Grand Theft Roto: Get ahead of curve on potential trades
The NHL is alone among professional sports in having a trade deadline that guarantees excitement and action. In the NFL, trades are rarely exciting, in the NBA they happen all the time and in baseball they are smaller in numbers and nature. Trade deadline day is something that actually gets marketed with success now.
With less than a week until the deadline, I figured I would go through some of the rumored names and look at what impact their absences would have on their teams. It's far too difficult right now to forecast which players might be traded to which team for what, but it is becoming increasingly obvious which players are likely packing their bags. This way you can have your finger on the button whenever a deal goes down. In competitive leagues, you may even want to pick up some of my suggestions ahead of time.
Marian Hossa, RW, Thrashers: The Thrashers are still going to be in the hunt for a playoff berth when the deadline rolls around, but the realist in GM Don Waddell might smell the coffee. The Thrashers, Capitals, Hurricanes, Panthers and Lightning are all either going to be the third seed as winner of the Southeast, or not in the postseason picture. Hossa is not likely to have a contract in place and the Thrashers will have to resign themselves to selling him or possibly watching him walk away at season's end. If Hossa is dealt, fantasy owners get a No. 2 left winger to replace him; Brett Sterling should be in for a promotion and has the experience to excel this time around. He has been in the NHL and knows it now, and a second chance with the big club would mean Atlanta is playing for next season. That would mean Sterling and his goal-scoring prowess would be in line for power-play time.
Brian Campbell, D, Sabres: After watching J.P. Dumont, Mike Grier, Daniel Briere and Chris Drury all walk away when they reached unrestricted free agency, I have a feeling GM Darcy Regier will be four times bitten, and very, very shy. Campbell would leave a gaping No. 1 defenseman hole on the Buffalo blue line. There are two candidates to step into his four minutes of power-play time per game: Nathan Paetsch and Andrej Sekera. Paetsch is the player with more offense, but Sekera has a higher ceiling overall. If Paetsch were to see his role upgraded, he would serve as a No. 3 fantasy defenseman. Sekera gets me less excited right now, and probably doesn't factor into our plans this season. His potential lies in his future plus/minus ratings.
Mats Sundin, C, Maple Leafs: This all comes down to Captain Mats waiving his no-trade clause, which is extraordinarily debatable (according to every media outlet in the greater Toronto area). If Sundin trades in his C and moves on, Kyle Wellwood is going to be a fantasy commodity. Wellwood would likely slide into the top-line center role, between Alex Steen and Nik Antropov. Being accomplished in the realm of fancy stick work and nice tape-to-tape passes, I have no issues with looking at Wellwood as a possible asset, even in shallow leagues.
Nikolai Khabibulin, G, Blackhawks: I have trouble coming up with a team that needs a goaltender so badly that they would swallow his salary for next season as well, but stranger trades have happened. If the Bulin Wall is relocated, the Hawks are waiving the white flag on a terrific season. I can't see Patrick Lalime getting all the work if Chicago is playing for next year. Corey Crawford is the final piece of this young, developing puzzle and may get a chance to get some work in ahead of next season.
Patrick Marleau, C, Sharks: I doubt the Sharks move their captain this week, but you never know and his name won't go away in rumors. Either way, it is as if Marleau has already been dealt, after he hit the injured reserve this week and Mike Iggulden got the call from the AHL. Iggulden is the most talented of San Jose's prospects right now. His ceiling isn't as high as Devin Setoguchi, but Iggulden is ready. He played Monday night on what could be argued as the second line and second power-play unit. If his ice time increases beyond a paltry 6:40, we could see the talent that improved his points-per-game totals with every season in the AHL to a 0.87 mark this season.
Rob Blake, D, Kings: Blake has been out of the lineup since Jan. 31, and a trade out of L.A. would leave things about how they have been for the past 10 games or so. Even though we have a 10-game sample of Blake's absence from the lineup, I still think a trade would open up some mental room for Jack Johnson. The defenseman has seen his ice time go from between 20 and 25 minutes to between 25 and 30 since Blake got hurt, but there still has been little to no offensive output from J.J. despite power-play time. Johnson's future skills are not in doubt, it's just a matter of when, and the loss of Blake could act as a wake-up call. Johnson might get the signal that, "Hey, Blake's not coming back. I'm the leader of this defensive corps now." That might be a lot to ask of a 21-year-old, but Johnson has enough talent to answer the bell.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.