It's been a wild first few days of July around the NHL as the free-agent frenzy has grabbed the attention of hockey fans everywhere. Now it's time to provide a little insight about how all these changes effect the fantasy hockey world.
From players signing with new squads to being traded across the country, here's a breakdown of the top performers that will be sporting new jerseys come October. We've also provided an early projection of when each player can be expected to be selected in fantasy drafts for the coming year (based on a standard 10-team league).
Brad Richards, New York Rangers: The biggest free agent in 2011 will be taking his game to the most spotlighted city in the world. After recording a career-high 28 goals in just 72 games for the Stars last season, Richards will wear a Rangers jersey and will be held accountable for bringing Marian Gaborik's scoring touch back this season. This is good news for Richards and Gaborik. Richards is one of the game's elite playmakers and Gaborik is one of the most talented finishers. The 31-year-old center should rack up loads of power-play points (he had 29 last season after notching 40 the previous season) while posting point-per-game statistics throughout the 2011-12 campaign. He could go as early as the first round in deep fantasy leagues, but don't be afraid to select him in Round 2 if he's still out there. Draft Projection: Second Round
Jeff Carter, Columbus Blue Jackets: Like Richards, Carter should find himself centering one of the League's dominant goal scorers in Rick Nash. While both players may clash in style a bit (they love to shoot the puck -- they were two of six players with at least 300 shots on goal last season), Carter should continue to score goals and post solid point totals. With three straight seasons of at least 33 goals, Carter and Nash could become one of the League's premier scoring duos. However, you can expect Carter's plus/minus to take a hit in moving from a Cup-contending team in Philadelphia to a team that likely will be fighting for a playoff berth in 2011-12. Draft Projection: Second Round
Dany Heatley, Minnesota Wild: In a shocking move, the Sharks decided to part ways with Dany Heatley -- a 30-year-old superstar that's reached the 50-goal plateau twice, scored 41 goals twice and scored 39 goals twice as well. While last season was a bit of a disappointment (26 goals, 64 points), Heatley has been a figure of consistency and will hope to continue in that form with the Wild. At first glance, we all assume this will hurt Heatley's value -- going from a powerhouse offensive squad in San Jose to a Minnesota team that generally focuses on defense, but don't be so quick to judge. Heatley likely will find himself on the wing with Sharks teammate Devin Setoguchi and playmaking wizard Mikko Koivu in the middle, which potentially is better than where he was this past season, on a line with Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe. Expect Heatley to return to that near 40-goal form and point-per-game numbers in his first season in Minnesota. Draft Projection: Second Round
Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings: One of the League's most complete players in all fantasy categories, the former Flyers captain now will be the second-line center behind Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles. Richards has recorded at least 23 goals, 62 points and 62 penalty minutes in each season dating back to 2007-08. He also has been a plus-11 or better and has posted at least 31 power-play points in three of the last four seasons. With a top six-forward core of Kopitar, Richards, Dustin Brown, Simon Gagne, Dustin Penner and Justin Williams, you can expect the former first-round draft choice to perform just as he did in Philadelphia. Draft Projection: Third Round
Tomas Vokoun, Washington Capitals: Not only was the Vokoun signing perhaps the best of the free-agent frenzy so far, but he arguably will get the largest boost in fantasy value this coming season. Moving from the Panthers to the Capitals should mean wonders for a goalie that's been known for facing an unlimited amount of shots game after game. We can assume Vokoun's win total will increase -- considering he's now on the team that's had the best record in the Eastern Conference for the last two seasons -- and with the Capitals having developed a more defensive style of play last season, Vokoun should have plenty of confidence in his new team in front of him. At age 35, the only worry for Vokoun is that the Caps will give their talented youngster Michal Neuvirth a decent amount of starts between the pipes. Regardless, Vokoun should continue to perform at a high level and his goals-against average even could drop to as low as 2.30 next season -- he's among the League's top-10 goalies and you shouldn't hesitate to grab him come draft day. Draft Projection: Fourth Round
Martin Havlat, San Jose Sharks: On the other end of the Heatley trade, Martin Havlat was shipped to the Sharks. The 30-year-old forward was known as an injury-prone player early in his career, but over the last three seasons, Havlat has missed a total of 14 games. During his two seasons in Minnesota, the former first-round draft choice had 40 goals and 116 points while posting a minus-29 rating during that span. Havlat could end up on San Jose's top line, with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, and if that's the case it should mean a boost to Havlat's fantasy value. You'd be bold to take a chance on him in the third round of your draft, but if you can get him in the fourth round or later, you could be looking at a 30-goal scorer with around 70 points. Draft Projection: Fifth Round
