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Schmidt traded to Canucks
Nate Schmidt was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks from the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday. This is a lateral fantasy move for Schmidt going from one deep offense to another in the Western Conference. He will play a big role for Vancouver at even strength, especially after the departure of defensemen Christopher Tanev and Troy Stecher in free agency.
Schmidt, frequently ranked among the top 50 fantasy defensemen, scored at least 30 points in each of his three seasons with the Golden Knights and could have a higher ceiling with the Canucks. The best-case fantasy scenario would be if Schmidt played with Quinn Hughes, one of the 10 best players at the position. That may be unlikely considering Hughes and Schmidt shoot left, but there is a chance they could get a trial on the same pair this season, especially after the former lost his reliable defense partner in Tanev. At the very least, Schmidt will bring 5-on-5 exposure to elite center Elias Pettersson and valuable fantasy forwards J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, making the defenseman a safe pick in late rounds at a thin position.
The addition of Schmidt is perhaps most crucial for the high-upside goalie tandem of Braden Holtby, who signed with Vancouver in free agency, and younger option Thatcher Demko. Schmidt, a responsible defenseman, is coming off a high shot volume in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he had nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 20 games for the Golden Knights and was second among their skaters in shots on goal (66) behind Shea Theodore (80).
Free agent signings roundup
READ: Hall, Pietrangelo, Barrie, Krug, Holtby, Markstrom, Toffoli, Lundqvist moves
Stastny traded to Jets
The Winnipeg Jets have acquired center Paul Stastny from the Vegas Golden Knights. Stastny rejoins the Jets after playing well for them in 2017-18 (13 points in 19 regular-season games; 15 in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games) and could be worth a late-round fantasy pick or waiver-wire add as their No. 2 center. Stastny, who turns 35 on Dec. 27 and has one season left on his contract, was once a staple on the top line for the Golden Knights but played most of last season on the second or third unit with underwhelming fantasy production (38 points in 71 regular-season games).
Stastny's fantasy appeal hinges on whether the Jets trade elite goal scorer Patrik Laine, a potential 2021 restricted free agent, this offseason. Another storyline to watch for Winnipeg is the status of elite center Mark Scheifele, who was injured in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Calgary Flames and did not return in the series. At the very least, Stastny should be worth owning in many fantasy leagues on a line with valuable wing Nikolaj Ehlers.
Puljujarvi signs two-year contract with Oilers
Edmonton Oilers signed forward Jesse Puljujarvi to a two-year contract on Wednesday after he did not play in the NHL this past season. He had 53 points (24 goals, 29 assists) in 56 games for Karpat of Liiga, Finland's top professional league, last season. He has played for Karpat during the 2020-21 season (one goal in two games) but could join the Oilers when the NHL regular season begins (on or after Jan. 1).
While the 22-year-old hasn't had much production in his NHL career (37 points in 139 games), he's worthy of a late fantasy pick because of the likely top-six trial with one of Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. Based on that potential lineup placement alone, Puljujarvi is one of the most intriguing deep fantasy sleepers for next season and should be targeted in the final rounds of standard 12-team drafts or picked up off the waiver wire early in the season.
Fantasy owners should pay attention to line combinations in training camp and, if Puljujarvi starts the season on a line with McDavid or Draisaitl, it would be reasonable to project the right wing for at least 50 points over an 82-game season. Oilers wings Zack Kassian, Tyler Ennis and Josh Archibald were viable streaming options on McDavid's line throughout this past season, and Puljujarvi has a higher fantasy ceiling than any of those players.
Puljujarvi also shouldn't be overlooked in the middle rounds of keeper and dynasty leagues with the future looking bright for Edmonton. It's also worth noting Puljujarvi significantly improved his production in Liiga last season compared to his previous stint in that league (39 points in 71 games from 2014-15 to 2015-16), indicating he could be in line for more NHL success the second time around.
NHL Draft picks, trades roundup
READ: Murray, Domi moves; upside of Lafreniere, Byfield
Dubnyk, Donato traded to Sharks
The San Jose Sharks have acquired goalie Devan Dubnyk and forward Ryan Donato in separate trades from the Minnesota Wild. Dubnyk has fantasy bounce-back appeal and a ceiling of being the new No. 1 goalie for the Sharks, who missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season but dealt with some major injuries (Tomas Hertl, Erik Karlsson). Donato is a potential deep sleeper with a chance to earn a top-six opportunity, a role he hasn't played much over his first NHL three seasons with the Wild and Boston Bruins.
