Commentary

Front Line: Trade deadline talk

Updated: February 21, 2012, 2:48 PM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

With the NHL's trade deadline less than one week away, the dominoes have already started to fall. The following week tends to result in several value swings to take advantage of in your fantasy hockey league. Third-line underachievers will move to fill depth-chart vacancies and struggling stars will get a boost with a change of scenery. It is a fool's errand to look too far ahead of the actual deals taking place because there are so many factors at play. But that doesn't mean we can't have a look at some of the most talked-about names that would have an impact if they trade jerseys during the next week.

[+] EnlargeRick Nash
Dave Sandford/Getty ImagesRick Nash's scoring is slightly down from seasons past, and his plus/minus rating is at its lowest since his first couple of seasons in the league.

Rick Nash or Jeff Carter, Columbus Blue Jackets: The most discussed topic has been whether the Blue Jackets will part ways with either or both of their franchise forwards. Nash will be difficult to part with, as he's been the face of the franchise for nearly a decade, but he would net the Blue Jackets a lot more in return than Carter. In his first year with the club, the former shooting and scoring star has struggled mightily and dealt with a rash of injuries. Still, the bloom is not completely off the Carter rose. If Nash were to be traded to a team with a superstar playmaker, the potential increase to his value is near exponential. Nash has never played with a top-tier NHL passer in his prime. Never. Yet he has still taken home the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league's top goal scorer, and he's scored at least 30 goals in six of the past seven seasons. One only has to look at his international play (53 points in 54 games) to see the kind of scoring he brings to the table with rock-star linemates. Carter, for that matter, would also see a boost with a new jersey because he is a scorer first and doesn't have the kind of playmaking linemate he needs with the Blue Jackets, either. The much-discussed reunion scenario with Mike Richards and the Los Angeles Kings would be a perfect way to see his fantasy value rise. In the absence of Carter and/or Nash on the Blue Jackets depth chart, look for Ryan Johansen to possibly have some value for the remainder of the season. If the team commits to a full rebuild, he will be the new face of the franchise and would benefit from top minutes at his natural center position.

Derek Roy, Buffalo Sabres: The very fact that Roy is being showcased on the top line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville after being buried on the depth chart all season lends much credence to the rumors about his departure. Roy is a playmaking center who must have done something to anger coach Lindy Ruff this season. After Roy notched at least 40 assists and 20 goals for four straight seasons, an injury limited his production last season, and his depth-chart assignment has killed his value this season. Ruff has kept Roy away from Pominville and Vanek most of the season, preferring to play him with Ville Leino and Drew Stafford. His numbers are way down as a result. A trade to a contender with a scoring winger to pass to would mean that Roy has a serious chance of redemption. If there is one player to add to your roster in advance of the deadline, Roy would be that pick. He is available in 28 percent of ESPN leagues.

Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers: Until he was pushed down the depth chart this season by the emergence of the Oilers' young first-round picks, Hemsky was a consistent point-per-game star when healthy. Of course, his "when healthy" qualifier has meant a lot more than it does for other players. A slew of injuries have limited Hemsky to 47 games last season and 22 games the previous season. That doesn't change the fact that he has superstar potential when he is on the ice. Before he became a second-line player this season, Hemsky averaged 0.92 points per game during the six previous seasons (331 points in 360 games). This guy can be a star in the right situation. The Oilers absolutely do not need him getting just 25 points in 45 games on the second line. Currently available in 75 percent of ESPN leagues, he makes a decent second choice if Roy is not available.

Andrei Kostitsyn, Montreal Canadiens: The bane of any fantasy owner who has watched him play when he is switched on, Kostitsyn and his rarely shown skills might find a new home this season. He has been a regular visitor to the Canadiens' doghouse, regardless of the coach, and really hasn't done much to warrant any consideration for your fantasy roster. That said, of the names being discussed as likely trade bait, Kostitsyn has loads of raw skill. If a change of scenery is all that is needed to draw out some of that talent, he is at least worth keeping an eye on. There are plenty of teams that lack the depth for a talented top six and could use his services. If he happens to end up in a good place, we might finally see some production.

