By Janet Eagleson, RotoWire Senior Hockey Writer
Special to Yahoo Sports
Trade deadlines in keeper leagues are looming. There’s no room for the weak. Or the indecisive. You’re either all-in or you’re rebuilding.
Anything else is just plain stupid.
Let me explain that. I didn’t call anyone stupid. I just think waiting to act IS stupid. So is jumping in without a plan. Hold on too long and you miss out on guys who could seal your success. And waiting for the perfect deal will limit your return if you’re rebuilding. And limit your future success.
Seems simple. But it can be so hard.
I decided to blow up my staff league keeper team 10 days from our trade deadline. And within three-and-a-half days, I moved out one-third of my active roster. I got back amazing cheap keepers, high-potential minor leaguers and great draft picks.
I set myself up for this three-and-a-half day window back in September. At our auction. I had lots of cash to buy and snagged three of the best four forwards available – Tyler Seguin, Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Getzlaf. I had a plan – I knew they had resale value if my team flopped.
And it did. A combo of injuries and slow starts put me back early. And despite a strong run in December, I was still one game out of the last playoff spot last week. And I just didn’t have enough young assets to pursue the best players now. So sell it was.
I stuck to my plan.
The only guy that haunts me is Ivan Provorov. I know I’ll regret trading him because he’s keepable at $3 for three more years. Jake Gardiner at $6 for another season was the only other guy worth keeping. The others? They’re way too expensive to keep in a 23-player, $230 auction league.
Here are my deals. I’m Bobby Orr Redux, a nod to my passion for brilliant defenders (now you see why dealing Provorov was a gut-wrencher for me). (M) denotes minor leaguers. They are listed in real time, with the last three happening pretty much on top of each other.
Bobby Orr Redux trades: Tyler Seguin, Evgeni Malkin, Ivan Provorov, Alexander Nylander (M), 2018 4th round pick
The Iceman trades: Mathew Barzal, Anthony Mantha, Filip Chytil, Jake Walman (M)
Bobby Orr Redux trades: Ryan Getzlaf
The McDavid Goliath trades: Jordan Kyrou (M)
Bobby Orr Redux trades: John Gibson
Dynamite Hacks trades: Thomas Greiss, 2018 3rd round pick
Bobby Orr Redux trades: Jake Gardiner, Bryan Little
Blade of Steel trades: 2018 1st round pick, Christian Djoos
Bobby Orr Redux trades: T.J. Brodie
Tellemwhattheyknow trades: 2018 4th round pick
Quite the flurry, eh? Now let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.
Jonas Brodin, D, Minnesota (2 percent Yahoo! owned) – Brodin is one of those steady, low-maintenance defenders that every team wants in its top four. He just doesn’t deliver consistent enough offense to roster on an ongoing basis. But when Brodin surges, you need to have him rolling on your roster. He heads into Saturday on a three-game, five-assist streak and has seven points in his last 10 games. Brodin doesn’t get much power-play time, but his plus-minus is strong and he blocks a lot of shots. I grabbed him as a roster-filler after yet another trade in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League. And I’ll drop him when he slows. But for now, I hope those assists keep flowing.
Travis Dermott, D, Toronto (2 percent) – Dermott is a smooth-skating, offensive defender with ice water in his veins. He slipped to the second round in 2015 because scouts believed his production might be the product of skating with Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters. Wrong. The guy’s skills are his own; they’re not the product of some other guy. Dermott deserves to be with the Leafs for the rest of the season, but it will come down to Mike Babcock’s approach when Roman Polak (spit) comes back. Dermott’s ability to push the puck helps keep the team’s speed high. And with that offense in front of him, he should get points. He enters play Saturday on a two-game, three-point, plus-five run. That level isn’t sustainable, but he should continue to get secondary assists here and there, while keeping his plus minus positive.