Dubnyk went 12-15-2 with a 3.35 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage and one shutout in 30 games this season and missed time in November and December while his wife, Jenn, dealt with a medical situation. The Sharks have struggled at the goalie position over the past two seasons (.895 SV% in 2019-20, second-worst in NHL; .889 in 2018-19, worst). Starter Martin Jones has had a .896 SV% over that span, so San Jose should benefit from a timeshare tandem of Jones and Dubnyk, who played at least 60 games in each of his prior four seasons (2015-16 to 2018-19) with a .918 SV% in the span.
The Sharks have valuable fantasy defensemen in Brent Burns and Karlsson and also a reliable two-way player at the position in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, which could help Dubnyk and/or Jones bounce back next season. It's also worth noting San Jose had the NHL's top ranked penalty kill (85.7 percent) this season, which could benefit Jones and Dubnyk if it remains among the League's best. Fantasy owners should target Dubnyk in the late rounds of standard drafts as a No. 3 or 4 fantasy goalie option with the expectation of at least a slight bounce back for the Sharks after the change of scenery. Jones will likely go undrafted in fantasy but could be an intriguing waiver-wire target if the Sharks stay healthy and respond positively to the Dubnyk and Donato acquisitions.
Donato, who scored 14 goals in 62 games this season in mostly a depth role, will likely go undrafted in standard fantasy leagues but could be worth a flier on the waiver wire next season, especially in deeper leagues. The Sharks need additional goal support after finishing tied for the fourth-fewest goals per game (2.57) and 23rd on the power play (17.5 percent) this season. If Donato lands in the top six playing either center or wing, he would bring even-strength exposure to forwards Hertl, Logan Couture, Timo Meier and/or Evander Kane, but fantasy owners should temper their expectations for Donato and Dubnyk until San Jose makes any additional moves this offseason.
Lehner re-signs with Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights have re-signed goalie Robin Lehner to a five-year contract. The move is one of the best-case scenarios for Lehner's fantasy value, meaning he will likely enter next season as the 1A goalie for an elite team in the Western Conference.
Lehner thrived with Vegas after being acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks prior to the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, going 12-7-0 with a .921 save percentage and five shutouts in 19 games (regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs combined). Lehner, who has spent time with Vegas, Chicago and the New York Islanders over the past two seasons, ranks fourth among high-volume starters (at least 70 games) in regular-season SV% (.925) over the span behind only Ben Bishop (.927), Darcy Kuemper and Anton Khudobin (.926).
Lehner, currently third in NHL.com's fantasy goalie rankings for next season behind Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg Jets), still has strong competition in veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, who only played four games this postseason (3-1-0, .910 SV%) but is also among the early top 10 goalie rankings for next season. Fleury has two seasons left on his contract with Vegas.
Hornqvist traded to Panthers
The Florida Panthers have acquired right wing Patric Hornqvist from the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman Mike Matheson. Hornqvist had 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists) in 52 regular-season games and two points (one goal, one assist) in four games against the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. When healthy, Hornqvist has been a staple on Pittsburgh's top power-play unit since 2014-15, ranking 22nd in the NHL in power-play goals (49) over the span.
The Panthers have the sixth-best power play (22.5 percent) over the past three seasons, not far behind the Penguins (third; 23.8 percent since 2017-18). Hornqvist will likely capture a top power-play role with the Panthers, bringing exposure to elite forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau and valuable defensemen Keith Yandle.
Hornqvist's fantasy stock will likely remain similar to what it was with Pittsburgh, making him worthy of a late-round selection for category coverage of power-play goals and hits (2.1 per game this season). The best-case fantasy scenario would be for Hornqvist to also land a spot on the top line with Barkov and Huberdeau; Hornqvist saw time on the third line at even strength with the Penguins in recent years.
It's worth noting that Hornqvist comes with some injury concern having missed at least 12 games in each of the past four seasons but still has upside if forwards Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman (potential unrestricted free agents) do not re-sign with Florida.
Staal traded to Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres have acquired veteran center Eric Staal from the Minnesota Wild. Staal saw significant time on the Wild's top line with breakout wing Kevin Fiala this season, finishing third on Minnesota with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) in 66 games. Staal also played in that spot during the postseason, leading the Wild with five points (one goal, four assists) in four games, and will now be Buffalo's No. 2 center behind elite option Jack Eichel.
A potential 2021 unrestricted free agent, Staal will likely play on an even-strength line with either rookie standout Victor Olofsson (third on Sabres with 42 points in 54 games this season) or bounce-back candidate Jeff Skinner (14 goals in 59 games this season; NHL career-high 40 with Buffalo in 2018-19). Staal has familiarity with Skinner from their long tenures with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Staal, who turns 36 on Oct. 29, has had at least 70 points eight times in his NHL career, most recently in 2017-18 with Minnesota (76 in 82 games), and should improve Buffalo's secondary scoring. Staal, who had at least 14 power-play points in each of his four seasons with the Wild, could also bring some exposure to Eichel on the first unit or at least boost Buffalo's depth with the man-advantage. Staal is a worthwhile target in the late rounds of standard, non-keeper fantasy drafts.
