The Front Line: Blues-Sabres swap may spark moves

Tuesday, 03.04.2014 / 12:00 PM
Matt Cubeta  - NHL.com Fantasy Insider

Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy forwards in his weekly segment: "The Front Line." From updated rankings to players you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy forwards insider all season long.

Last week I addressed the NHL Trade Deadline from a fantasy perspective with a three-part series, breaking down players that could be traded and how it affects their fantasy value, plus some buy-low and sell-high fantasy candidates.

Since that time, two relatively fantasy-relevant forwards have been traded: Chris Stewart and Steve Ott.

Prior to the trade, Stewart had been ranked 89th among my forwards. Now a member of the Buffalo Sabres, Stewart slips down to No. 96 in my top-100 forward rankings. Of course moving from one of the best teams in the NHL to the team that scores the fewest goals per game (1.93) is going to hurt his value.

Stewart had been struggling with the Blues and was even demoted to the fourth line, so the fact he's now a top-six forward in Buffalo is the main reason he still remains within the top-100. He's actually ranked 119th among all players in Yahoo leagues, thanks largely in part to his 112 penalty minutes, which is the eighth most in the NHL. But outside of his PIMs value, there hasn't been much reason to own him in fantasy leagues since the new year -- Stewart has just two goals and four points in his past 20 games.

Owned in 49 percent of leagues, stick with Stewart for now to see if he can put up some more points with the Sabres while continuing to provide plenty of penalty minutes. On Monday, he skated on one of the team's top lines with Cody Hodgson and Matt D'Agostini -- he finished with a minus-2 and one shot on goal in 17:25 of ice time. His rating is sure to take a hit and if the points don't start to come within his next four or five games, it may be time to cut ties.

On the other side of things, Ott's fantasy value should increase, but not enough to warrant ownership in standard fantasy leagues. Not yet, anyway. Ott is owned in just 12 percent of Yahoo leagues and has 20 points with a minus-26 rating. However, as I said in my story last week, a trade to a contending team like the Blues could make Ott a solid under-the-radar fantasy player, especially if you need help in the penalty minutes category.

Ott had 55 penalty minutes in 59 games for the Sabres and should continue to play the enforcer-type role in St. Louis. But the big change you'll see in Ott is his plus-minus, which should clearly improve. On Sunday, Ott ended up on a really solid line with T.J. Oshie and Derek Roy, and if he sticks there, you could even get some points. If you're in deep leagues and looking for a reliable source of PIMs with decent enough production everywhere else, then Ott is a player worth grabbing.

I expect to see plenty more forwards on the move in the next 24-plus hours, so be sure to stay tuned on NHL.com/fantasy for all of the latest fantasy news and spins.

TRENDING UPWARD

Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings -- In his first two games since returning from his injury (and since the Olympic break), Franzen has posted three goals and two assists, with two of those points coming on the power play. When Franzen's been able to stay healthy, he's been extremely valuable with 12 goals, 28 points, a plus-10 rating, 34 penalty minutes, 11 power-play points and 86 shots on goal in 33 games. If Franzen, owned in 69 percent of leagues, can avoid injury for the rest of the season, he makes for a great play in fantasy pools.

Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils -- In three games since the Olympic break, Elias has been red-hot with two goals and four assists. Last season Elias was an extremely underrated fantasy commodity who recorded 36 points in 48 games with solid peripheral stats. And this season, he's actually been equally as impressive, if not more productive. Outside of his minus-6 rating, Elias has been fantastic with 39 points in 47 games. His 15 power-play points have also helped his cause and he's available in far too many leagues (48 percent).

Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings -- Welcome back to the top 100, Dustin Brown. Perhaps the Olympic Games did Brown some good as he seems like a different player since returning from Sochi. The Kings captain has recorded at least a point in three of his four games since the Olympics (one goal, three assists) and despite seeing less ice time than he's accustomed to, Brown could end up making for a solid pick-up down the stretch in fantasy leagues. He was dropped in plenty of leagues and his ownership is down to 65 percent, but if you've got the roster room, take a flyer on him. It could pay off.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks -- Hossa will miss 2-3 weeks with an upper-body injury he suffered during Saturday's Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hossa is currently ranked 24th among all players in Yahoo leagues and I had him 16th in last week's forward rankings, but his owners will have to place him on injured reserve until he's back.

Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers -- While 19 goals and 46 points in 61 games doesn't look too bad, the fact he has just one assist and no goals in his past six games isn't helping his owners. Eberle is a streaky player, so keep a lookout for his hot stretch; but right now, you're best off putting him on your bench.

Mike Ribeiro, Phoenix Coyotes -- His fantasy owners might have been happy he recorded 14 penalty minutes on Feb. 28, but his coach ended up benching him after he took the misconduct. And right now, Ribeiro is someone you too should be benching. In his past six games, Ribeiro has no goals, two assists and a minus-5 rating. The Coyotes forward has been one of the biggest disappointments in fantasy hockey this season and it might just be time for those of you in shallower leagues to cut ties with him.

KEEP AN EYE ON ...

Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils -- The Devils forward has recorded three straight two-point games since the Olympic break and now has 18 goals and 15 assists in 62 games. He also has 12 power-play points on the season and three in his last three games. I wouldn't add him just yet, but if he continues to put up a decent amount of points in the next 4-5 games, he might become someone worth owning.

TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS

These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward. The plus or minus for each player is movement based

on our most recent rankings -- NR means not ranked in previous rankings. They are based on a standard fantasy league with

these offensive categories: G, A, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP, SOG.

1 Sidney Crosby, Penguins (same)

2 Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (same)

3 Corey Perry, Ducks (same)

4 Evgeni Malkin, Penguins (same)

5 Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (same)

6 Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks (+1)

7 Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (+1)

8 James Neal, Penguins (+1)

9 Chris Kunitz, Penguins (-3)

10 Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (same)

11 Claude Giroux, Flyers (same)

12 Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (same)

13 Joe Pavelski, Sharks (+1)

14 Martin St. Louis, Lightning (+1)

15 Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (+2)

16 Patrick Marleau, Sharks (+2)

17 Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings (-4) DTD

18 Zach Parise, Wild (+2)

19 Alexander Steen, Blues (same)

20 Jamie Benn, Stars (+1)

21 Logan Couture, Sharks (+1)

22 Anze Kopitar, Kings (+1)

23 Tyler Seguin, Stars (+3)

24 Rick Nash, Rangers (same)

25 David Backes, Blues (same)

26 Eric Staal, Hurricanes (+1)

27 Thomas Vanek, Islanders (+2)

28 James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs (+4)

29 Matt Duchene, Avalanche (+1)

30 Taylor Hall, Oilers (+1)

31 David Krejci, Bruins (+2)

32 Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (+4)

33 Joe Thornton, Sharks (+1)

34 Jarome Iginla, Bruins (+4)

35 Max Pacioretty, Canadiens (+4)

36 Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (+5)

37 Henrik Sedin, Canucks (-2)

38 Bobby Ryan, Senators (+2)

39 Ryan Kesler, Canucks (+3)

40 Evander Kane, Jets (+3)

41 Milan Lucic, Bruins (+5)

42 Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (+10)

43 Jeff Carter, Kings (+1)

44 Jason Spezza, Senators (+1)

45 Jeff Skinner, Hurricanes (-8)

46 Jaromir Jagr, Devils (+1)

47 Blake Wheeler, Jets (+3)

48 Kyle Okposo, Islanders (+1)

49 Marian Gaborik, Blue Jackets (+2)

50 Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (+3)

51 Kyle Turris, Senators (-3)

52 Scott Hartnell, Flyers (+3)

53 Mikko Koivu, Wild (NR)*

54 T.J. Oshie, Blues (same)

55 Johan Franzen, Red Wings (+14)

56 Jakub Voracek, Flyers (+3)

57 Clarke MacArthur, Senators (-1)

58 Bryan Little, Jets (+3)

59 Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets (-2)

60 Derek Stepan, Rangers (same)

61 Ryan Johansen, Blue Jackets (+5)

62 Brad Richards, Rangers (+1)

63 Andrew Ladd, Jets (+2)

64 Radim Vrbata, Coyotes (same)

65 Jordan Eberle, Oilers (-7)

66 David Perron, Oilers (-4)

67 Chris Kreider, Rangers (+1)

68 Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs (-1)

69 Alexander Semin, Hurricanes (+2)

70 Brad Marchand, Bruins (same)

71 Jason Pominville, Wild (+2)

72 Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs (same)

73 Jaden Schwartz, Blues (+4)

74 Martin Hanzal, Coyotes (+2)

75 Brandon Saad, Blackhawks (+4)

76 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (-1)

77 Daniel Alfredsson, Red Wings (+6)

78 Brent Burns, Sharks (-4)

79 Patrik Elias, Devils (+7)

80 Paul Stastny, Avalanche (+4)

81 Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (-3)

82 Matt Moulson, Sabres (+6)

83 Shane Doan, Coyotes (-3)

84 Valtteri Filppula, Lightning (NR)*

85 Nathan Horton, Blue Jackets (same)

86 Nick Bonino, Ducks (-4)

87 Jussi Jokinen, Penguins (same)

88 Mike Ribeiro, Coyotes (-7)

89 Justin Williams, Kings (+1)

90 Ryan O'Reilly, Avalanche (+2)

91 Tyler Bozak, Maple Leafs (same)

92 Loui Eriksson, Bruins (+2) DTD

93 Ryan Callahan, Rangers (same)

94 Gustav Nyquist, Red Wings (+1)

95 Dustin Brown, Kings (NR)

96 Chris Stewart, Sabres (-7)

97 Cody Hodgson, Sabres (-1)

98 Mike Richards, Kings (+1)

99 Reilly Smith, Bruins (-1)

100 Brendan Gallagher, Canadiens (same)

* Appeared on injured list last week

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Tyler Johnson

Injured: Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Henrik Zetterberg, Marian Hossa, Daniel Sedin, Mats Zuccarello, Tomas Hertl, Pascal Dupuis

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