Corey Abbott: Buffalo and Winnipeg fired the first salvos, as the trade deadline approaches, when they completed a 7-player blockbuster trade last Wednesday, with Evander Kane and Tyler Myers as the headliners. The Sabres also dealt number one goalie Jhonas Enroth to Dallas, which raised some eyebrows. Of all the players involved in the deals, who do you like for the rest of the season and who do you like heading into next season/in the future?
Michael Finewax: I like Drew Stafford the rest of the way as he is playing for a contract. I still like Evander Kane for next season and beyond. He is going to have a great center feeding him the puck, be it Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel or perhaps even Sam Reinhart. Kane realizes that he burned a bridge in Winnipeg and another one could cost him a lengthy and successful NHL career.
Kevin Brown: I think the biggest beneficiary of these deals, by a country mile, is Evander Kane and I said as much in the Fantasy Nuggets column I posted earlier in the week. Just 23 years of age, Kane has already had some very productive stretches in his NHL career and he has done this despite operating as a third-line player with the Jets. Although the Sabres are not currently a very desirable destination for offensive players, he will undoubtedly skate on their top line and as Michael said, he should have the benefit of a bona fide talent at center for years to come.
Of course Kane won’t see the ice again until next fall so he’s a long-term play, but in the short-run I think Tyler Myers has a chance to see to see his stock rise. I wouldn’t bet my life on a resurgence from the big Texan, but there’s a reason the Sabres made him the 12th overall selection in the 2008 draft and he demonstrated significant skill when he averaged better than 40 points over his first two NHL campaigns. Winnipeg obviously sees potential in Myers that the Sabres have been unable to tap over the past four seasons and I think moving to a better situation could help his numbers improve even if his game doesn’t get a whole lot better.
Ryan Dadoun: Honestly, there's not a single player in either trade that I really want for the rest of the season as far as standard leagues go. If I had to pick one, I would go with Stafford because getting out of Buffalo alone is a boost and he should be decent offensively the rest of the way.
Looking past this season, the guy that everyone will have their eyes on is Evander Kane, but is he worth drafting? I'm not so sure. Everyone knows he's talented, needed a change of scenery, and that Buffalo will have a high-potential center that might play alongside him next season. But because those are established facts, it will be priced in come draft day, which in other words means that people will be drafting him earlier than they otherwise would have.
The thing is though, from an outsider's perspective, it looked like he caused a lot of the problems that led to this trade. Could there be more to it that we didn't see? There almost certainly is. Could this mess have led to an epiphany that allows him to handle things better in Buffalo? We're not qualified to say. I hate going after players that require psychoanalysis because we barely scratch the surface of these guys' lives, so how can we be certain they'll respond to certain events in certain ways? I mean, you would think the lack of free agent interest in Alexander Semin would have been a wakeup call for him and maybe it was for that first season in Carolina, but it didn't help matters in the long run.
All I can really judge Kane on is his performance on the ice, which has been underwhelming over the last two seasons. Can playing with a guy like Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel help? Sure, but in order to bank on that we have to assume that McDavid/Eichel has a tremendous rookie season, which isn't a given no matter how talented they are (see Tavares, Stamkos, etc.), that Buffalo doesn't attempt to ease McDavid/Eichel in by starting whichever one they get on the third line, and that Kane is the one that gets first crack playing alongside them and sticks with them all for the vast majority of the season. Also it's worth adding that Buffalo is nowhere near ready to compete and plus/minus should continue to be a drag next season. That might change if they have a good summer, but with the free agent pool looking thin and the unlikelihood of them suddenly trading prospects for veterans, I'm not optimistic about them adding much beyond what they get from the draft. So sure, it could work out, but Kane is still a high-risk pick and I'd only draft him if I feel he's fallen far enough to make it worth the gamble.
Abbott: The prospect of Kane playing alongside Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel is intriguing, but even if he doesn't I still like his potential to succeed in Buffalo. He has more shots on goal than any player on the Sabres right now and is exactly the kind of forward they need. He drives to the net with speed, plays physical and he can score. There is some risk because he hasn't lived up to his potential yet, but he's only 23 years old. His relationship with the Jets organization was on shaky ground long before it reached its boiling point recently. Moving to a team where he feels wanted, where he can soak up top-line minutes and play a key role on the power play will help him tremendously. I think his recovery from shoulder surgery will play more of a factor in when he gets drafted than anything else.
As far as this season goes, I'm keeping an eye on Zach Bogosian and Jhonas Enroth. Bogosian should get an opportunity to quarterback a power play, which is something he could never do in Winnipeg because of Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom. He's shown flashes of potential before, but injuries have stood in his way in the past. I also like that he's playing close to home because skating in front of friends and family could serve as extra motivation. Enroth may give the Stars some quality starts down the stretch. His acquisition appears to have already sparked Kari Lehtonen, who got a shutout after Dallas made the deal. They should be able to push each other, which would be a win-win situation for the Stars and fantasy owners of them both.
Finewax: I agree with Corey in regards to Zach Bogosian as he will finally get a chance to run the power play, albeit the worst one in the league in Buffalo where they have scored only 18 times all season in 152 chances. Maybe he can be a difference maker although I see their problem as having no finishers, especially if Chris Stewart, who has four goals and nine points on the pp, is traded.
