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Fantasy forwards: Pending UFAs could be traded

Get leg up on potential deals; updated top 100 rankings

by Pete Jensen @NHLJensen / NHL.com Fantasy Insider

There will be a ton of activity leading up to the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 29, so being ahead of the curve in fantasy leagues can make all the difference in capitalizing on potential value spikes. 

Waiting for a particular trade to happen before you either send a trade proposal or try to add a player means said player may no longer be available on the waiver wire or could cost more to be acquired from another owner via fantasy trade.

The trade landscape has changed drastically in recent days, weeks and months. Ryan Johansen was traded to the Nashville Predators, Dustin Byfuglien re-signed with the Winnipeg Jets, David Perron was traded to the Anaheim Ducks and has since latched onto Ryan Getzlaf's line, and Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said Monday that Steven Stamkos, a pending unrestricted free agent July 1, will not be traded before the deadline. Still, many other potential UFAs have yet to be accounted for and could be on the move. 

If you have fantasy roster flexibility and/or assets to work with, here are some pending UFAs who could be traded in reality leading up to the deadline. Keep in mind the timing of your waiver wire pickup or fantasy trade proposal can do wonders for your championship push. 

NOTE: Information regarding player contracts, salary cap figures and no-movement/no-trade clauses via war-on-ice.com. 

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LIKELIHOOD OF BEING TRADED: HIGH 

Andrew Ladd, LW, Winnipeg Jets (current Yahoo rank: 191)
2015-16 salary cap hit: $4,400,000 - limited NTC

When the Jets re-signed Byfuglien, the likelihood of Ladd being traded rose because of the Jets' salary cap situation. Ladd finished 26th among all fantasy assets in terms of standard-category production last season, but is barely inside the top 200 as of mid-February. His numbers are way down in each of the six standard categories. He's a hits-league asset (three straight seasons of 100 or more) who should be targeted if attainable via trade in such leagues. He's been occupying a third-line role lately for the Jets, so the writing could be on the wall for their captain, who's a pending UFA with a limited no-trade clause. 

Jiri Hudler, C/LW/RW, Calgary Flames (current Yahoo rank: 421)
2015-16 salary cap hit: $4,000,000 

Like Ladd, Hudler was a huge fantasy steal last season, finishing 44th in standard Yahoo leagues. He had 76 points in 78 games and finished among the League's top 10 scorers, but has missed time because of injuries and has 32 points in 48 games this season. His shooting percentage has regressed from 19.6 percent in 2014-15 to 12.3 this season, and his power-play production has also dwindled. He's cureently back with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and had three points on Monday, but the 32-year-old could be deemed expendable with the Flames out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs race. Hudler, 50 percent owned and tri-eligible in Yahoo, could return to form if traded depending on the team he joins. Add him off the waiver wire in shallow leagues or target him via fantasy trade as part of a larger package.

Video: ANA@CGY: Hudler lights the lamp twice in loss

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LIKELIHOOD OF BEING TRADED: MEDIUM 

Eric Staal, C/LW, Carolina Hurricanes (current Yahoo rank: 163)
2015-16 salary cap hit: $8,250,000 - full no-trade clause 

Staal, who has played his entire career with the Hurricanes, is the most coveted name on the potential trade block not named Stamkos. After his lowest single-season points-per-game average (54 in 77 games in 2014-15) since his rookie season of 2003-04, he's on pace for even fewer this season (82-game pace: 44). The Hurricanes remain on the outskirts of playoff contention, four points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning with one more game played. How Carolina fares in the coming weeks, as well as Staal's decision on whether to waive his no-trade clause, will determine whether he is traded before the deadline. The Hurricanes are a young team embracing a puck-possession style, and Staal, 31, is a seven-time 70-point scorer nearing the end of his prime. Staal's Yahoo ownership is down to 66 percent, so now is the perfect time to buy low or add him ahead of a potential trade. 

Radim Vrbata, RW, Vancouver Canucks (current Yahoo rank: 413) 
2015-16 salary cap hit: $5,000,000 - limited NTC 

Vrbata is tied for the worst plus/minus in the NHL (minus-28) with only 11 goals and 23 points despite a heavy SOG volume (177; 18th). Thus, it's no surprise that his Yahoo ownership has dipped to 37 percent. He has played much less with Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin than last season, when he scored 30-plus goals for the second time of his career. Vrbata, who has an expiring contract, could feasibly be dealt if the Canucks continue to rebuild around the Sedins. Quite a few contenders around the League could use a top-six wing of his caliber. 