Minnesota, meanwhile, is now without a proven No. 1 center after Staal's departure. Marcus Johansson, acquired by the Wild for Staal, has alternated between center and wing in his NHL career but has never scored more than 58 points (2016-17 with Washington Capitals) in a season.
Allen traded to Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens have acquired goalie Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues. Allen had the NHL's fourth-best save percentage (.927 in 24 games) in the regular season among goalies to play at least 20 games. Allen outperformed Blues starter Jordan Binnington (0-5, .851) this postseason (2-1-1, .935 SV%) and now has a .924 SV% in 29 career postseason games.
Although Allen will likely be the 1B goalie or clear backup to Carey Price, Allen could lessen the burden of his new teammate for Montreal, which should be in postseason contention again next season. Price was tied with Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck for the most appearances (58) in the League during the regular season but had a SV% (.909) well below his career regular-season and postseason averages (.917). Allen should be targeted as a third or fourth fantasy goalie and an obvious handcuff for Price.
Tarasenko injury impact on Blues
St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko will have shoulder surgery and is expected to be out for at least five months. Tarasenko, who ranks ninth in the NHL in goals (185) since 2014-15 but also missed significant time this past regular season because of a shoulder injury, did not have a point in the four postseason games he played.
Right wing David Perron took advantage of an expanded role, most notably on the first power play, during Tarasenko's absence in the regular season, leading the Blues in power-play points (27) and ranking second in scoring (60 points) behind center linemate Ryan O'Reilly (61). With Tarasenko likely sidelined for much of next season, Perron should be considered a top 75 overall player; he finished 40th in standard leagues this season.
Kapanen traded to Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins have acquired wing Kasperi Kapanen from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a package that includes a first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Kapanen had 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 69 regular-season games and two assists in five games against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. It's worth noting Kapanen, who scored 20 goals in 2018-19, did not hold a top-six spot with exposure to elite centers Auston Matthews and John Tavares for much of the past two seasons but could be a top-six fixture for the Penguins.
Kapanen, who has two years remaining on his contract, could slot in on the top line with elite forwards Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel at even strength, with the second line being center Evgeni Malkin with wings Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker, giving Kapanen top-100 upside in standard leagues. For now, fantasy owners should temper their expectations for Kapanen, a fantasy sleeper candidate, with Pittsburgh likely to make additional moves in the offseason.
This move has little to no fantasy impact on the Maple Leafs with Toronto's main draft targets being Matthews, Tavares, wings Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, Zach Hyman and possibly Ilya Mikheyev rounding out their top six.
Islanders sign prospect Sorokin
The New York Islanders signed top goalie prospect Ilya Sorokin to a one-year entry-level contract and one-year extension for the 2020-21 season on July 14. Sorokin was 26-10-3 with a 1.50 goals-against average, .935 save percentage and nine shutouts in 40 Kontinental Hockey League games this season. He was tied for second in wins, third in GAA, tied for fourth in SV% among KHL goalies to play at least 20 games and led the league in shutouts.
With fellow Russian goalie Semyon Varlamov's impressive play this postseason, Sorokin will likely either begin next season as the Islanders backup or temporarily play with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League (similar to New York Rangers rookie Igor Shesterkin) but could earn close to a 50-50 workload over the course of the season, similar to Thomas Greiss (potential 2020 unrestricted free agent) in recent years. Sorokin, 25, should be targeted in later rounds as a high-upside fantasy rookie and much higher in keeper and dynasty leagues.
Wild agree to terms with prospect Kaprizov
The Minnesota Wild agreed to terms with top forward prospect Kirill Kaprizov on a two-year, entry-level contract. Kaprizov, a fifth-round pick (No. 135) in the 2015 NHL Draft, led the Kontinental Hockey League with 33 goals and ranked third with 62 points in 57 games this season. He is expected to make his NHL debut with the Wild next season
Kaprizov, 23, could be a top-100 fantasy asset next season for the up-and-coming Wild, who also feature breakout wing Kevin Fiala, one of the most valuable fantasy forwards in the second half of the season. Fiala, 24, led Minnesota with 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) in 64 regular-season games and three goals in four postseason games. Kaprizov would likely either play on the first line with Fiala or second unit with left wing Zach Parise (led Minnesota with 25 goals in regular season).
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