What a difference a year makes.
I don’t know about you, but this fantasy season, I certainly have my fair share of top scorers having “off” years. From keepers like Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf, to traditionally solid point producers like Rene Bourque and Brooks Laich, it’s no wonder I’m clinging onto the 8th and final playoff spot, after finishing as the league’s runner-up just 10 months ago.
For some of those underachievers this season, maybe a deal at the trade deadline would do just the trick to kick start their scoring for the stretch drive. A new team won’t always guarantee dividends, but hey, in most cases, it’s worth a shot. And hopefully a goal or two.
Here’s a look at five players from around the league having subpar years whose fantasy stock could rise with a change of scenery.
1. Jeff Carter, Columbus Blue Jackets (33 GP, 12 G, 7 A, 19 PTS)
Columbus’s big off-season acquisition has been a huge bust so far, with the oft-injured Carter finding his offensive game stifled on the cellar-dwelling (straight) Jackets this season. But Carter appears healthy now, at least for the time being, and he’s capable of scoring goals in bunches on a quality team. Of course, when you’re talking Carter, you’re talking about his contract; He’s locked in at over $5 million per year until the 22nd century. But if some team takes a flyer on him by the trade deadline, expect his stock to skyrocket.
2. Brandon Dubinsky, New York Rangers (49 GP, 6 G, 16 A, 22 PTS)
The Rangers leader in goals (24), assists (30) and points (54) last season, signed a 4-year, $16.8 million deal with New York in the off-season. Now, the 25-year-old Dubinsky finds himself relegated to third and fourth line duty this season under Head Coach John Tortorella, having scored just one goal in his last 10 games. Were it not for his PIMs and decent plus-minus, Dubinsky would be considered useless in most fantasy leagues. So perhaps the Rangers, who are tops in the East and poised to make a Cup run come April, would consider moving Dubinsky for a top flight defenceman who could quarterback the struggling powerplay. A guy like …
3. Lubomir Visnovsky, Anaheim Ducks (40 GP, 5 G, 16 A, 21 PTS)
While much of the trade speculation in Orange County has centered around superstar forwards like Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, but the 35-year-old Visnovsky is in all likelihood the biggest name to get shipped out of Anaheim come February 27. With Visnovsky still having one year remaining on his contract after this season, Ducks GM Bob Murray has gone on the record as saying that he won’t treat his star defenceman as a rental player, and that he wants value in return. No question Dubinsky would fit the bill, who, in turn, would immediately be given the opportunity to play on one of the Ducks top lines. And Visnovsky, who led all NHL defencemen with 68 points just one year ago, would most likely return to a near point-per-game pace in the Big Apple.
4. Mike Knuble, Washington Capitals (53 GP, 3 G, 11 A, 14 PTS)
It looks like it’s the end of the road for Knuble in Washington. The 39-year-old forward was a healthy scratch on Thursday night for the first time this season, after Head Coach Dale Hunter elected to bench his slumping scorer for not producing a single goal in the Caps last 27 games. Talk about ice cold. But Knuble comes cheap, and is a UFA next year, so there’s no real risk for NHL teams looking to acquire some veteran leadership and (hopefully) scoring down the stretch. It might just be that the 15-year veteran is washed up. But considering he’s scored 20-plus goals in each of the previous eight seasons, he might still be able to produce some decent fantasy points over the final months if he lands in the right place.
5. Dustin Penner, Los Angeles Kings (43 GP, 5 G, 8 A, 13 PTS)
Last year’s “prize” of the trade deadline has flat out stunk since joining the Kings, managing only seven goals in 62 games with Los Angeles. Surprisingly, Penner is still owned by 14 per cent of fantasy GM’s, despite his brutal 514th place ranking in Yahoo! Clearly, a small portion of the fantasy population still think there’s some upside to this pancake-eating winger. And a move out of L.A. might just do the trick, especially when you consider that he’s a UFA after this season and is playing for a contract. But if he keeps this pace up, his next deal with be with a team in the AHL.