Kyle Okposo, RW, New York Islanders (current Yahoo rank: 58) 
2015-16 salary cap hit: $2,800,000

Okposo has 44 points in 53 games this season mostly alongside Frans Nielsen, also a pending UFA at season's end, which puts the Islanders in a bind. Okposo, who has played the majority of his ice time over the years with John Tavares, has excelled in his usual first-unit power-play role (18 PPP) and has five three-point games. His track record and low salary cap figure indicate he's in line for a much bigger contract in the offseason, so the Islanders will be forced to either re-sign Okposo or risk losing him via free agency July 1. He's closing in on the top 50 assets in Yahoo leagues and is 83 percent owned, so the chances of acquiring him now in fantasy for even a decent price are slim. 

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LIKELIHOOD OF BEING TRADED: LOW 

David Backes, C/RW, St. Louis Blues (current Yahoo rank: 112)
2015-16 salary cap hit: $4,500,000 - full NTC 

Like the Hurricanes with Staal, the Blues are at a crossroads with Backes. The two-way center continues to stay relevant because of his fantasy category coverage, but only has 30 points in 58 games after being drafted on average with the 52nd pick in Yahoo Leagues. The Blues have had their share of playoff failures over the years, so they have yet to sign Backes to a contract extension. Of all the pending UFAs on this list, it's least likely that Backes will be traded -- especially given his full no-trade clause. But the longer this situation drags on, the more likely is it that a trade could surface. He's 89 percent owned in Yahoo, so he's only attainable in fantasy via a buy-low trade request.

Video: STL@FLA: Backes snaps a short-side goal

Loui Eriksson, LW/RW, Boston Bruins (current Yahoo rank: 74) 
2015-16 salary cap hit: $4,250,000 - limited NTC 

Eriksson is having his best season since joining the Bruins in 2013-14 with 44 points (12 on power play) in 56 games. He's a plus-10, has points in four of his past five games, and is jelling alongside David Krejci. He has been a great fit in a top-six role this season, but decision time is looming for the Bruins. Has Eriksson, who was acquired in the deal that sent Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars, met expectations, or is this a good time for Boston to sell high to fill one of their needs ahead of the postseason? It's far from guaranteed that Eriksson, 71 percent owned, will be going anywhere, so only pursue him now via fantasy trade if the price is right. 

Shane Doan, LW/RW, Arizona Coyotes (current Yahoo rank: 63) 
2015-16 salary cap hit: $5,251,992 - full NTC 

Doan, 39, is among the League's elite fantasy category coverage assets with 21 goals, 33 points (13 on power play), 60 penalty minutes and 118 shots on goal. He's spent his entire career with the Coyotes' franchise and is a longshot to be traded, but has an expiring contract and could be moved to a contender if the Coyotes fall out of the Western Conference wild card race. Doan is available in more than half of Yahoo leagues (LW/RW, 48 percent owned) and is a top 75 fantasy asset despite his third-line role, so the veteran's ceiling could be even higher if he gives the Coyotes the go-ahead and lands with the right team. Mikkel Boedker (LW/RW, 22 percent owned in Yahoo) is second on the Coyotes in scoring (37 points) and could also become a UFA this summer. He's more likely to be traded than Doan and is there for the taking in most leagues. 

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TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS 

These rankings indicate fantasy expectations for the rest of the season. Value is quantified by line combinations, power-play usage, past performance and overall upside in standard Yahoo categories (goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal.

