Commentary

Open Ice: Don't give up on Forsberg yet

Updated: February 22, 2008, 5:30 PM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

It's quiet. Too quiet. The NHL trade deadline certainly has some major action in store for us on Tuesday, but outside of the Carolina/Ottawa deal, things have been pretty slow. Jaroslav Modry going to Philly is pretty boring -- I have been angry with him since he didn't take full advantage of being the No. 1 defenseman in Atlanta two seasons ago. Jim Vandermeer then being flipped to Calgary does even less for me.

Nonetheless, the NHL deadline never fails to disappoint. If there isn't a blockbuster, the day tends to make up for itself with a flurry of activity. I'll be sitting on pins and needles waiting to pounce on whoever benefits most, and I'll have a full report for you after the trade deadline, in lieu of next week's Grand Theft Roto.

In the meantime, here are a few guys to pounce on now.

Pick 'em up

Peter Forsberg, C, free agent: Why not? I know the word on all fronts is that Foppa is done for this season, but you've held on this long, so why bail out with just a few days to go? Pick him back up until Tuesday comes and goes. Forsberg offered some hope, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, when he told a newspaper in Sweden that there is still time for a final decision.

Kevin Bieksa, D, Canucks: I am not a big fan of Bieksa, and haven't shown him a lot of faith in the past as a fantasy asset. He certainly showed me up last season with a 42-point, 132-penalty minute campaign. You can't argue with those numbers. Back in the lineup for the first time since November, he has been paired with the defensively superior Alex Edler in what should be a beneficial relationship for both players. It's safe to say that no one has stepped up offensively in his absence; no Canucks' defenseman has more than 20 points entering play Thursday.

[+] EnlargeTim Connolly
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesThe Sabres should get more mileage out of Tim Connolly the rest of the season.
Tim Connolly, C, Sabres: The Sabres are going to need Connolly back in action on a regular basis if they wish to continue their push to the postseason. As heroic as Thomas Vanek has been, he can't do it all himself. Connolly is on a rolling rest basis, missing games regularly to rest his hip, but he has been playing more and more lately. After resting in Thursday's contest against Toronto, he could be back with more consistency as the next back-to-back Buffalo games are March 4 and 5. Playing with Vanek and Derek Roy of late, Connolly and his linemates are being leaned on to lead the Sabres. If Vanek's recent hot streak is any indication, they are going to get the job done.

Philippe Boucher, D, Stars: On track to return to the team by the end of the month, Boucher is definitely coming back to a changed landscape. Entering the season, he was expected to be the big gun on the Stars' blue line. Since going under the knife in December though, players like Matt Niskanen and Stephane Robidas have staked their claim to an expanded role. So whether Boucher contributes right away is in question, but with a booming shot and loads of experience on the power play, I think picking him up is a risk you should take.

Jonathan Ericsson and Derek Meech, D, Red Wings: Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski are all hurt, which means prospects like Meech and the recently recalled Ericsson will get some chances. Meech played the most power-play time in Lidstrom's absence on Sunday, but with Ericsson (a more highly regarded prospect) being added to the roster, that could change. Meech is more mobile and has more offensive prowess, but Ericsson projects as an all-around defender. It really could go either way as to who benefits the most. This whole process could be short-lived, but if Rafalski or Kronwall are delayed in returning to game shape, one of these defenders could put up some lofty numbers for a week or two.

Jimmy Howard, G, Red Wings: Speaking of the Red Wings' injury woes, Dominik Hasek continues to struggle with a hip flexor. As valuable as he has been, the Dominator is still 43 years old and his prompt return is anything but guaranteed. Chris Osgood's smoke-and-mirrors act is starting to wear thin and it's no stretch to pin his four losses this month squarely on him. A 3.47 goals-against average and .843 save percentage in February is just downright ugly. Then there is Howard. He is actually the Detroit goaltender I favored coming into this season. He is Detroit's best prospect and the future between the pipes at Joe Louis Arena. Although he is still without a win, his numbers in three appearances since Hasek was hurt are impressive. He has stopped 57 of the 60 shots he has faced in what works out to be a little over two games worth of minutes. I'll wager that we will start seeing a lot more of Howard if Hasek is delayed in his return. Bottom line: I just don't see Osgood being a contributor in fantasy anymore, regardless of how things play out.

James Wisniewski, D, Blackhawks: His recent explosion in the points department should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his career. Scoring 70 points in a 50-game season with the OHL's Plymouth Whalers in 2003-04 is just the highlight of his development. Wisniewski also contributed strong offense at the World Juniors on Team USA in 2002-03 and 2003-04. He starts plays well and is a smart passer, which should help his production during his NHL career. He is among a logjam of young talent on defense for Chicago, but has shown he can rise above his colleagues at times (evidenced by his recent six-points-in-four-games burst).

If you're hardcore

Dave Bolland, C, Blackhawks: With the recently reconverted-to-forward Dustin Byfuglien and the quick Rene Bourque as linemates, Bolland appears to be embracing the third-line center role that became vacant with the loss of Yanic Perreault. A former 130-point performer with the London Knights, his 10 points in 23 games are impressive this season, considering the junk ice time he has received as a fourth-liner until recently. Bolland is as dynamic as they come and with close to 15 minutes of ice time per game that he has been receiving lately, he is going to start putting up numbers.

Darren McCarty, RW, Griffins: Currently not signed by Detroit, but playing for their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, McCarty put up some very fantasy-friendly seasons as a Red Wing in the past. After two ineffective seasons with Calgary, he started this season in the IHL and then moved to the AHL, and as reported by ESPN.com's Damien Cox, he is now expected to be signed by Tuesday's trade deadline. McCarty is way past his prime, but that prime came while he was wearing a Red Wings' jersey. McCarty's best seasons would put Daniel Carcillo and Sean Avery to shame, but I wouldn't expect anything close to that. The AHL is no cakewalk though, and McCarty has seven points in six games since his debut earlier this month, including a hat trick. He is unlikely to make an impact on fantasy leagues, but check to see how coach Mike Babcock uses him.

Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can Email him here.

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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