Grand Theft Roto: Giving gifts to get gifts
'Tis the season.
More specifically, 'tis the point in the season when I sit down and look at the number of games played by each team. Now is the time (with teams in about the low-30s in games played) that I always find the most disparity when it comes to some teams having played many more games than others, at least in terms of it making a difference in the cumulative stats. For instance, Anaheim has played 36 games this season and St. Louis has played just 30. That's a good 20 percent more games. It seems that nobody thinks about this in rotisserie leagues. Not that I'd rush out to deal Ryan Getzlaf for Brad Boyes, but if you can turn Chris Kunitz into Keith Tkachuk, it's something to think about.
It's also why new Blues acquisition Andy McDonald is uber-valuable right now. He might end up playing more than 82 games this season. I love the trade to St. Louis for him for other reasons, too. He should return to borderline No. 1-center status promptly.
'Tis also the season to consider whether you were naughty or nice fantasy-wise over the last couple months of the NHL season. If you were naughty, you'll have to keep sending out that lump of coal you drafted, but if you are nice, perhaps you'll be kind enough to deal him for a Red Ryder, carbine-action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock.
In less confusing words, it's time for another look at players to trade away
Shawn Horcoff, C, Oilers: I like Horcoff. I really do. He is a good hockey player who plays hard and deserves to succeed. But his production is a little too much for him. He shouldn't be maintaining a pace as a No. 1 fantasy center. He already has matched his goal totals from last season and is just six shy of his career high. He and Ales Hemsky clearly have good chemistry, and I don't think you'll necessarily get burned if you don't trade him. But I do think you can get more in return now than he will be worth later.
Radim Vrbata, RW, Coyotes: Vrbata is another player I have always liked, but I am thrown off by his success. I was hoping for a 50-point season to spur on his development, but he is on pace for 65 points. This is just a case of a line (Martin Hanzal, Fredrik Sjostrom and Vrbata) having an extended hot streak, but it will cool off. Sell Vrbata now while the getting is good.
Anze Kopitar, C, Kings: There is nothing wrong with the way Kopitar plays. In fact, the only thing that puts him on this list is his location. As a member of the Los Angeles Kings, Kopitar is not going to help your plus/minus. Heck, I'll go one step farther: He is a detriment to your plus/minus. Kopitar had a recent eight-game point streak in which he tallied 12 points -- but was minus-2 during that span. So even when he's doing well, Kopitar is still negative. With the hype surrounding this kid, you should be able to get back another budding superstar in a trade. Just make sure it is for a team that scores more goals than it allows.
Nik Antropov, C, Maple Leafs: I'm going through distinct stages as I deal with Antropov's sudden fantasy glory. At first there was denial. Then there was fear. Then I felt angry. That was followed by a little indigestion. Finally, there was acceptance. That's where we left things off about a month ago when I said that Antropov was doing so well there is no point in trading him because no one else believes it will last. Here we are in late December and Antropov is still a top-25 player. I'm at a new stage now. I call it: the "Are you kidding me?!" stage. You'd have to be crazy to think this will last. I'm actually in a good place with it. We are talking about a 15-goal player who has a previous career high of 18 goals. We are talking about a 20-assist player who has a previous career high of 29 assists. For crying out loud, the points have to come down eventually. Even if he continues to score, an injury is going to cut this thing short; in seven prior NHL seasons, Antropov has averaged 53 games per year. On average, he misses 30 games a season. Maybe this is just another stage of coming to terms with Antropov, but I think it's the most sensible stage I've had yet. I just think he can't keep this up.
Joffrey Lupul, RW, Flyers: I don't care if you start calling me Kevin Lowe for dealing him away too soon, but I'd be trying to find a different home for Lupul. There is not better way to pad your stats than by notching two hat tricks in a week. Take away those six goals and you cut his goal total this season in half. I think Lupul will shine for a little longer, but he is ripe for trading right now. The news has been somewhat encouraging with Simon Gagne, and there is hope he will return sometime in January. The return of Gagne would devastate Lupul's fantasy value, so I am just recommending a trade in order to stay ahead of the curve.
Michael Nylander, C, Capitals: Although I think Alexander Semin is a very good hockey player and Tomas Fleischmann is an intriguing prospect, they don't quite combine to form anything comparable to playing alongsideAlexander Ovechkin. With Nylander out because of a mysterious shoulder injury, rookie Nicklas Backstrom jumped in and manned center next to Ovechkin. He'll probably remain there for, oh, about the next decade or so. Nylander loses serious value from not skating with such a huge impact player. There are still power-play opportunities for Nylander, but a month ago he had both even-strength and power-play lines with Ovechkin. It's time to deal Nylander while the line change is still relatively fresh. The fact that he has a three-game point streak since his injury should help.
Martin Gerber, G, Senators and Tim Thomas, G, Bruins: Goaltenders are usually your best trading chip in any league, and there are bound to be a few teams that need to gamble to win. Unfortunately, they'd be betting on a lame horse by getting either Gerber or Thomas. But that shouldn't stop you from trading either one. I put them together because their situations are so similar, but I'll speak about each net-minder separately. With Gerber, we know exactly, and I mean exactly, how Ottawa's goaltending will play out. Ray Emery will continue to work his way back from an injury slowly, and as soon as he has one solid outing back and Gerber has a bad one, Emery will win the job back. It's painfully clear how much Ottawa wants Emery to be the No. 1 in net, and kudos to Gerber for staving him off this long, but his time is done. He should still net something in a trade right now, as his aggregate numbers look solid. With Thomas, it's simple math: He can never have as much value as he had before getting injured because Alex Auld has, at the very least, forced a 60/40 timeshare. Auld, like Thomas before him, benefits from what I see as a superior Boston defense that minimizes "scoring chances" as opposed to shots. Neither are great goaltenders, but both have shown the ability to thrive in Boston, and I don't see good value for one unless the other is injured.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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