Commentary

Thin Blue Line: Trade deadline fallout

Updated: March 1, 2012, 5:05 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

A bit of a ho-hum closing to the NHL trade window, wasn't it? After all that fuss and the likes of Sheldon Souray, Dennis Wideman and Lubomir Visnovsky remain exactly where they were a week ago. No matter; a few fantasy-relevant defensemen were moved and those transactions deserve some attention.

The Jeff Carter experiment may have been a dismal failure, but at least the Columbus Blue Jackets now have Jack Johnson to show for all their troubles. Obtained in the deal sending Carter to the Los Angeles Kings, Johnson should serve as a pleasant compliment to fellow puck-moving defenseman James Wisniewski. At even-strength and with the man advantage, this duo could do some serious damage if there's any chemistry, particularly on a top power-play unit with Derick Brassard, R.J. Umberger, and -- whether he likes being stuck in Columbus or not -- Rick Nash. Plus, playing for a team dead last in the league, the pressure's off. That's when the points really start to add up. (Injury note: Listed as day-today, Wisniewski is apparently just a bit banged up. He shouldn't miss much time, if any.)

Top 75 Defensemen

Note: Victoria Matiash's top 75 defensemen 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. Erik Karlsson, Ott (3)
2. Zdeno Chara, Bos (1)
3. Dan Boyle, SJ (2)
4. Shea Weber, Nsh (4)
5. Brian Campbell, Fla (5)
6. Dustin Byfuglien, Win (7)
7. Ryan Suter, Nsh (10)
8. Alexander Edler, Van (8)
9. Kris Letang, Pit (6)
10. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (9)
11. Keith Yandle, Pho (12)
12. Drew Doughty, LA (11)
13. Dion Phaneuf, Tor (13)
14. Duncan Keith, Chi (14)
15. P.K. Subban, Mon (15)
16. Alex Goligoski, Dal (18)
17. Tobias Enstrom, Win (16)
18. Lubomir Visnovsky, Ana (17)
19. Alex Pietrangelo, StL (22)
20. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (19)
21. Ian White, Det (21)
22. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (24)
23. James Wisniewski, Cls (25)
24. Dennis Wideman, Was (23)
25. Kevin Shattenkirk, StL (31)
26. Mark Streit, NYI (20)
27. Jack Johnson, Cls (26)
28. Brent Burns, SJ (27)
29. Mark Giordano, Cgy (28)
30. Sergei Gonchar, Ott (29)
31. Sheldon Souray , Dal (33)
32. Kevin Bieksa, Van (30)
33. Niklas Kronwall, Det (36)
34. Matt Carle, Phi (34)
35. Tyler Myers, Buf (35)
36. Erik Johnson, Col (37)
37. Marek Zidlicky, NJ (43)
38. John-Michael Liles, Tor (32)
39. Christian Ehrhoff, Buf (38)
40. Dennis Seidenberg, Bos (39)
41. Jason Garrison, Fla (42)
42. Ryan Whitney, Edm (45)
43. Mike Green, Was (46)
44. Brent Seabrook, Chi (40)
45. Tomas Kaberle, Mon (41)
46. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (44)
47. John Carlson, Was (51)
48. Filip Kuba, Ott (58)
49. Dan Hamhuis, Van (49)
50. Joe Corvo, Bos (48)
51. Corey Potter, Edm (53)
52. Cody Franson, Tor (52)
53. Dan Girardi, NYR (55)
54. Zach Bogosian, Win (57)
55. Kurtis Foster, Min (60)
56. Jake Gardiner, Tor (56)
57. Fedor Tyutin, Cls (47)
58. Nick Leddy, Chi (54)
59. Cam Fowler, Ana (61)
60. Jamie McBain, Car (62)
61. Nikita Nikitin, Cls (59)
62. Stephane Robidas, Dal (63)
63. Sami Salo, Van (64)
64. Andrej Meszaros, Phi (65)
65. Justin Faulk, Car (70)
66. Travis Hamonic, NYI (71)
67. Ryan McDonagh, NYR (66)
68. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJ (67)
69. Tom Gilbert, Min (off)
70. Matt Niskanen, Pit (69)
71. Slava Voynov, LA (off)
72. Joni Pitkanen, Car (50)
73. Jared Spurgeon, Min (72)
74. Paul Martin, Pit (74)
75. Anton Stralman, NYR (75)

Consequently, Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin lose a bit of fantasy value with Johnson's addition. Tyutin more than Nikitin. There's only so much power-play time to go around.

