Welcome to this week’s edition of Crashing the Net. For this last week of the season we’re going to take a look at the top five players that you could’ve added to your roster this season. Most of these players probably won’t drafted in most leagues so if you were able to pick up these free agents then consider yourself lucky. Feel free to add omissions and critique our current choices in comments section as we welcome an open discussion at DailyFaceoff.com.
Joffrey Lupul, Left Wing, Toronto Maple Leafs
Heading into this season there was a lot of people thinking that Lupul’s career was almost over. After missing most of the last two season’s with a back injury Joffrey Lupul entered this season playing on his fourth team in six seasons. One of the bright spots was that Lupul had a strong finish to the 2010-2011 season by scoring 18 points in the final 28 games with the Leafs. Those fantasy GM’s who took a chance on Lupul were greatly rewarded as Lupul not only earned a place on the All-Star team but also had a career season with 67 points. Lupul had great success playing with Phil Kessell for most of the season and had an amazing November where he scored 19 points in 14 games. Lupul’s season mirrored the Leafs as both started off well but limped to the finish. Lupul suffered a separated shoulder in early March and will likely will be out for the rest of regular season. With his strong play this season, Lupul will likely be an early round draft pick next season.
Tyler Seguin, Center, Boston Bruins
When the Edmonton Oilers announced earlier last week that Taylor Hall was going to miss the next 5-6 months due to a shoulder injury a lot of Oilers fans were wondering if the Oilers would’ve been better off selecting Tyler Seguin first overall in 2010. While it’s still too early to determine who the better player is, it’s easy to see why people are thinking that Seguin would’ve been a smart selection. Tyler Seguin had a roller-coaster of a rookie season in 2010-2011. He appeared in 74 games with the Bruins but only scored 22 points in limited playing time with the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. Even in the playoffs last year he only scored 7 points in 13 games. Based on the Bruins depth, Seguin probably wasn’t very high on most people’s draft lists. That changed early in the season when Seguin had 20 points through the Bruins first 15 games. While that pace has slowed down, he still finished the month of March with 16 points in 17 games. If you’re involved in a playoff pool Seguin should be an easier pick for you since he’ll finish the season with close to 65 points.
Michael Ryder, Right Wing, Dallas Stars
I’ll admit that I questioned when Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk signed Michael Ryder to a two year, $7 million deal last summer. Ryder was coming off a season where he collected 41 points during the regular season and had a post season where he scored 17 points in 25 games playing for the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins. Playoffs aside, I didn’t think that Ryder had a great season and he hadn’t scored 50 points since the 2008/2009 season. To his credit, the Dallas Stars have been a great fit for Michael Ryder. As long as he scores one more point this year he’ll match his career high of 63 points which he collected during his rookie season with the Montreal Canadiens during the 2003/2004 season. Ryder has been seeing quite a bit of ice time this season for the Stars. He skates on the top line with Mike Ribiero and Loui Eriksson and plays over 17 minutes per game including an average of 2:38 on the Stars power-play. Based on his play this season, Ryder will be looked at a lot closer come draft time next fall.
Brian Campbell, Defence, Florida Panthers
During the summer of 2008 former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon signed then UFA Brian Campbell to a monster 8 year deal with a cap average of $7.14million per season. It was a very questionable move at the time considering the Hawks were going to have to give Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook new deals. While Campbell had a great first season with Chicago by scoring a career high 52 points and helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup the following season, that giant contract loomed over the team. Two years later after Campbell signed his deal and Dale Tallon took over the GM job in Florida, Tallon acquired Campbell in a deal last summer. Chicago needed to trim salary and Florida needed to take on contracts just to hit the salary floor. Most people didn’t think much about the deal considering Campbell was coming off a brutal 2010/2011 campaign where he only scored 27 points. Campbell has seemed to find a new home in Florida as he’s on pace to hit 53 points this season which of course would be a career high for him. While his plus/minus rating went from a +28 to a -10 rating his points have jumped up by 24. Part of the reason for the jump in points is that he plays a major role in the Panthers power-play with an average of over 4 minutes per game and leads the Panthers in overall ice time this season.
Brian Elliott, Goaltender, St. Louis Blues
Out of the all the players listed here, Brian Elliott was without a doubt the biggest surprise of all. When the Blues signed Elliott to a contract this summer, he was basically there to challenge Ben Bishop for the Blues backup goaltending role. He ended last season with a lackuster tenure in Colorado where he had a 2-8 record and a 3.83 GAA. Of course Elliott not only ended up winning the backup role but he also earned himself a two year contract extension because of the amazing season he’s had. Elliott is basically sharing the starters role with Jaroslav Halak in St. Louis. He’s appeared in 36 games so far and leads the league in all major goaltending categories including GAA with 1.48, save percentage with .943, and 9 shutouts. To top it all off, he hasn’t allowed a single goal in his last three starts. It will be interesting to see who the Blues end up starting in net once the playoffs start next week. Regardless, Elliott is only 26 years old and his best years could still be ahead of him. With his strong play this year he’ll easily be a top goaltending pick come next fall’s fantasy drafts.