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Fantasy Five: Trade breakdowns and goalie updates

by Matt Cubeta
Before we get into our goalie talk, let's start the Fantasy Five by giving a quick look at two notable trades that occurred recently in the NHL. While there may not be too many "big" moves before this year's trade deadline on Feburary 28th, it's safe to expect at least a few more fantasy relevant deals.

1. Now on the fantasy radar

Two players that might not have been on many fantasy teams may now be worthy of roster spots for the remainder of the season. We're talking about Kris Versteeg and Mike Fisher, who were both dealt from bottom-of-the-standings-teams to playoff-bound squads.

The latest deal was Versteeg getting shipped from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the first-place Philadelphia Flyers. In 53 contests with the Leafs, Versteeg had 14 goals, 21 assists, a minus-13, 29 penalty minutes, 13 power-play points and 128 shots on goal. Every stat is terrific except for his plus/minus. It's safe to say you can expect that number to change as he moves to one of the elite teams in the League. Versteeg is only owned in 32 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, but he should be a must add in nearly every league. Expect him to play on one of Philly's top-three forward lines and record similar points to what he was producing in Toronto with a much better plus/minus, of course.

The second prominent deal was Ottawa Senators center Mike Fisher being dealt to the Nashville Predators. Fisher, like Versteeg, had decent numbers across the board with exception to his brutal minus-17 rating -- 14 goals, 11 assists, 35 penalty minutes, 9 power-play points and 134 shots on goal. Again, his rating will most definitely improve as he'll now be playing on a Predators squad battling for playoff seeding. In one game with the Predators, Fisher tallied 1 assist, a plus-2, 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots on goal, while centering a line that featured talented wingers Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn. Fisher's stat line will continue to improve down the stretch and he can be a solid No. 3 center on most fantasy teams. He's owned in just 23 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, so grab him if you have the roster space.

2. Updated goalie rankings

These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is based on our last set of rankings from Jan. 27. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings.)

Tim Thomas (same)
Tomas Vokoun (same)
Jimmy Howard (same)

Goalies that dropped out of last segment's top-25: Craig Anderson

3. Trending upward

Niklas Backstrom -- Sure Backstrom has had three starts in which he's allowed SIX goals or more, but regardless, he still owns a stellar 2.33 GAA and a .927 save percentage. With the Wild right on the edge of the playoff picture in the tight Western Conference, Backstrom figures to continue to get the bulk of the work between the pipes in Minnesota, and that's definitely a good thing. Backstrom has played his best hockey of the season of late, posting two shutouts and less than two goals against in 7 of his last 8 starts -- he's also the top-ranked goalie in Yahoo! Leagues over the last 30 days. Roll him with confidence.

Ilya Bryzgalov -- Despite getting off to a shaky 2010-11 season (just 3 wins in his first 9 games), Bryz has really started to pick up his game recently. The Phoenix netminder has won each of his last 5 starts, allowing 2 goals in the 3 most recent games after posting shutouts in the first 2 games of the streak. Not only that, but Bryzgalov's last 3 wins (all by a 3-2 score) came against tough offensive opponents: Washington, Chicago and Dallas. The Coyotes are currently leading the Pacific Division, and Bryzgalov is the biggest reason for that.

Antti Niemi -- Here comes the Antti Niemi bandwagon again. The former Blackhawks goalie had a rough start to his Sharks career and was battling Antero Niittymaki for playing time, but it's been all Niemi lately, and he's earned it. Niittymaki has been sidelined with an injury, and Niemi has started 12 straight games. He's posted an 8-2-1 record while recording 2 shutouts and allowing less than 3 goals in every start during that span. Because of his sluggish start, Niemi was dropped in several leagues early on in the season and is currently owned in just 71 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. Make no mistake, Niemi is back and should be started with confidence.

4. Trending downward

Marc-Andre Fleury -- If you look at Fleury's stats at the moment, they look pretty darn good -- what you'd expect, even. Unfortunately, thanks to several injuries, Fleury's Penguins may struggle in the coming days, which will in turn hurt his value going forward. In fact, the slide may have just begun -- he surrendered 5 goals on 31 shots to the Rangers in Sunday's loss. With Sidney Crosby's status unknown, Evgeni Malkin out for the season and many other current injuries, including Chris Kunitz, Mark Letestu, Eric Tangradi and Dustin Jeffrey, it's just hard to envision the expected wins for Fleury and the Pens. He still remains a top-10 option for the time being, but be aware that struggles might be coming for the Pittsburgh goalie. It might not be the worst idea to try and deal him before your league's trade deadline (Backstrom or Bryzgalov could be nice guys to get back in a package).

Ryan Miller -- It's safe to say Miller won't come close to his Vezina Trophy-winning numbers from last season. The Sabres netminder is coming off his worst start of the season in which he allowed 7 goals on just 26 shots against the Islanders -- this after Miller had won 3 straight starts giving up a combined 8 goals. Look even further back at Miller's stat line and you don't see too much consistency -- he has just one shutout since Dec. 5 and has at least 4 goals against in 10 of his last 25 performances. While it's very possible he goes on a hot streak and helps the Sabres into the playoffs, right now, he's just not performing close to what his fantasy owners were expecting and what they need.

Craig Anderson -- Anderson continues to struggle after putting together a remarkable season last year. Anderson, along with teammate Peter Budaj took a 9-1 defeat from the Flames on Monday night. Anderson allowed 4 goals on just 15 shots in less than 25 minutes of action. The former Panthers goaltender hasn't recorded a win since January 18th and has surrendered at least 3 goals in 7 of his last 8 appearances. He was arguably the most pleasant surprise last campaign, but this season he falls into the fantasy bust category.

5. Player to keep an eye on

With Jonas Gustavsson's season in jeopardy after undergoing heart surgery Friday, prospect James Reimer is getting an opportunity in goal for the Maple Leafs. Reimer has done nothing but reward fantasy owners that scooped him up, posting a 6-4-1 record, 2.39 GAA, .930 save percentage and 1 shutout in 12 games for Toronto. In his first NHL start on Jan. 1, Reimer turned aside 32 of 33 shots from the Senators, and then followed up that performance with a 31-save outing in a 2-1 loss to the Bruins just two days later. Since his early outburst, the 22-year-old goaltender has allowed less than 2 goals in 7 of his 11 NHL starts -- a sign of consistency that is hard to find for most NHL rookies, especially goaltenders.

Of course with Toronto in sell mode during the trade deadline, the Leafs may not rack up many wins for the remainder of the season. Regardless, Reimer can be a solid play for goals against average and save percentage. Give the youngster a shot if you have space on your roster -- he's owned in just 21 percent of Yahoo! Leagues -- and if you're league happens to have keepers, Reimer could be a guy worth holding onto for the next few years.

Contact Matt Cubeta at

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