Back in L.A., young Slava Voynov moves into the Top 75 ranks. The Kings felt they were able to deal Johnson because of players like the 22-year-old Voynov, Willie Mitchell and Alec Martinez. Voynov, in particular, could be a very pleasant surprise in the final weeks of the season.

From the point of view of potential production, the Minnesota Wild has a brand, spankin' new blue line. Acquired from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Marek Zidlicky (finally), Kurtis Foster re-joins the organization where he first showed promise by virtue of his shot from the point with the man-advantage. Unsurprisingly, Foster made his Wild return on the top power-play unit, along with fellow newbie Tom Gilbert (snagged in a deal with the Edmonton Oilers). Once these two get comfortable, they could put up some respectable numbers, especially Foster, even though he won't rack up a lot of on-ice minutes. Virtually unowned in ESPN leagues, either could be worth a look in deeper leagues.

Fortunately for Jared Spurgeon and his fantasy owners, the sophomore doesn't lose much value following the change in Wild personnel. Spurgeon will still garner his fair share of opportunities with the extra skater. With five assists in his past seven games, Spurgeon certainly merits those chances.

As alluded to above, Zidlicky finally got his wish and was dealt to the Devils, a presumed team of his own choosing. So no more excuses. Considering his resume and skill set, Zidlicky should have little issue contributing on a top power-play unit that includes the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Patrik Elias. Being paired with the hulking Anton Volchenkov won't hurt his even-strength scoring chances either. We expect a strong finish to the season from the 35-year-old veteran.

A few other blue-line bodies moved ahead of the trade deadline, but with minimal fantasy impact. Marc-Andre Gragnani joins a Vancouver Canucks' defensive corps already stacked with experienced talent, while Grant Clitsome faces an uphill battle in his fight to earn a spot in the lineup for the Winnipeg Jets. And former Winnipeg D-man Johnny Oduya -- new to the Chicago Blackhawks -- claims he's more of an asset on the penalty kill than with the man advantage. We're not about to argue with him.

Rising and Falling

Joe Corvo, Boston Bruins (down two spots): Snaring Greg Zanon (Minnesota Wild) and Mike Mottau (New York Islanders) just ahead of the trade deadline, the Bruins find themselves spoiled with choices for serviceable defenseman. That doesn't bode well for Corvo, who could find himself occupying the press box instead of the ice unless he proves his value fast. Once Johnny Boychuk recovers from his concussion, coach Claude Julien could opt to sit Corvo instead of Adam McQuaid. Stay tuned.

Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders (up five spots): After sitting out nine games with a busted face, Hamonic made his presence felt in his return for the Islanders, collecting three assists in three games. Hamonic finished the 2010-11 campaign off strong, and the same is expected this time around. Sporting a bright future, this 21-year-old has even greater value in keeper leagues.

John-Michael Liles, Toronto Maple Leafs(down six spots): Apparently John-Michael Liles hasn't felt right since his return from a concussion in early February. That's not speculation; the offensive-defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs said as much himself. And there's plenty of supporting proof in the one-assist-through-14-game pudding. The 31-year-old could snap out of it at any moment, or he may continue to struggle. If you have other worthy options, Liles may be worth shelving for now.

Key injury (and other) notes

Make no mistake, there's good reason to worry about Kris Letang. The Pittsburgh Penguins' star defenseman may have suffered his second concussion of the season in Wednesday's tilt with the Dallas Stars. And the previous one knocked Letang out for nearly two months. Fingers crossed it's not as bad as all that, but the situation needs to be monitored closely. ... Zach Bogosian is due back for the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. ... The return of Joni Pitkanen has been pushed back another couple of weeks, so Justin Faulk and Jamie McBain remain your best (if limited) blue-line fantasy bets with the Carolina Hurricanes. ... Niklas Lidstrom is still listed day-to-day with a sore ankle. His return for Friday remains iffy at best.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst and Rumor Central contributor for ESPN.com.

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