There was a three-day holiday break this week, but now that that's over the regular season grind has resumed. We're nearing the halfway mark of the campaign and with that, we should start to see the trade talk intensify further. So far we can only really say with absolute certainty that Edmonton and Carolina won't make the playoffs and we can therefore assume that both teams will take on the role of sellers, but others aren't far behind. Of course, what position a team is in has an impact on a player's fantasy value, so the two issues are intertwined.
This week's list features one player that is seen as a top trade chip and others are sure to be listed in the weeks to come.
Sam Gagner (ARI) - C/RW - Owned in 3% of Yahoo leagues
Gagner is someone who has the potential to be a decent contributor in standard leagues, but he's only showed flashes of that since his strong 2013 campaign. So his latest run of six points in three contests could be a sign that he's finally adjusted to Arizona and is now ready to chip in offensively with more regularity, or it could just be a hot streak in what will ultimately prove to be another disappointing campaign. Gagner's not a bad guy to gamble on because he is someone with the potential to significantly pleasantly surprise people in the second half, but he's also a player you shouldn't hesitate to drop if he endures a prolonged cold spell.
Michael Hutchinson (WPG) - G - Owned in 46% of Yahoo leagues
If you're not happy with your goaltending situation and you are in a position to pick up Michael Hutchinson, then you should strongly think about doing so. He's not the outright starter in Winnipeg, but it's gotten to the point where he's evenly splitting the duties with Ondrej Pavelec. That's reason enough to get him as he's been one of the league's top goaltenders this season with a 1.77 GAA and .939 save percentage. You might see those numbers decline as the season drags on, but they should remain very impressive.
Andrej Sekera (CAR) - D - Owned in 15% of Yahoo leagues
Sekera broke out last season with 11 goals and 44 points in 74 contests, but it seems people were quick to write him off after his slow start to the season. Of course, Carolina's offense in general was nearly dead at the start of the campaign and there's only so much a blueliner can do offensively under those circumstances. He's bounced back somewhat though and now has a respectable two goals and 14 points in 33 contests. As it stands, Sekera isn't a bad bench player and potential injury replacement in standard leagues, but he could turn out to be more than that. With Carolina's season now a lost cause and Sekera set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, there's already trade speculation surrounding him. If he gets dealt, it could provide him with a nice boost in fantasy value in the last portion of the season.
Derek Stepan (NYR) - C - Owned in 56% of Yahoo leagues
Usually I won't include players that are already owned in more than half of Yahoo leagues, but I sometimes make exceptions for players that I feel are substantially underrepresented. Stepan is someone that's a worthy addition to most standard league teams. He missed the start of the season due to a fractured fibula, but he's been both consistent and dominant since returning on Nov. 8. He hasn't endured a point slump of more than two games and he has six goals and 22 points in 21 games this season. If you're lucky enough to still have the option of picking him up as a free agent, do so.
Mark Borowiecki (OTT) - D - Owned in 3% of Yahoo leagues
Borowiecki has four assists in his last six games, but the truth is he might not do much more offensively this season. Which is okay, because that's not why I'm putting his name out there anyways. It's rare to find defensemen that will spend much time in the sin bin, but Borowiecki is one of the exception with 62 PIM in 30 games. That's good for third place among blueliners and puts him just three penalty minutes back of the league leader, Dion Phaneuf. If you're in a non-traditional league that uses hits and blocked shots, then Borowiecki is even more interesting as he has 114 and 52 respectively. The reason why it's worth considering him despite his near lack of offensive contributions is because a fair number of people like to have a forward on their roster that specializes in PIM, but if you can fill that role with a defenseman, it's sometimes preferable. The blueliner Borowiecki will potentially start in favor of likely has a significantly lower offensive ceiling than the forward being replaced for a PIM specialist. Every situation will obviously be different in this regard, but it's something to think about.
Colin Wilson (NAS) - C/LW - Owned in 4% of Yahoo leagues
Wilson is another example of a player with potential that got off to a slow start. He only had 11 goals and 33 points in 81 games in 2013-14, but he was coming off of offseason surgery on both of his shoulders and he admitted that could have been a factor. This season he had to adjust to a new coach and system, but around mid-November things started to click for him. He has nine goals and 14 points in his 17 games, which has provided the Predators with some much-needed secondary scoring behind the top line (which is often compromised of James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, and Filip Forsberg). His pace for the last 17 contests might not be maintainable for Wilson, but he shouldn't collapse either. With 48 games left in Nashville's schedule, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect Wilson to record 25-30 points.
Mark Scheifele (WPG) - C - Owned in 15% of Yahoo leagues
Scheifele had a solid rookie season with 34 points in 63 games, but his sophomore campaign got off to a slow start. He's finally turned a corner though with three goals and nine points in his last seven contests. He's got plenty of offensive upside, so he's definitely worth taking a chance on to see if there's something more to his current hot streak. Winnipeg is likely to be in the battle for a playoff spot until the bitter end too. If the Jets succeed then they'll be the first to play in postseason games in Winnipeg since 1996, so the squad should only get more motivated and play with more desperation as the campaign drags on.
Steve Downie (PIT) - LW/RW - Owned in 45% of Yahoo leagues
Downie has the mumps right now and has been shed from some teams as a result. That being said, he's already missed around a week, so it's possible that he'll return in the not too distant future. Once he does, he should continue to chip in offensively while providing fantasy owners with a ton of penalty minutes. So far this season he's been a fine addition to standard league teams with five goals, 12 assists, a plus-eight rating, and 135 PIM.