Top 100 Forwards

Note: Sean Allen's top 100 forwards are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Evgeni Malkin, Pit (1)
2. Steven Stamkos, TB (2)
3. Daniel Sedin, Van (3)
4. Henrik Sedin, Van (4)
5. Claude Giroux, Phi (5)
6. Pavel Datsyuk, Det (6)
7. Marian Hossa, Chi (7)
8. Patrick Sharp, Chi (8)
9. Ilya Kovalchuk, NJ (9)
10. James Neal, Pit (10)
11. Scott Hartnell, Phi (12)
12. Corey Perry, Ana (13)
13. Phil Kessel, Tor (11)
14. Alex Ovechkin, Was (14)
15. Ryan Kesler, Van (15)
16. Jonathan Toews, Chi (19)
17. Zach Parise, NJ (16)
18. Anze Kopitar, LA (18)
19. Jamie Benn, Dal (17)
20. John Tavares, NYI (22)
21. Jason Spezza, Ott (26)
22. Johan Franzen, Det (21)
23. Jarome Iginla, Cgy (23)
24. Martin St. Louis, TB (20)
25. David Backes, StL (24)
26. Patrick Marleau, SJ (28)
27. Teemu Selanne, Ana (25)
28. Joffrey Lupul, Tor (27)
29. Marian Gaborik, NYR (31)
30. Patrick Kane, Chi (29)
31. Joe Pavelski, SJ (30)
32. Alex Burrows, Van (32)
33. Joe Thornton, SJ (40)
34. Eric Staal, Car (33)
35. Brad Marchand, Bos (34)
36. Matt Moulson, NYI (35)
37. Tyler Seguin, Bos (36)
38. Jordan Eberle, Edm (37)
39. Henrik Zetterberg, Det (38)
40. Patrice Bergeron, Bos (39)
41. Dany Heatley, Min (41)
42. Taylor Hall, Edm (42)
43. Logan Couture, SJ (55)
44. Ryan Callahan, NYR (43)
45. Ryan Getzlaf, Ana (44)
46. Kris Versteeg, Fla (45)
47. Milan Lucic, Bos (46)
48. Rick Nash, Cls (47)
49. Thomas Vanek, Buf (52)
50. Bobby Ryan, Ana (48)
51. Radim Vrbata, Pho (57)
52. David Krejci, Bos (51)
53. Alexander Semin, Was (53)
54. Patrik Elias, NJ (54)
55. Jason Pominville, Buf (59)
56. Mikko Koivu, Min (56)
57. Vincent Lecavalier, TB (49)
58. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edm (63)
59. Adam Henrique, NJ (67)
60. Brad Richards, NYR (58)
61. Jeff Skinner, Car (50)
62. Jeff Carter, Cls (60)
63. Tomas Fleischmann, Fla (61)
64. Justin Williams, LA (62)
65. Jaromir Jagr, Phi (64)
66. T.J. Oshie, StL (72)
67. Gabriel Landeskog, Col (74)
68. Olli Jokinen, Cgy (65)
69. Max Pacioretty, Mon (66)
70. Martin Erat, Nsh (68)
71. Chris Kunitz, Pit (69)
72. Erik Cole, Mon (70)
73. Stephen Weiss, Fla (73)
74. Ray Whitney, Pho (79)
75. Mike Ribeiro, Dal (78)
76. Tomas Plekanec, Mon (75)
77. Danny Briere, Phi (76)
78. Loui Eriksson, Dal (77)
79. Andy McDonald, StL (89)
80. Sam Gagner, Edm (80)
81. Ryan O'Reilly, Col (81)
82. Mikhail Grabovski, Tor (71)
83. Shane Doan, Pho (82)
84. Wayne Simmonds, Phi (92)
85. David Perron, StL (83)
86. P.A. Parenteau, NYI (93)
87. Dustin Brown, LA (84)
88. Alex Tanguay, Cgy (85)
89. David Booth, Van (95)
90. Derek Stepan, NYR (100)
91. Daniel Alfredsson, Ott (86)
92. Teddy Purcell, TB (96)
93. Blake Wheeler, Wpg (NR)
94. Paul Stastny, Col (88)
95. Jordan Staal, Pit (NR)
96. Steve Downie, TB (94)
97. Mike Fisher, Nsh (90)
98. Ryane Clowe, SJ (97)
99. Evander Kane, Wpg (NR)
100. David Clarkson, NJ (NR)

Rising and Falling

Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins (enters at No. 95): Back from a knee injury with no looming threat of Sidney Crosby pushing him down to the third line, Staal is going to be in business for the rest of the season. He already has four goals and two assists in five games since his return. On the second line with Steve Sullivan and Pascal Dupuis, Staal can concentrate on scoring some goals as well as preventing them. He also joins the top power-play unit with Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Sullivan.

Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets (enters at No. 93): When everyone is healthy, this Jets lineup is a huge threat. After going through separate stretches without Bryan Little and Evander Kane, the team has all of its top scoring threats back on the ice. The three-game win streak it takes into Tuesday's tilt is impressive. Of the 13 goals scored during those games, forwards on the top two lines have scored 12 of them. That is exactly the kind of fantasy scoring we like to see. Wheeler has the most fantasy allure of the bunch, with one goal and seven assists during the streak (that means he assisted on more than half of the goals during the past three games). Kane is the other scoring monster on the second line. Since both are owned in nearly 100 percent of ESPN leagues, consider Little a target. Available in 51 percent of leagues, Little has two straight two-goal games.

Derek Stepan, New York Rangers (up 10 spots): Stepan has quietly upped his plus/minus to star level at plus-23 and is consistently the fourth forward chosen by coach John Tortorella to join the Rangers power play. He lines up at even strength on the top line with Marian Gaborik and is on pace for a solid, if unspectacular, 55 points. With Stepan approaching universal ownership in ESPN leagues, you can check out the poor man's version of Stepan in linemate Artem Anisimov. Anisimov is a plus-13 and is on pace for 42 points. He doesn't come with the power-play potential of Stepan but is available in 92 percent of ESPN leagues.

Scoring Lines

Jason Blake, Anaheim Ducks: Who knows if it is going to last long -- since no change on the Ducks depth chart seems to last long -- but Blake is riding shotgun with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf of late. He has only one assist in three games with the role, but you know the potential for points in that situation. Blake is a fantasy bummer overall, but anything is worth looking at on Ducks team that isn't producing the fantasy stars it used to. Only Perry has more shots on goal among the forward ranks than Blake during the past week.

Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche: Duchene rejoined the Avalanche this past weekend after a long absence with a knee injury and immediately was back on a line with Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk. Unfortunately, the team was trumped by a red-hot Jets squad, and Duchene finished with zeros across the board. It's not clear if opponents will target Duchene's line as the top line or put the focus on the more productive duo of Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly. Duchene's third-year slump means he has a long way to go to fantasy relevance again, but after scoring 55 and 67 points in his first two seasons, we can't just ignore his return. Keep a close eye on the Avs' scoring and power-play time during the coming week. Duchene is available in 32 percent of ESPN leagues, but if he continues to be the same player who has 24 points in 40 games this season, that ownership level will prove to be too high as it is.

Devin Setoguchi, Minnesota Wild: This is a tricky situation because Mikko Koivu is injured again, but it's notable that during the four games between Feb. 9 and Feb. 16 when Koivu was healthy, Setoguchi had four goals and six points. When playing on the top line with Koivu and Dany Heatley, Setoguchi is going to be fantasy relevant. The problem is that Koivu can't stay on the ice lately. With no word on what is ailing Koivu, it might not be time to run out and get Setoguchi into your lineup (available in 52 percent of ESPN leagues). When we get word on when Koivu will return, it will be time to revisit that question. If Koivu is back in short order, Setoguchi makes a great target.

Power Plays

Dave Bolland, Chicago Blackhawks: While it looked like Bolland's run of usefulness in fantasy leagues came to an end with the return of Patrick Sharp from a wrist injury, Bolland seems to have found a way to assert himself offensively. The Hawks have been rolling a first power-play unit that includes Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Sharp and Bolland. Before you get too excited, consider that the Hawks are 0-for-27 on the power play dating back 10 games. Bolland scored the team's last power-play goal on Jan. 24 against the Nashville Predators. It is still worth noting that Bolland has a current role on the man advantage if the Blackhawks can find a groove on the power play again.

Quick Hits

• After getting a call-up to the Carolina Hurricanes from the AHL, Jerome Samson found himself skating next to Eric Staal. He is filling in for Tuomo Ruutu (who also might get traded at the deadline). Samson has one assist in four games but does have some offensive talent, as evidenced by his 31 points in 41 games with the Charlotte Checkers this season.

• With Peter Mueller on the shelf with a torso injury, Mark Olver joins Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly on what is arguably the Colorado Avalanche's top line. Olver has two points in two games in the top six.

• The New York Islanders decided to go with what works and demoted Kyle Okposo to the second line, reuniting P.A. Parenteau with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. Okposo holds very little fantasy interest on the second line.

• Noted in this space last week, Bobby Butler continues to score on the Ottawa Senators' top line. In three games since he was mentioned here last week, Butler has three points and a plus-5 skating with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can send him a note here or tweet him @seanard with the hashtag #FantasyHockey for a timelier response.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He was the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hockey Writer of the Year. You can tweet him @seanard.

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