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Frozen Fantasy: 'Fleuries' Ahead

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

The NHL trade deadline is less than a month away. Here in Canada, it has almost become a national holiday. And it's often anticlimactic.

Not this year.

The expansion draft for the Vegas Golden Knights is bearing down on teams fast and teams can only protect certain guys. And that means there could be some unusual names moved by trade deadline.

Move them or lose them. And there's no sense in that.

I've been playing around with's expansion draft algorithm for a while now, just to see who might be exposed. And who might be moved at this deadline.

There are some interesting names.

Semyon Varlamov has been awful this year, but he does have a 41-win season under his belt and 96 wins over the last three seasons. Which goalie is he?

Jakob Silfverberg is a 26-year-old, two-way stud on pace for his first 50-plus point season. The Ducks need him for the postseason but will lose him for sure in June.

Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek could both be exposed. Eric Staal has resurrected his career in Minny, but they have too many good, young guys to protect. And that means Marco Scandella and Jonas Brodin could be left unprotected, too.

Ditto Nashville. P.K. Subban and Roman Josi are obvious keepers. But they can only protect one more defender – is that Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm? And the Isles have a bevy of developing guys on their blue line, but they have to keep Johnny Boychuk because of his no-move clause and will choose to keep Nick Leddy.

So that leaves a tough decision – Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey or Travis Hamonic?

Tough calls.

Tampa might be hurting the most and could be wonderfully active on deadline day. They risk losing Ben Bishop and Tyler Johnson to free agency and Alex Killorn and Vladislav Namestnikov to expansion. Yikes.

NHL trade deadline day will be different this year. And that will impact fantasy owners dramatically. In their dreams AND their nightmares.

Now, let's look at who caught my eye this week.

Jason Demers, D, Florida (10 percent Yahoo! owned) -
Demers is quietly putting up his best offensive numbers ever down in the sunny climes of the Sunshine State. He's on a 35-point pace and will hit double-digits with his next goal. Journeyman defenders like Demers can provide steady, yet unsexy production as your last defenseman. And there, he'll go on short spurts like he is now. Demers has three points in his last two games and six in his last 10. His plus-minus has been queasy thus far, but the return of Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov should not only provide the team with offense, but a more stable, two-way core, too. And Demers' overall game will benefit from that.

Patrick Eaves, RW, Dallas (23 percent) -
Nineteen. Those are goals. In 51 games. Eaves is one goal shy of his rookie-best 20 and on a pace that could see him net 29 or 30 this season. Go figure. Eaves and his goals might be a decent boost if that's what you need. Just remember that he's been streaky in a drunken, nude fan on a Super Bowl field kind of way over his career. This season has been a bit different – he's already established a career high for points (33) in just 51 games. Still, Eaves is injury prone and you might need to tackle and remove him from your roster quickly. Use him, but don't overestimate him.

Marian Gaborik, LW/RW, Los Angeles (8 percent) -
Gaborik may turn 35 on Valentine's Day, but this cupid can still find fantasy hearts. He's on a four-game, four-point streak (two goals, two assists) and he's plus-5 in that span. Gaborik found new life two seasons ago in La-La-Land and I think he can do it again now that he's finally healthy. Gaborik is skating with the great Anze Kopitar and he has changed Kopitar's game. Just look at Kopitar's production in the last little while – 10 points in nine games heading into the weekend. The Gaborik-Kopitar duo has a chance to be one of the best in the second-half of the season. Take advantage.

Korbinian Holzer, D, Anaheim (0 percent) -
Holzer is here because he can hit, so don't bother with him unless you count that category. But if you do, he delivers almost 2.5 hits per game and chips in an occasional point (six in 22 games). The Hit Man comes cheap if you need a single-category boost.

Darcy Kuemper, G, Minnesota (3 percent) -
Kuemper has been sketchy this season, but he turned up the focus against the Oil on Tuesday night. He made 43 saves in a wild, 5-2 win and has shown his coach that he might just be able to spell off stud Devan Dubnyk as the team builds to the postseason. If so, Kuemper will be in the blue paint more than he has been so far, and there are fantasy points to be had in that.

Elias Lindholm, RW/C, Carolina (5 percent) -
Lindholm has been a playmaking machine since just before Christmas. He has 14 points, including 11 assists, in 13 games since Dec. 23. Is he the next Nicklas Backstrom? Not yet, but soon enough. And he's a lot cheaper with more positional flexibility.

Zack Smith, LW/C, Ottawa (9 percent) -
Smith is hot. He has put up 11 points, including three goals, in his last 11 games and 18 points (eight goals) in his last 16. This former fourth liner exploded for 25 goals last season on the back of opportunity and an elite wrist shot. And everyone thought he'd slip back to his plugger ways this year. Nope. Smith is riding a five-game, seven-point (three goals, four assists) scoring streak heading into play Saturday and he's getting primo ice time with Derick Brassard and Mark Stone. Add him. Now.

Colin Wilson, LW, Nashville (1 percent) -
Wilson missed eight games in the middle of January with an undisclosed injury. He's back and his game looks a whole lot sharper than it had pre-ouch. Wilson is skating with James Neal and Calle Jarnkrok, and that alphabet line is really starting to click. He has three points in his last four games heading into weekend play. Jarnkok has five points and Neal has two points, but 13 shots, in the same span. Wilson was outstanding in the postseason last year and maybe –just, maybe – he can recapture that glory in the second half. He's worth a flyer, just in case. You can always drop him if he reverts to his old ways.

Pavel Zacha, LW/C, New Jersey (1 percent) -
Zacha has an outstanding future. But the teenager has been overshadowed by this season's influx of rookie studs like Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk, Anthony Mantha, Zach Werenski, Sebastian Aho … you get the point. Zacha's overall production – 12 points in 44 games – makes him easy to dismiss. But he has quietly started to find his legs. Zacha has five points, including three goals, in his last seven games and has the same kind of talent as some of the boys on that list above. Keeper owners need to grab him for sure. And single-year owners could just find he's a nice surprise.

Back to dreams. And nightmares.

The biggest name of all on the current expansion draft list is Matt Murray of the Pens. All of Pennsylvania will freeze over before he's exposed. So Marc-Andre Fleury and his no-move clause will be moved, regardless of that little clause.

I own Fleury in a big keeper league and a trade will resurrect his soft value. There's still plenty left in Flower's gas tank.

Trade deadline day is going to be fun. And so will the Yahoo trade deadline. It falls on March 2, the day right after NHL's big day.

At least we'll have a few hours to react. I think we're going to need it.

Until next week.