien, his fantasy value would almost certainly sky rocket. His numbers are already terrific – imagine if he landed on a Stanley Cup contender? In the fantasy world, Byfuglien brings the total package – goals, power play points, penalty minutes, shots on goal and the always vital and slightly underrated – dual position eligibility. I’d be inclined to make a run at acquiring him. Chances are – he’ll get dealt and to a contending team.
Andrew Ladd – Winnipeg Jets – LW
As mentioned above, the second piece to the UFA puzzle in Winnipeg is undoubtedly captain Andrew Ladd. Of the two players– it seems likelier (at this point) that Ladd stays in the fold and re-signs. The bad news – he’s had a horrible fantasy hockey season. I’m no mathematician but his 27 points through 48 games so far this year leave him way short of attaining last year’s 62-point career high. It’s time to CUT BAIT on Ladd.
David Backes – St. Louis Blues – C
The Backes file has always been captivating. With his big-body frame, he has all the makings to be an absolute fantasy monster. It’s easier said than done however and suffice it to say, Backes always seems to leave his fantasy owners wanting more. With that in mind and a trade out of St. Louis unlikely – it’s conceivable to suggest Backes will not have an explosive second half. If you can, TRADE HIM.
Kyle Okposo – New York Islanders – RW
Mark my words – Okposo will have a stellar second half to his season. It appears that John Tavares is waking up and clearly, that’s good news for Okposo owners. At the end of the day, the 27-year-old wants to get paid and knows he’ll need a strong second-half to solidify his value. BUY NOW!
Marcus Johansson – Washington Capitals – LW, C, RW
43 games: 13 goals, 17 assists, 30 points and a plus-12.
Lost in the shuffle of all the talent on the Caps roster currently is this 26-year-old Swedish centre (not named Backstrom). Johansson is an extremely motivated player and it’s showing off on the stat sheet. Why? You ask. You can put him on the long list of players playing for a new contract. He’ll be an RFA in the summer and is obviously looking for an increase on the $3.75 million he’s making this year. PICK HIM UP!
Bo Horvat – Vancouver Canucks – C
It goes without saying that Horvat is currently playing the best hockey of his young NHL career right now. His plus-minus (-23) notwithstanding, he’s doing it everywhere else for the Canucks. Horvat has had a tremendous month of January thus far tallying seven goals and 12 points. With Henrik Sedin currently sidelined due to injury, Horvat has been one of the players who has benefited with an elevated role. He’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Mika Zibanejad – Ottawa Senators – C, RW
Jakob Silfverberg – Anaheim Ducks – LW, RW
Joonas Donskoi – San Jose Sharks – RW
Reilly Smith – Florida Panthers – LW, RW
Andre Burakovsky – Washington Capitals – LW
Hard to believe but the all-star break is just about here! As always, for inquiries and thoughts, you can find me on twitter: @thegoldenmuzzy