NHL Transactions - Fantasy Impact
A number of players have changed teams this offseason. While we take an in-depth look at the "Change of Scenery Effect" within the draft guide (where our findings might surprise you), here let's take a look at a few key players who've switched teams, and consider how their new digs should affect their fantasy prognosis.
Patric Hornqvist (PIT): Hornqvist came over via the James Neal trade (along with Nick Spaling), and he'll take Neal's place on Pittsburgh's second line beside Evgeni Malkin. That means he's jumping into a prime fantasy situation, and he's poised for a career-season. Hornqvist isn't as talented as Neal and doesn't have the same upside, but he's a legitimate sniper in his own right, and a 30-goal, 70-point campaign isn't out of the question.
Christian Ehrhoff (PIT): Any player coming to the high-flying Penguins has a good chance for a production bump. Ehrhoff has been rotting in Buffalo the last several seasons, but he should re-emerge as a fantasy starter in '14-15. With Niskanen and Orpik off to Washington, and with Letang and Paul Martin's inevitable injuries, Ehrhoff could easily clock in as Pittsburgh's top-scoring defender this year.
Radim Vrbata (VAN): The Sedins have made a career of turning average Joes into studs, and Vrbata is arguably the most talented offensive weapon they've ever worked with. The Phoenix import should be able to capitalize with a strong season, and Vrbata is a threat to hit the 30-goal mark playing alongside the twins.
Ryan Kesler (ANH): Kesler was traded to the Ducks early in the summer, where he'll hit the reset button and try to get back on track. He's set to center the second line, the same role he had with the Canucks, and his linemates don't necessarily represent much of an upgrade. If he plays the PP with Perry and Getzlaf, he obviously stands to benefit, but the main hope here is that the fresh start helps a guy who'd gone stale.
Andrej Meszaros (BUF): With Ehrhoff out of the picture, somebody has to play the point in Buffalo. Meszaros arrives as the de facto #1 offensive D-man in town, which makes him an interesting late-round flier. On a low-scoring team his upside is limited, but the opportunity for big minutes means he has a chance to dig himself out of the fantasy grave.
Brad Richards (CHI): His bloated contract no longer made sense in New York, so the Rangers bought him out, but Richards still has some good years ahead of him. He joins the Blackhawks, where he projects as the second-line center, meaning he'll likely skate with Sharp and Hossa. That's an obvious upgrade from his surroundings in New York, so expect a few extra ticks on the scoresheet in '14-15.
James Neal (NSH): Not every player who changes teams is going to benefit. Neal was a point-per-game stud with the Penguins, but in Nashville he probably tops out around the 65-mark. He'll likely lead the Predators in scoring, and he'll give the offense a much-needed jolt, but much of his previous high-end production relied on Malkin.
Paul Stastny (STL): Be careful here. A lot of owners seem to be expecting a jump from Stastny thanks to the move, but in St. Louis he'll essentially play the same role he did with the Avs, and the Blues are a committee offense. Each team scored about the same number of goals last season, and to us, this one seems pretty neutral. A small increase is possible, not more.
Thomas Vanek (MIN): We've seen what Vanek has to offer after a change of scenery through his various stops, and he keeps on trucking no matter where he's suiting up. It's more his line-mates who stand to gain in Minny, with Mikael Granlund potentially being the big beneficiary.
Dany Heatley (ANH): The latest rumblings have Heatley playing the top line with Getzlaf and Perry, but we're not ready to drink the Kool Aid on this one. Heatley appeared to be absolutely spent at the end of his days with the Wild, and he looked like a player whose NHL days were numbered. We need to see a spark in training camp before we make any investment here.
Dan Boyle (NYR): Boyle gives the Rangers an added dimension on the blue-line, but his skills are eroding and he'll find himself behind Ryan McDonagh in the New York pecking order. The Sharks unceremoniously cut him loose; maybe that'll provide a motivational chip on his shoulder?
Ryan Miller (VAN): Miller couldn't get it done for the Blues at the end of last season, but a veteran presence is exactly what the doctor ordered for a team in transition like the Canucks. Miller's days as a top-caliber fantasy starter are over, but he'll still be Vancouver's workhorse, and the team in front of him represents an upgrade from what he had at the end in Buffalo.
Mike Cammalleri (NJD): It's tempting to assume Cammalleri will benefit because he's going to a better team, but the Devils actually scored fewer goals than the Flames last season. As well, injuries will probably continue to keep a lid on Cammalleri's production - in the last four complete seasons (not counting the lockout year), he's topped out at 67 games played.
Jussi Jokinen (FLA): Jokinen goes from the wing of Evgeni Malkin to the fantasy swamps of Florida. Only the Sabres scored fewer goals than the Cats last season, and the Panthers didn't have a single skater who cracked the 40-point plateau. A major decline is imminent.
Sam Gagner (ARZ): With the loss of Vrbata and Ribeiro, Gagner will be asked to pick up the offensive slack for the renamed "Arizona" Coyotes. But big deal. In spite of the re-brand, this is the same old franchise, and we don't expect Gagner is the answer to their woes. With a number of other middle-tier teams in the West making improvements, the Coyotes are set for a downward slide.
Mike Ribeiro (NSH): Speaking of Ribeiro, he's now in Nashville, and he's a candidate to center the James Neal line. Things went sour in Phoenix (personal issues were reportedly at least partially to blame), but Ribeiro has historically been one the NHL's better setup men. If he can find some chemistry with Neal, a rebound is in order.
For more on these names, as well as analysis of all the players who are set for a fresh start in 2014-15, check out the Fantasy Hockey Standard Draft Guide.