1. Patrick Kane, C/RW, CHI 
2. Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW, WSH 
3. Jamie Benn, LW, DAL 
4. Tyler Seguin, C/RW, DAL (+1) 
5. Sidney Crosby, C, PIT (-1) 
6. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL (+1) 
7. Evgeni Malkin, C/RW, PIT (DTD) 
8. Joe Pavelski, C/LW/RW, SJS 
9. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C/LW, WSH 
10. Nicklas Backstrom, C, WSH (+2) 
11. Claude Giroux, C/RW, PHI (-1) 
12. Nikita Kucherov, RW, TBL (+3) 
13. Patrice Bergeron, C, BOS (DTD) 
14. Anze Kopitar, C, LAK (+3) 
15. Daniel Sedin, LW, VAN (-2) 
16. Taylor Hall, C/LW, EDM (-5) 
17. Steven Stamkos, C, TBL (+1) 
18. Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW, COL (-2) 
19. Ryan Johansen, C/RW, NSH (+1) 
20. John Tavares, C, NYI (+3) 
21. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, CGY (+1) 
22. Blake Wheeler, RW, WPG (+3) 
23. Corey Perry, RW, ANA (-4) 
24. Artemi Panarin, LW, CHI 
25. Patrick Sharp, C/LW/RW, DAL (-4) 
26. Joe Thornton, C, SJS (+4) 
27. Jakub Voracek, LW/RW, PHI 
28. Jonathan Toews, C, CHI (+1) 
29. Ryan Getzlaf, C, ANA (+6) 
30. Max Pacioretty, LW, MTL (-2) 
31. Connor McDavid, C, EDM 
32. James Neal, LW/RW, NSH 
33. Brad Marchand, LW, BOS (+10) 
34. Tyler Toffoli, C/LW/RW, LAK 
35. Wayne Simmonds, LW/RW, PHI (+2) 
36. Matt Duchene, C/LW, COL (-10) 
37. Henrik Zetterberg, C/LW, DET (+3) 
38. David Krejci, C, BOS (+1) 
39. Filip Forsberg, C/LW/RW, NSH (+2) 
40. Bobby Ryan, LW/RW, OTT (-4) 
41. Alexander Steen, C/LW, STL (-8) 
42. Jeff Carter, C/RW, LAK 
43. Pavel Datsyuk, C/LW, DET (+3) 
44. Phil Kessel, RW, PIT (-5) 
45. Dylan Larkin, C/LW, DET (-1) 
46. Ryan O'Reilly, C/LW/RW, BUF (+2) 
47. Zach Parise, LW, MIN 
48. Jaromir Jagr, RW, FLA (+1) 
49. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, COL (-4) 
50. Mike Hoffman, C/LW, OTT (+1) 
51. Derick Brassard, C, NYR (+4) 
52. Aleksander Barkov, C, FLA (DTD) 
53. Rick Nash, LW/RW, NYR (DTD) 
54. T.J. Oshie, C/RW, WSH 
55. Brandon Saad, LW/RW, CBJ (-3) 
56. Logan Couture, C/LW, SJS (+4) 
57. Justin Williams, RW, WSH 
58. Tyler Johnson, C, TBL (+1) 
59. Brendan Gallagher, RW, MTL (-1) 
60. Henrik Sedin, C, VAN (-4) 
61. Loui Eriksson, LW/RW, BOS (+2) 
62. Scott Hartnell, LW, CBJ (-1) 
63. Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (+2) 
64. Jack Eichel, C, BUF (-2) 
65. Jonathan Huberdeau, C/LW, FLA (+2) 
66. Milan Lucic, LW, LAK (+6) 
67. Tomas Plekanec, C, MTL (+2) 
68. Mats Zuccarello, LW/RW, NYR (+7) 
69. Sean Monahan, C, CGY (-3) 
70. Kyle Palmieri, LW/RW, NJD (+1) 
71. Carl Soderberg, C/LW, COL (+2) 
72. Patric Hornqvist, RW, PIT (-2) 
73. Ryan Kesler, C/RW, ANA (+3) 
74. Shane Doan, LW/RW, ARI (+12) 
75. Andre Burakovsky, LW, WSH (+5) 
76. Leon Draisaitl, C/RW, EDM (-8) 
77. Boone Jenner, C/RW, CBJ (+1) 
78. Lee Stempniak, LW/RW, NJD (-1) 
79. Bryan Little, C/RW, WPG (+4) 
80. Evander Kane, LW, BUF (SUSP.) 
81. David Perron, LW/RW, ANA (+5) 
82. Ryan Spooner, C/LW, BOS 
83. David Backes, C/RW, STL (-2) 
84. Max Domi, C/LW, ARI (-10) 
85. Tomas Hertl, C/LW, SJS 
86. Jordan Eberle, RW, EDM (+12) 
87. Tomas Tatar, LW/RW, DET (-8) 
88. Eric Staal, C/LW, CAR (-6) 
89. Jussi Jokinen, C/LW/RW, FLA (NEW) 
90. Brandon Dubinsky, C/LW, CBJ (+7) 
91. Chris Kunitz, LW, PIT 
92. Gustav Nyquist, C/LW/RW, DET (-5) 
93. Chris Kreider, LW, NYR (-4) 
94. Mark Stone, RW, OTT 
95. Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL (NR - INJ.) 
96. Mikko Koivu, C, MIN (-1) 
97. Justin Abdelkader, LW/RW, DET (NEW) 
98. Nazem Kadri, C, TOR (DTD) 
99. Adam Henrique, C/LW, NJD (NEW) 
100. Cam Atkinson, RW, CBJ (NEW) 

Just missed: Ondrej Palat (LW, TBL), Vincent Trocheck (C/RW, FLA), Frans Nielsen (C, NYI), Marcus Johansson (C/LW/RW, WSH), Alex Galchenyuk (C/LW, MTL), Mike Ribeiro (C, NSH), Leo Komarov (C/LW/RW, TOR), Jeff Skinner (LW/RW, CAR), Derek Stepan (C, NYR), Andrew Shaw (RW, CHI) 

Dropped out: Palat, Kyle Turris, J.T. Miller, Andrew Ladd 

Key injuries: Jason Spezza (C, DAL), Mike Cammalleri (C/LW, NJD), Marian Hossa (RW, CHI), James van Riemsdyk (LW, TOR), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (C, EDM), Marian Gaborik (RW, LAK)

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