As far as Enroth is concerned, I think he is an established goalie, but will play in only 25 percent of games if Kari Lehtonen is healthy which he has been over the last five seasons. If you look back, Lehtonen has played 69, 59, 36 (in the shortened 48 game schedule) and 65 in his last four seasons and has played in 47 of the Stars 56 games this year. The shutout Lehtonen had on Friday did not hurt his cause.
Brown: I disagree with the notion that Evander Kane will be a trendy pick in drafts next year and that optimism about his opportunity in Buffalo will be reflected in his price. We may be talking a lot about him this week because of the fact he was the centerpiece of this deal, but by the time training camp rolls around I actually think his stock will be deflated as fantasy players beginning to look closely at the Sabres roster and worry about the team’s struggles dragging him down. That’s why I think targeting him, as I intend to do, will be a relatively easy task to accomplish if you’re willing to take a chance. His plus/minus may be a deficiency, but I think he has a real chance of posting 30 goals and 100 penalty minutes, which is something no player achieved last season (Wayne Simmonds had 29 and 106) and nobody is on pace to do this year.
As for Bogosian, you won’t find a bigger supporter of his than me, but I’m skeptical about his prospects for the rest of this season. I own him in a deep keeper league that I compete in with Michael and I’m viewing the trade as a negative unless he does really get a chance at significant power play time, which is not guaranteed. I recognize there’s little to no competition among Sabres blueliners, but I worry the franchise views him as more of a shutdown defender than an offensive force. His first couple of games in Buffalo will go a long way in determining his fantasy value going forward.
Dadoun: With regards to Bogosian, I agree that he'll get a ton of minutes and plenty of power-play ice time, but the same was true of Tyler Myers and that didn't help him bounce back offensively. Buffalo averages just 1.76 goals per game and that's before dealing away Stafford, who ranked third on the team in points. The Winnipeg Jets weren't exactly a strong team offensively, but even they are scoring nearly a goal per game more. Next season, when Buffalo's offensive prospects look better, I could see Bogosian turning things around, but for now the Sabres are a graveyard.
Abbott: A great deal of this trade is more about future implications than this season, especially when it comes to the Sabres. However, Winnipeg got a little of both in the deal. Stafford and Myers started to chip in offensively on Saturday, with a goal and two assists between them. They have secondary offensive roles, but that could be enough to warrant giving them a chance for the rest of this season.
The prospects the Jets got in the deal will help probably be able to help them out down the road. Joel Armia has made progress in his second year of North American hockey and there's a lot of excitement around Brendan Lemieux, who is a high energy agitator with scoring ability.
Finewax: It's a good trade for both teams. The Predators get a solid third line center in Santorelli who is under appreciated by many. He does a lot of things well and plays hard. His fantasy value is limited as he will see no power play time in Nashville. Franson is a solid blueliner who will probably slot in as the third defenseman in Nashville, behind Shea Weber and Roman Josi, and just ahead of the ever improving Seth Jones. He will see second unit power play time and will be valuable on the ice as he is a much needed right handed rearguard.
The Leafs get to start the rebuild with a late first round choice and a nice prospect in the smallish, but skilled and smart Brendan Leipsic who was leading the Milwaukee Admirals in points in his rookie season. He will head over to the Marlies and may get a late season look-see in the NHL. Olli Jokinen is just a throw-in for salary reasons and the Leafs could try and trade him as a depth forward for a playoff team.
Brown: Like most of the deals that get done at this time of year, it really is a win-win. The Maple Leafs were in a position where all of their prospective trade partners were aware of the fact they had to move both Franson and Santorelli so they didn't have much leverage and yet still came away with a decent return. From a fantasy standpoint, I don't see major implications for the players involved although Franson's value will likely take a hit because of a slightly reduced role with the Predators. Neither Santorelli or Jokinen was worthy of a roster spot in standard leagues prior to the deal and that remains true now.
Dadoun: I agree with Michael and Kevin, but I just want to throw in one qualifier as far as the Leafs are concerned. Although this is the type of trade a rebuilding team makes, I'm not certain the Leafs have fully embraced the idea of doing a proper rebuild and I won't be until they move one or more veterans of more consequence. We've seen Toronto pull off similar trades in recent years and we've also seen them make moves that are contrary to building towards the future. The result has been a team that's been largely stuck in neutral since the birth of the salary cap era. Maybe the Leafs have finally had enough, maybe the presence of Brendan Shanahan will prove to be the difference, but if recent history is any guide, they won't show the patience needed to see this rebuild through. We'll see though, taken by itself I certainly don't see fault in this trade from Toronto or Nashville's perspective.
Abbott: Looks like we are all in agreement when it comes to this deal. The Leafs were looking to unload a couple of pending unrestricted free agents and they got a good return for players who could very well be rentals for the Predators. Nashville got deeper on the blueline and at forward, which will help down the stretch and into the playoffs. This was already a strong team and it will make the Western Conference arms race going into March 2 all the more intriguing.
Ryan makes a good point about Toronto doing this type of thing before. I think this is just the beginning of their moves, though. It will be interesting to see what else they do leading into the trade deadline and what other transactions could be made in the summer. I believe this was a decent first step even though Franson and Santorelli certainly weren't part of the problem. The move could also help the Leafs finish in the bottom five, which would certainly help the rebuild effort.