The unrestricted free agent crop didn't include many marquee forwards, but the flurry of offseason trades certainly did.
Several big-name forwards around the NHL changed scenery in recent weeks, setting the table for a summer of speculation about line combinations and fantasy implications. We've seen summer trades pay sizable fantasy dividends in recent years, with no better example being the July 2013 trade that sent Tyler Seguin from the Boston Bruins to the Dallas Stars.
Seguin, a young role player with the Bruins at the time of the trade, played with Jamie Benn and scored 161 points in 151 games in the next two regular seasons with the Stars. Last season, Scott Hartnell (trade to Columbus Blue Jackets) and Radim Vrbata (signed by Vancouver Canucks) finished among the top 50 fantasy forwards after moving to new teams.
We're still more than two months away from training camp, but there are plenty of reasons to get excited about breakout, bounce-back and sleeper potential after so much roster movement. Here are some forwards who should finish higher than they did last season as a result of changing teams.
Brandon Saad, LW/RW, Columbus Blue Jackets
The 22-year-old power forward was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Blue Jackets before signing a long-term contract. He'll be paired alongside either rising star Ryan Johansen or underrated category cog Brandon Dubinsky. Saad should see an uptick in minutes per game with the man-advantage compared to his average with the Blackhawks and be in position to eclipse 20-plus power-play points, 250 shots on goal and 60-plus points. Saad's days of being outside the fantasy top 100 are over, because he'll be getting top-six minutes with one of the Eastern Conference's top forward arsenals. His breakout season is upon us.
T.J. Oshie, C/RW, Washington Capitals
It remains to be seen whether Oshie will be positioned next to Nicklas Backstrom (60 assists in 2014-15, 1st in NHL) and Alex Ovechkin or in a secondary spot with Evgeny Kuznetsov, but this is a refreshing situation either way. Oshie finished with 50-plus points for the second straight season with the St. Louis Blues, but a slow start and an ineffective Stanley Cup Playoffs led to a trade to the Capitals. Oshie should easily surpass his current career highs in goals (21) and assists (39), post a great rating playing with an explosive top-six forward group and be attainable in fantasy come the seventh or eighth round.
Ryan O'Reilly, LW/C, Buffalo Sabres
O'Reilly had career highs in goals, points and SOG in 2013-14 before taking a step back with the rest of the Colorado Avalanche last season. He was traded to rebuilding Buffalo with one year remaining on his contract but signed a seven-year extension and has a chance to surprise in the short term as the Sabres' top-line center alongside Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis. O'Reilly, one of the League's best at takeaways, should finish in the 60- to 65-point range and mentor Buffalo's young centers (Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons) in the process. The Sabres have deceptive fantasy value as a team, so select him if he drops outside the first 10 rounds.
Read the rest of this offseason's impact additions HERE