Fantasy Hockey: NHL Trade Deadline Targets

Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek
New York Islanders left wing Thomas Vanek Brad Penner USA TODAY Sports

The NHL regular season has less than one-third of its games left and the real NHL trade deadline is just over a week away. This is a busy time of season for NHL teams and it should be as well for fantasy owners.

How a player will do with a new team after a trade with 20-25 games left in the season is not easy to predict. There are instances like Marian Hossa in 2008 and Jason Pominville in 2013 where the transition was smooth and the player produced. There are other instances where the benefits aren’t reaped immediately, like the 2011 trade that saw Pittsburgh’s Alex Goligoski go to Dallas in exchange for James Neal and Matt Niskanen. There are some trades that are just bad fits and never work out like when Kris Versteeg was traded from Toronto to Philadelphia in 2011. How players will work out in such a short adjustment period is very up in the air.

When it comes to fantasy hockey, much of the same applies. Fantasy owners have the luxury of not having a multi-million dollar franchise at risk, though.

There are some players that are most likely on the move before the official NHL trade deadline and new surroundings could be exactly what is needed to put your fantasy team over the top. A handful of roto points back of first place? Struggling to make the playoffs in head to head leagues? Sitting back is not an option anymore with so little time left. Here are four specific players to target, their possible landing spots, and which categories they can help fantasy owners.

Thomas Vanek – New York Islanders (LW/RW)

  • Helps in: goals, assists, power play points, shots on goal
  • Possible destinations: Los Angeles, St. Louis, Vancouver

Vanek is about as good as gone from the Islanders and has been ever since he refused to sign a contract extension with them. It wasn’t a small sum of money that he rejected, either. It’s possible that the Islanders trade him within the Eastern Conference, too, especially considering he’s a free agent after this year and the team is not in the playoff race anymore.

Vanek’s landing spot will have as much to do with potential production as his individual talent level. He’s truly an elite goal scorer, but Jeff Carter was traded to Los Angeles at the deadline back in 2012 and he managed just nine points in 16 regular season games with L.A. If he were to go to St. Louis, on the other hand, it’s a different story.

Fantasy owners with an interest in Vanek would do well to make a trade for him now before he gets moved in real life. The Islanders have a soft schedule leading to the trade deadline – Toronto, New Jersey, Florida, Winnipeg – so he might not be a waste for the first few games as expected with the injury to John Tavares. I would especially be bullish on him in if I were among the leaders in head to head leagues where those first few games really don’t matter.

Ryan Miller – Buffalo Sabres (G)

  • Helps in: wins, save percentage, goals against average
  • Possible destinations: Minnesota, Winnipeg

Ryan Miller has proven himself to be one of the top goaltenders on the planet for years on end now but his run in Buffalo has essentially come to an end. The Sabres are years away from being a contender and with Miller turning 34-years-old this summer, it makes no sense for them to keep him around at probably $7 million a season for the next several years.

Don’t let some of Miller’s numbers be misleading; he is one of three goalies with 200 starts and a save percentage of at least .920 since 2009 (Lundqvist, Rinne). On the right team, Miller can be a top five fantasy goalie for the rest of the season.

In fantasy leagues, it’ll cost a pretty penny to acquire Miller but if goaltending is a necessity to make a run, then he’s worth it. Opportunities to acquire an impactful goaltender at this point of the season are pretty much non-existent, so any team requiring goaltending should be ready to pay a top-10 defenseman or top-25 forward in return.

Ryan Callahan – New York Rangers (RW)

  • Helps in: Goals, shots, hits, blocked shots
  • Possible destinations: Minnesota, Dallas, Washington

Callahan has had issues with injuries this year but he’s been mostly the player he’s always been with two exceptions; penalty minutes don’t come often for him anymore and he’s averaging his fewest shots on goal per game since 2008. But even without the real-time stats like hits and blocked shots, Callahan is a top-100 fantasy player.

Callahan’s value comes from usage; he’s taking about a shot less per game than last year because he’s getting three and a half minutes less of ice time than he did in 2013. New York has enough depth up front now to roll three lines comfortably and that means less time for Callahan. If he lands somewhere like Minnesota or Dallas, where the top two lines are more relied upon, then he could easily see his return to fantasy form of last year.

The Rangers have a lot of contracts coming up that need signing and that’s why Callahan could be on his way out the door. Trading for him in a fantasy league represents a gamble because it’s not often teams trade their captain at the deadline. His value in fantasy is low right now so acquiring him is a risk that is very well worth it.

Mike Cammalleri – Calgary Flames (RW)

  • Helps in: Goals, power play points, shots on goal
  • Possible destinations: Pittsburgh, Anaheim, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles

Cammalleri is a player who consistently produces but never seems to get the respect he deserves. Since the start of the lockout-shortened season, Cammalleri has the same goal/game pace as guys like Eric Staal, Matt Moulson, Jarome Iginla, and David Perron. With his contract expiring and Calgary in a full rebuild mode, he’s as good as gone.

Pittsburgh would be an ideal landing spot for him as the Penguins have been looking for another winger for Sidney Crosby ever since Pascal Dupuis’ season-ending injury. They don’t have the deadline cap space to acquire him just for a prospect, so they might have to pay a bit extra in terms of prospects or draft picks to make Calgary take on a salary in return but he could be seen as a great fit there.

No matter where Cammalleri lands, his value gets an immediate boost because it’s likely to a playoff contender and it’s been his plus-minus that has killed his value all season. Judging by his ownership rates across a couple different sites, he may just flat out be available on the waiver wire. In head to head leagues, he’s a solid bench stash for a playoff run.

These are four names that are on the NHL trading block and except for Callahan, all are extremely likely to find new homes within the next seven or eight days. The time to acquire them is now, not when they are traded in real life.

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Michael Clifford
Michael Clifford was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada and is a graduate of the Unviersity of New Brunswick. He writes about fantasy hockey and baseball for XNSports and He can be reached on Twitter @SlimCliffy for any fantasy hockey questions. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');