Commentary

Fantasy Hockey: New faces in new places

Updated: September 11, 2008, 2:49 PM ET
By Jim Wilkie | Special to ESPN.com

The ice shavings have settled on another busy offseason of player shuffling, and soon the acquisitions will join their new teams in training camp. Here's a look at 10 players who figure to benefit from shifting to new surroundings this season:

Marian Hossa, Detroit Red Wings: Everything points toward an outstanding season for Detroit's prize free agent pickup. Hossa, 29, is still in his prime and could surpass his career highs in goals (45 in 2002-03), assists (57 in '06-07) and points (100 in '06-07) as he joins last season's third-highest scoring team.

He also shed the label of playoff underperformer with 26 points in 20 games for the Penguins before signing a one-year, $7.45 million contract with the Wings. That made up for a down year of 29 goals, 66 points and a minus-14 that can mostly be attributed to playing for the lowly Thrashers.

He's a good two-way player who can handle the puck, so he'll fit in perfectly with the disciplined, puck-control style in Detroit. Hossa could have signed for more money elsewhere, but now he's playing for a Stanley Cup and a bigger contract.

Fantasy-wise the only question surrounding Hossa is do you draft him before or after teammates Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom?

Sean Avery, Dallas Stars: The 5-9, 195-pound agitator takes his mouth south to add another element of grit to the Stars. If he avoids the injuries that limited him to 57 games last season, Avery, 28, should improve upon the 15 goals, 33 points and perhaps the 154 penalty minutes he notched with the Rangers in an expanded role with Dallas.

Brian Campbell
Kyle Terada/US PRESSWIREBrian Campbell will try to solidify the Blackhawk defense.
Brian Campbell, Chicago Blackhawks: Sure the Blackhawks overpaid ($57.12 million over eight years) to bring in Campbell, but they needed a puck-moving defenseman who would also help improve a power play that was seventh worst last season.

Traded by the Sabres to the Sharks before the trade deadline, Campbell finished with eight goals, 54 assists, and a plus-8 while averaging 25:07 on the ice. His 62 points were tied for third most by NHL defenseman.

He doesn't have the strongest shot -- and doesn't get a lot of shots on goal -- so Campbell, 29, shouldn't be considered among the elite defensemen in fantasy hockey.

R.J. Umberger, Columbus Blue Jackets: Umberger, 26, goes from third-line center in Philadelphia to the top line in Columbus.

If he can mesh with wingers Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius then he'll produce more along the lines of his playoff pace (10 goals, 15 points, plus-7 in 17 games) than his regular season pace (13 goals, 50 points in 74 games). If he can't, prospect Derick Brassard could take that spot and push Umberger down to the second line.

Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks: The 32-year-old veteran has a lot to prove after he was forced to leave the Lightning. Besides feeling betrayed (he said he was assured he'd be part of Tampa's future before he was suddenly shopped around the league), Boyle will be looking to play a full season after his 2007-08 campaign was cut short because a skate fell off a dressing room hook and severed a tendon in his wrist.

Boyle's home nearly burned down at the start of the 2004 finals but he carried on to help the Lightning beat the Flames in seven games for the Stanley Cup. The guy can focus, and he's zeroing in on helping the Sharks win their first Cup.

Boyle's 27:24 average ice time per game was second most in league behind Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester's 27:28. And Boyle still racked up four goals, and 25 points (14 of which were on the power play) in 37 games. He'll no doubt improve on the minus-29 he had on a lousy Lightning team last season.

Michael Ryder, Boston Bruins: Ryder, 28, goes from Montreal's dog house to a $12 million, three-year contract with Boston. He'll get every opportunity to show he hasn't lost his scoring touch and become a 20- to 30-goal scorer again under Bruins boss Claude Julien, who coached Ryder with the Canadiens, in the AHL and in juniors.

Ryder registered just 14 goals, 31 points and a minus-4 last season, while averaging 13:15 minutes a game in 70 games, when he wasn't riding the bench. He'll be back on one of the top two lines for an improving Boston club and should boost his power-play output that had fallen to 13 points last season after he had 34 and 32 in the previous two years.

[+] EnlargeOlli Jokinen
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty ImageWill the desert rejuvinate Olli Jokinen?
Olli Jokinen, Phoenix Coyotes: In fantasy hockey we don't care much that Jokinen hasn't been on a playoff team in his 10 years in the NHL, as long as he does everything he can to finally get there.

Jokinen, 29, leaves the Panthers after notching a solid, but substandard for him, 34 goals and 71 points in 19:54 average ice time in 82 games last season. Eighteen of his goals came on the power play, but his minus-19 can't be ignored.

The Coyotes want him to provide leadership for their up-and-coming youngsters and Jokinen figures to center the top line between captain Shane Doan and Peter Mueller, who had 54 points as a rookie last season.

Joni Pitkanen, Carolina Hurricanes: Self-confidence remains a question surrounding Pitkanen as he joins his third team in three years. The 'Canes believe he's the puck-carrying defenseman and power-play quarterback they've been looking for.

Pitkanen, 24, notched eight goals, 26 points, minus-5, and 56 penalty minutes while averaging 24:07 of ice time in 63 games with the Oilers last season.

Don't expect a good plus-minus (he was minus-25 two years ago on an awful Flyers team), but his numbers with the man advantage should offset that with a good cast of forwards to feed the puck.

[+] EnlargeErik Cole
Gregg Forwerck/Getty ImagesErik Cole could really have a huge season in Edmonton.
Erik Cole, Edmonton Oilers: A big year is in the making for Cole, who came to the Oilers in the Pitkanen trade with the Hurricanes. Big, strong and quick, Cole should be a good fit on the top line with unselfish center Shawn Horcoff and winger Ales Hemsky, who'd rather pass than shoot.

Should be a nice contract year as Cole, 29, looks to improve on the 22 goals (10 on the PP), 51 points, plus-5 and 76 PIM he had while averaging 19:22 in ice time in 73 games.

Cristobal Huet, Chicago Blackhawks: Don't believe all the nice talk by Chicago brass about a healthy competition between Huet and incumbent Nikolai Khabibulin this season. Huet is No. 1 and Khabibulin, who is in the last year of his contract, will be dealt as soon as another team inevitably faces a goalie crisis and comes calling to Chicago GM Dale Tallon.

Chicago invested $22.4 million over four years to bring Huet from the Capitals and help the Hawks improve from the 11th-worst defense in the league. Huet, 32, was 32-14-6 with a 2.32 goals-against average (10th best in the NHL), .920 save percentage (tied for sixth) and four shutouts with the Caps and Canadiens and will help this team on the rise.

Durability is a concern, however, because Huet has never played more than 42 games in any season (2002-03 and '06-07).

Jim Wilkie is a former NHL editor and NHL Insider writer for ESPN.com.