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Center Stage: Carter among C's to eye on deadline day

by Matt Cubeta
Every Wednesday during the season, fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy centers in our weekly segment: "Center Stage." From updated center rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy center expert all season long.

With the actual NHL trade deadline less than a week away, fantasy owners are probably trying to prepare themselves for an active day on Monday. We'll all be sitting at our computers waiting for a trade to happen that immediately increases a player's fantasy value -- then we'll quickly attempt to add that player to our roster before anyone else does. That's the goal, right?

Over the next three days, we're going to try to provide you a list of forwards to keep your eye on with the trade deadline nearing. These are the players we believe have the potential to be traded and could end up seeing a change in fantasy value. There aren't a ton of big names linked to any rumors right now (other than Rick Nash and Jeff Carter), but these players could still help in most fantasy leagues. Some of them may be long shots to get dealt and might not even end up being moved, but here are our thoughts (today we'll cover the center position):

Jeff Carter
Center - CBJ
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 25
SOG: 130 | +/-: -11
Jeff Carter (owned in 83 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) -- Like his teammate Rick Nash, Carter has been mentioned among trade discussions quite often over the last few weeks. He obviously has that big contract, which makes trading him a bit more difficult for Columbus, but Carter could still find himself on a new team by Monday. This would likely benefit Carter's fantasy value more than any other player on the market. Despite a hat trick against the Sharks on Tuesday, Carter has had an extremely rough first season with the Blue Jackets (between injuries and his underachieving stats -- 15 G, 10 A in 39 games) and a trade to a potential contender could motivate him to play the way we're used to -- he averaged 38.33 goals over the last three season with the Flyers.

Mike Ribeiro (59 percent) -- Ribeiro is a crafty, playmaking center that could definitely see a fantasy boost if he ends up as a top-two center on a contending team. He has 13 goals and 42 points in 53 games this season and also has a solid 42 penalty minutes. Prior to this campaign, Ribeiro had at least 71 points in three of his previous four seasons.

Derek Roy (52 percent) -- It hasn't been Roy's best season of his career, but he has clearly put his talent on display recently with 7 points in the last four games while centering a line with Jason Pominville and Ville Leino on the wings. Roy has 13 goals and 34 points in 58 games for the Sabres this year and had 35 points in 35 games all of last season, but he is a veteran middle-man that can be slotted in as a second-line center on an elite team. He has two 70-plus point campaigns under his belt and had an unreal March and April in his last healthy season in 2009-10 with 26 points in 22 games, so fantasy owners should give Roy a shot if he's dealt.

Any Blue Jacket forward not named Rick Nash or Jeff Carter -- Columbus GM Scott Howson has said "no player is off-limits, other than those with no-movement or no-trade clauses in their contracts." This means that if any Blue Jacket forward is traded before the deadline, they will see a fantasy boost. We're not saying that you should immediately pick up that player, but guys like RJ Umberger (LW, owned in 24 percent), Derick Brassard (C, owned in 12 percent) and Antoine Vermette (C, LW, owned in 8 percent) all deserve to be monitored -- these three guys have the potential to be good depth players on most fantasy rosters.



These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). Note: Positions are dictated by how they're labeled in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
*dual position eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues
** was listed on IR in last week's rankings

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Stephen Weiss, Valtteri Filppula

Players on IR: Pavel Datsyuk, Sidney Crosby, Nicklas Backstrom, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Alexander Steen
The Blackhawks forwards -- They may have dipped for a week in our weekly rankings, but it was only a matter of time before Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane all moved back up, and that time is now. While Toews is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, all three of these dynamic forwards have picked up their game since Chicago's nine-game losing streak.

Eric Staal -- Staal returns to the "trending upward" section for the second straight week and deservedly so. He has been arguably the hottest player in fantasy hockey since the start of February -- he has 7 goals and 12 points in eight games and is in the middle of a six-game point-scoring streak. The Hurricanes are playing better since Jeff Skinner has returned to the lineup and Staal is finally starting to look like his usual dominant self.

Matt Duchene -- Duchene returned to the lineup on Sunday at Winnipeg after missing seven contests because of a knee injury. Duchene finished the game with no shots on goal and 2 penalty minutes in 18:06 of ice time while skating on a line with Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk -- he also saw 4:37 of power play ice time, which is a good sign that he's fully healthy. Duchene has had a mostly disappointing 2011-12 season with just 12 goals and 24 points in 40 games, but be aware: He had a great finish last season (18 points in his final 19 games) and could perform that way down the stretch this time around as well.


Pavel Datsyuk -- While he hasn't been placed on injured reserved just yet, with news that he'll miss the next two weeks, he should be on the list shortly. This is a definite blow for his fantasy owners and it comes at the worst possible time with the end of fantasy leagues approaching. Datsyuk is rated 19th overall in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues and has 59 points in 59 games to go along with a solid plus-18 and 21 power-play points, proving to be one of the most valuable overall fantasy players this year. If you have him on your team, hopefully he'll return to your lineup as you make your push for the league title.

Ryan Kesler -- Kesler has actually been pretty consistent with points in 10 of his last 13 games, but with 41 points in 55 games overall, have we come to expect more out of Kesler? He has gone 24 games without putting together a multi-point effort and excluding his 7-shot performance on Sunday, Kesler had just 6 shots on goal in his previous five games combined. He's still an excellent fantasy player and extremely useful because of his valuable plus/minus and power play production, but there are other players that have been outperforming him and deserve to be higher in the ranks.

Brad Marchand -- Marchand is having an outstanding second fantasy season for his owners this year, but has cooled off since his big December (12 points in 12 games and 23 penalty minutes). In nine February contests, the Bruins forward has just 1 goal and 4 assists to go along with a minus-2 rating and only 4 penalty minutes. In fact, despite a plus-21 on the season overall, Marchand has a minus-3 rating over his last 16 games. He is still a valuable fantasy player because of his solid point production (40 in 51 games) and abundance of penalty minutes (79), but remember, he won't help you in power play categories -- he has just 5 PPP and only averages 2:15 of PP ice time per game.


Adam Henrique -- Henrique is right on the bubble every week for cracking the top-40 center rankings, but his lack of contribution in the peripheral fantasy stats decrease his value just a bit. His point production has been great (15 goals and 41 points in 51 games), as is his plus-12, but he only has 7 penalty minutes, 6 power play points and averages just under 2 shots a game. The Devils rookie has 6 points in his last four games and if you're looking for a good amount of points and a solid plus/minus, he is a great add -- he's still available in 70 percent of Yahoo! Leagues.
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