Christian Ehrhoff, Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres made some aggressive moves this offseason (signing Ville Leino to a big contract and bringing in veteran Robyn Regehr via trade), but none were as valuable as the addition of Ehrhoff. Despite moving from an offensive juggernaut in Vancouver to a middle-of-the-pack team in Buffalo, Ehrhoff should remain a top-10 fantasy defenseman as a member of the Sabres. At just 29, the blueliner has seen his points increase in each of the last three seasons, topping out at a career-high 50 last campaign. He was extremely consistent in Vancouver, notching 14 goals in each of his two seasons there and has posted an outstanding plus/minus (plus-36 and plus-19, respectively). Ehrhoff also has increased his shot total in each of the last three seasons and should be the quarterback of the Buffalo power play alongside Tyler Myers. Expect the former Canuck to post at least 40 points while getting comfortable in his new home for the next 10 years. Draft Projection: Fifth Round
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: After breaking out for the Wild in 2007-08 with 15 goals and 43 points, Burns regressed the following two seasons -- posting just 27 and 20 points, respectively, while dealing with some injuries. However, Burns was back in full force last season, recording career-highs in goals (17, third among all defensemen), points (46), penalty minutes (98, seventh among all defensemen) and shots on goal (170). At just 26, it's safe to say Burns' fantasy value should continue to increase for years to come. He's a physical defenseman that has a canon from the point and now resides with a team that can score plenty of goals. Oh, and playing alongside Dan Boyle on the top power-play unit won't hurt, either. He'll likely fill the role that Rob Blake had as a member of the Sharks, but it's safe to assume Burns will produce quite a bit more. Draft Projection: Sixth Round
James Wisniewski, Columbus Blue Jackets: The third defenseman on this list, Wisniewski was an underrated and highly productive blueliner last season that will be a formidable weapon for the Blue Jackets going forward. Wisniewski totaled a solid 21 points in 32 games with the Islanders before getting dealt to the Canadiens midway through the season. His only flaw on Long Island was his dreadful minus-18 rating, but that changed quickly when he arrived in Montreal. Wisniewski went on to record 7 goals and 23 assists in 43 games for the Habs and finished with a plus-4 rating. While he struggled against the Bruins in the playoffs, he still was able to land a big contract after his rights were traded to Columbus. He immediately becomes the team's No. 1 defenseman, and with superstars Nash and Carter up front, the Jackets are becoming a more offensive team. While Wisniewski's production might not be as noticeable as it was with Montreal, look for the 27-year-old defenseman to perform as a top-20 blueliner and hover around 40 points in his first season with his new team. Draft Projection: Ninth Round
Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia Flyers: He's back! He might not be like he was back in the day, but regardless, Jagr is back in the NHL. A fantasy God for years in the past, Jagr will look to make his fantasy owners proud as a member of the Flyers. It's not easy to predict how valuable the 39-year-old Czech native will be this season, but if he's able to stick on one of the top lines in Philadelphia, it's probably safe to expect approximately 20 goals and 60 points -- his playmaking ability hasn't entirely disappeared, has it? The last time we saw Jagr in the NHL, in 2007-08, he had 25 goals and 71 points in 82 games with the Rangers (in fact, he appeared in all 82 games for the Rangers in three straight seasons). Jagr will be the biggest question mark heading into fantasy drafts, and I'm sure he'll get drafted as high as the fourth or fifth round in several leagues just because of his name, but in all likelihood, he should turn out to be a middle-of-the pack right wing. Draft Projection: 10th Round
Simon Gagne, Los Angeles Kings: After spending 10 seasons with the Flyers, Gagne struggled a bit with the Lightning last season, posting just 17 goals and 40 points in 63 games. He signed a two-year deal with the Kings this offseason, and the move could do wonders for his fantasy value (although many thought the exact same thing when he signed with Tampa Bay and would get a chance to play with some combination of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier). Gagne now joins a solid top-six forward core in Los Angeles and will also be reunited with former Flyers teammate Mike Richards. While Gagne did struggle during the regular season in 2010-11, his old self started to show in the playoffs as he had 5 goals and 7 assists in 15 games. While it's highly unlikely Gagne will return to his 40-goal seasons of years past, he is just 31 years old and still could put together a 50-plus point season. Caution alert: The biggest question every season surrounding Gagne will be whether or not he can stay healthy. Draft Projection: 11th Round