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Fantasy Spin: Hartnell can hit 'refresh' in Columbus

by Pete Jensen

Neither the Philadelphia Flyers nor the Columbus Blue Jackets took on a salary cap-friendly contract in swapping left wings Scott Hartnell and R.J. Umberger on Monday.

Hartnell and Umberger have five and three years remaining on their respective contracts. Each is 32 years old and has seen a dip in productivity over the past few years. But from a fantasy standpoint, contract terms don't come into play as much.

The big takeaway from this deal is that Hartnell has waived his no-trade clause to join one of the deepest, most promising forward arsenals in the League. His category coverage helped fantasy owners win their leagues during much of his time in Philly, and the potential is there for him to hit the "refresh" button in Columbus.

Scott Hartnell can provide category coverage for fantasy hockey owners as he moves from the Flyers to the Blue Jackets via trade. (Photo: Getty Images)

A two-time 60-point producer who was once a fixture on the Flyers' top line with Claude Giroux, Hartnell spent time there again this past season but was also playing on the second line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds at times. After a breakout season in 2011-12 (37 goals, 30 assists, 23 power-play points, 232 shots on goal in 82 games), Hartnell has followed up with 28 goals over his past 110 regular-season games.

He had no goals and six assists over his final 16 games (regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs combined) with the Flyers in 2013-14, and they obviously saw his lengthy contract as expendable. But considering Hartnell, even during a down year, was one of 48 players League-wide with 20-plus power-play points, it's safe to say there's a lot of upside surrounding this move for Columbus.

The Blue Jackets have two fantasy commodities at the center position in Ryan Johansen (restricted free agent) and Brandon Dubinsky. There's a good chance Hartnell will be playing alongside one of those two players on opening night. Even if he ends up on the third line, he's likely to see first-unit power-play time and will be in position to contribute for a team on the rise.

Then there's the grit factor, as the 6-foot-2, 210-pound power forward averaged just under two hits per game (155 in 78) in 2013-14 and posted 100-plus penalty minutes in six of his seven seasons with the Flyers (the lone exception being the shortened 2012-13 season). In fantasy hockey, players who consistently produce 200-plus shots, 150-plus hits and 100-plus PIMs with potential for 30-plus goals and 60-plus points don't grow on trees.

On the flip side, Umberger rejoins his former team after emerging as a consistent 20-goal scorer during his years in Columbus. He had 12 power-play points and 113 hits in 2013-14 for the Blue Jackets, but hasn't had 50-plus points in a season since 2010-11 and was healthy scratched late in the season. He will be used in a number of different roles by the Flyers, but may be better suited as a bottom-six forward, meaning his fantasy value will be limited to deep, multi-category formats. He'll be available on the waiver wire at the start of the 2014-15 season in most leagues.

Hartnell will likely be drafted outside of the top 100 on average in Yahoo leagues, but could finish a top 50-to-75 asset in formats that count hits and penalty minutes.


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