The Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off a shocking trade Friday that could shake up the fantasy forward landscape next season.
The Blackhawks traded left wing Artemi Panarin to the Blue Jackets in a package that sent right wing Brandon Saad back to Chicago. Panarin, 25, won the Calder Trophy in 2016 and has 151 points and 41 power-play points in 162 NHL games for Chicago mostly alongside elite right wing Patrick Kane.
At first glance, this trade could negatively affect Kane, who's widely considered the third-ranked fantasy player entering next season (behind Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby) because of his strong chemistry with Panarin. Kane and Panarin have been the NHL's most productive point pair in each of the past two seasons (56 team goals with each getting a point in 2015-16; 46 in 2016-17).
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Kane was third overall in NHL.com's latest rankings prior to the trade, and Panarin was 22nd. Despite leading the NHL in scoring over the past two seasons combined (195 points in 164 games), Kane's value could slightly dip into the 6-10 range after losing his trusted linemate. The Blackhawks also have a severely depleted roster after losing Panarin and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson in separate trades Friday.
As for Panarin, he is still worthy of a top 30 pick in a standard league draft despite the initial shock of him no longer having Kane on his line. Panarin is primed for a top-line, first power-play role on the opposite wing of Cam Atkinson for the Blue Jackets, who have boosted an already strong offense. They ranked sixth in goals per game (3.01) and 12th in power play efficiency (19.9 percent) this season.
How Panarin transitions to coach John Tortorella's system will determine whether the left wing can sustain his elite performance after the trade. That said, the Blue Jackets remain one of the deepest teams in the League at left wing, now with Panarin, Nick Foligno and Scott Hartnell.
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Saad was ranked well outside NHL.com's fantasy top 100 (137th) prior to the trade, but now deserves to be considered for that realm ahead of an expanded role with the Blackhawks.
The 24-year-old re-joins the Blackhawks and should see much more significant power-play usage for them this time around. With Panarin no longer on the team and right wing Marian Hossa unable to play next season because of progressive skin disorder and side effects of medication, Saad is a lock to be on the first man-advantage unit with Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. Saad's best single-season PPP output came with Chicago in 2014-15 (10), when he averaged a career-high 2:11 per game in those situations.
Considering Saad finished tied for 13th League-wide in even-strength points (50) this season, he has clear breakout potential in his second stint with the Blackhawks. Although he was productive at 5-on-5, he did not play on the Blue Jackets first power-play unit for most of the season, averaging 1:34 of ice time per game with three power-play points.
A true net-front presence from Saad on Chicago's first power-play unit could be the final piece to his fantasy breakout puzzle. He has averaged 51 points per season over the past four, but he has maxed out at 53 points in the span, reaching that total in each of his two seasons in Columbus.
Saad helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2013 and again in 2015 when he scored 11 points (eight goals, three assists) in 23 games.