Zach Hyman, LW/C, Toronto (14 percent) – Hyman is to Toronto as Justin Abdelkader was to Detroit. Discuss. Mike Babcock has this thing for hard-working, highly coachable third-line types – he sticks them on scoring lines and never wavers. He did it with Abdelkader in Detroit and he’s doing it with Hyman in Toronto. Hyman is a top-line man in blue and white, skating alongside Auston Matthews. It’s not that he’s without talent – check out the hands on this goal. But he wouldn’t be a top guy on another team. Hyman has six points (three goals, three assists) in his last seven games and is a worthy addition.
Kari Lehtonen, G, Dallas (11 percent) – Lehtonen is finally in the right role and we’re seeing his real value. His GAA is 2.31 and save percentage is .915 – those are solid to strong for a BACK-UP goalie. Lehtonen was always overstretched as a starter, but now he’s a fairly regular guy coming off the bench. And that means he’s a smart spot starter for owners needing goalie points.
Jacob Markstrom, G, Vancouver (36 percent) – I received this guy in a trade Saturday morning. I was surprised by his recent strong play (five wins in his last seven starts). But I shouldn’t have been – he was one of the most desirable stud prospects five years ago. Markstrom has great talent and the Orcas are playing decent hockey. They have little to lose and so much to show in preparation for next season. I am going with my gut – I think these guys are going to be a tough play down the stretch and I want in, not out, on the right Canucks. See if you can sneak him off someone’s roster.
Matthew Peca, C, Tampa Bay (1 percent) – Let’s get this out of the way. Matthew is NOT Mike Peca’s kid. Mike was Captain Crunch – he delivered devastating open ice hits and won face-offs at all the right times. Matthew is a good skater with deceptive acceleration, and he plays solid, two-way hockey. He’ll be a shutdown specialist on the third or fourth line when he settles into the NHL for good. But right now, Peca is playing desperate hockey to show Bolts’ brass he belongs in the NHL. He heads into Saturday’s game on a three-game, five-point streak that includes two goals, 10 shots on goal and a plus-seven rating. Peca will slow down, but for now, he offers desperate owners in deep leagues an opportunity to capture a little lightning in the bottle. See what I did there? Lightning. Bottle. Oh, never mind.
Bryan Rust, LW/RW, Pittsburgh (6 percent) – Rust is a speedy, lunch-bucket type who busts it every shift. He’s better suited for forechecking and PK work, but in Pittsburgh, he gets offensive opportunities because of matchups. What does that mean? Opposing teams focus so much on the Pens’ top-two lines that the lower lines get some freedom. And in that environment, Rust has the ability to deliver streaky offense, just like he’s doing right now. He has five points, including three goals, in four games since returning from a month-long injury absence. Take a look, but don’t hold on too long. The pointless streaks can happen the same way the scoring streaks can.
Ryan Spooner, LW/C, Boston (7) – I’ve mentioned Spooner before. I picked him up and then had to drop him to accommodate an IR move. Not smart. Spooner has five goals and four assists in his last 10 games. The Bruins are hot and this guy is, too. Put him on your roster in a LW spot and let him ride for a bit. You won’t be sorry.
Back to the trades.
I shared my deals because I wanted to give you a glimpse into my thinking. To a one, the deals were relatively painless. My trade partners made really good early offers, so there wasn’t much tweaking needed. The Mathew Barzal deal took the most negotiation – it was big and it was with Jon Litterine, Rotowire.com’s hockey prospect guru.
He wanted Martin Necas (you know a guy is great when a guru wants him) and I wasn’t budging. But we made it work.
Overall, I stuck to my plan. I didn’t pre-imagine all these deals – I just knew that my auction strategy in September needed to set me up for two things. Trying to win this year OR provide assets that would help me rebuild fast should my original plan go off the rails.
The other key? Strike fast. Pulling off the first two deals above not only set up the next three, but also set a tone for the rest of the league. The top teams have all turned up the heat in their pursuit of players.
And bottom teams are in liquidation mode … but some of the best assets that were available are now on MY team.
Look out next season. And this year, I’m going to continue to play spoiler. It’s the least I can do.