Special to Yahoo Sports
We’ve got a bit of everything in this week’s fantasy hockey trade analyzer, from players to trade away on teams with scary second-half schedules to players to trade for due to a potential move to a better team.
While trading for a player suspected to be on the move in fantasy is a risky endeavor — for the hundreds of trade rumors out there, not many ever seem to come to fruition — the potential benefits can be pretty big. However, even if the trade falls through, you’ve hopefully traded for a player who has already been productive during the season.
Dylan Larkin, C, Red Wings (82% rostered)
Larkin is a on four-game point streak and has been the Wings’ best player this season. Should he avoid injury for the rest of the season, he’s well on his way to setting career highs, partially because he has so many quality wingers to play with. Tyler Bertuzzi‘s return was supposed to give Larkin a small boost, but various injuries have robbed Bertuzzi of his effectiveness this season, bumping him down to the third line. That could’ve been an unfortunate development for Larkin’s fantasy value, but Robby Fabbri has stepped into the top line rather seamlessly, scoring three goals in six games upon his return. Even if Fabbri’s production falls off, Larkin will usually have Lucas Raymond on the other wing, and should Raymond fail to score, there’s always a chance rookie Jonatan Berggren steps in.
The point is, even if it seems unlikely Steve Yzerman will make any moves to bolster Detroit’s playoff hopes since it’s sitting seven points out of the wild card spot, Larkin still has plenty of quality options surrounding him. Larkin should get a slight bump in his fantasy value by virtue of the Wings getting healthy.
Matty Beniers, C, Kraken (58% rostered)
There should be some doubts about the Kraken’s effectiveness. They still don’t defend that well, and their goaltending is good for stretches but also really bad for stretches, which makes them difficult to count on. Similarly, their scoring tends to come and go; despite their recent scoring binge, don’t forget that during December they scored two goals or less seven times in 12 games.
That being said, Beniers has been consistently their No. 1 center since the beginning of the season, and he’s on his way to a 30-30 season with the Calder Trophy very much in his sights. His immediate fantasy value will be muted because center is a deep position, but long term he’s shaping up to be a fantastic keeper option. He’ll be on the top line and PP1 for years to come, and he’s already taking his fair share of the faceoffs despite having Yanni Gourde and Alexander Wennberg on the team, which is a good sign.
A lot of young centers start on the wing to begin their careers and end up staying there, but it definitely won’t be the case for Beniers. For fantasy managers in keeper leagues where the championship is out of reach, Beniers is a very worthwhile target.
Timo Meier, LW/RW, Sharks (99% rostered)
The latest trade buzz has linked Meier and the Rangers, and that would be a very interesting match. For one thing, Meier currently comes with a $6 million cap hit, but his qualifying offer will be $10 million based on his actual salary this season. That means the Rangers will have to move salary out with only $1.2 million in projected cap space, according to capfriendly.com, but naturally, we’re assuming that Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin are not going the other way.
If the Rangers somehow land Meier, he’ll instantly get a fantasy boost for playing on a much better team with premier playmakers. Meier’s already a fantasy stud as one of the league’s best high-volume shooters, capable of topping 300 shots per season easily, but a move next to Panarin might help him become more efficient considering his career shooting percentage (10.3%) has never been particularly high and, in fact, suggests Meier is a high-volume but very average and inefficient shooter.
The Rangers have also been linked to Patrick Kane, and it only just goes to show that the Rangers are looking aggressively at their options. Should Kane elect to remain in Chicago for the rest of the season, which is entirely possible, Meier will be their next target.
Filip Gustavsson, G, Wild (49% rostered)
Gustavsson has been excellent lately, and with another win on Tuesday against the Caps has now won 10 of his past 12 games after starting the season 1-4-1. His play was so good during Marc-Andre Fleury‘s absence that the Wild have continued to start Gustavsson even upon Fleury’s return. Keep in mind that Fleury turned 38 in November, and the Wild will need to be conscious about his playing time if he’s going to be their starter in the playoffs — not to mention that Fleury’s play has also been lackluster at times.
It’s shaping up to be a 1A-1B situation right now with Fleury and Gustavsson alternating starts since the calendar flipped to 2023 and, given their recent success, it’s unlikely that rotation will change. The Wild are a well-coached group with a superstar in Kirill Kaprizov and a cast of very good role players, and if fantasy managers need some goaltending help, Gustavsson could be in line for a lot of work in the second half. He might still be available in some shallow leagues; otherwise, go get him via trade.
Jeff Skinner, LW, Sabres (81% rostered)
He’s one of the streakiest players in the league who either scores in bunches or not at all. After a stretch where Skinner scored 12 goals in 12 games, he’s scored one goal in his past 10. Playing on a line with Tage Thompson helps make it easier for Skinner to collect a point here and there, and Skinner is still on pace for a career season, but note that powerrankingsguru.com and tankathon.com both have the Sabres ranked in the top six for the toughest schedule in the remainder of the season.
They have two games each against the Bruins, Canes, Devils, Lightning and Leafs, and among those teams, Skinner has only scored against the Lightning. Skinner could be easy to peddle in a trade because he’s averaging over a point per game on a high-scoring team, but based on the Sabres’ schedule and his inconsistency, it could be a good time to sell high.
Patrik Laine, LW/RW, Blue Jackets (79% rostered)
In a similar vein, the Blue Jackets also face a tough second half, ranked eighth by powerrankingsguru.com and 12th by tankathon.com for remaining strength of schedule. The vaunted partnership between Laine and Johnny Gaudreau has yet to be fully realized — they’ve scored only one power-play goal combined — and part of that is also because the Jackets still don’t have a stable No. 1 center. Boone Jenner has returned to the lineup, but he’s not the type of playmaker they need.
With 12 goals in 28 games and 38 games remaining, Laine is on pace to finish with just 28 goals and, based on his shoot-first mentality and the quality of the rest of the Jackets’ roster, an avalanche of assists is definitely not coming.
High-volume shooting isn’t as big of a premium anymore with scoring and shooting up across the league, and it reduces Laine’s ability to stand out in fantasy. Still, Laine’s got some name recognition, and he could be dangled in a trade for a more consistent player on a better team who will end up with similar (or better) numbers, such as Boston’s Taylor Hall.