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Fantasy hockey trades are the worst, but target these guys if you must

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When it comes to fantasy hockey (and fantasy sports in general), there are plenty of reasons to open your browser and grumble about your team. The following is an abridged list for such grumble-fuel:

  • Your top pick is out week-to-week with a freak injury.
  • The other team started two goalies and got two shutouts.
  • You sat a guy who generated a hat trick after a five-game goalless slump.

Allow me to point out something that almost always leaves me muttering in a more existential way: just about every trade in fantasy sports.

One can divide fantasy trades in a bunch of irritating categories.

If you’re in a league with friends, colleagues, and co-workers, there’s the dubious, late-season “favor trade.” A bad team mysteriously sends a lopsidedly friendly gift to boost your top rival, possibly in part because you made fun of their fedora at last year’s draft party.

Last week’s column: How hard do you really want to work in fantasy?

There are other groan-worthy swaps. When two romantic partners are involved, it heightens the “favor trade” into something even worse.

There are plenty of other ways you can describe trades, including garden-variety ones where the strong pick on the weak. Such cases are simple enough: there isn’t collusion there, merely one person leveraging their superior hockey knowledge upon a neophyte.

Those trades are annoying because they betray the “spirit of the game,” yet in a lot of cases, it’s annoying because someone else beat you to it.

MORE: Thursday Daily Dose at Rotoworld – Steen is a Mean Machine

Honestly, fantasy hockey trades can be fair, but my personal preference is to never see that “veto trade” button come up. Still, the option is there, and this post is designed to help you identify a few slumping players to target in trades.

Consider this a companion piece to Joey Alfieri’s weekly Add/Drop columns, as most – if not all – of these slumping players won’t be available on your waiver wire. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but consider this something of a blueprint of players to look for; applying this logic later this season is just fine, too.

That said, newbies tend to get closer to panic mode earlier in the season, so it might be wisest to strike while the desperation is hot. Let’s consider a few worthwhile trade targets, shall we?

Max Pacioretty

Oh, Patches.

It seems like there are two patterns forming with Pacioretty: goal slumps and freaky fast recoveries from injuries. There’s at least one time where those two matters converged, as Pacioretty barely scored for a month last season and then we realized he was dealing with a fractured foot.

(You may say that he’s dealing with a fractured franchise right now.)

Pacioretty scored a goal in his first game of the season and his most recent one. In between, there were seven games with zero goals and zero assists. This is a puck luck thing, as it is with many Habs: his 35 shots on goal ties him for the 11th-most in the NHL.

John Carlson

The Capitals defenseman has almost as many SOG as Patches (34 in nine games) despite being, you know, a blueliner. With a 5.4 percent career shooting percentage, Carlson’s climb probably won’t be as dramatically beneficial as Pacioretty’s likely will be, but you’d think that Carlson would be easier to pry away.

Washington needs his offense (to be fair, he does have a respectable five assists), and Carlson needs a strong season. The 27-year-old is in a pivotal contract year, and greed can be very good for fantasy.

Brent Burns

Facing similar shooting struggles to Carlson. No one’s crazy enough to trade the crazy-bearded defenseman, though, right?

Well, he’s at least worth mentioning, especially if you think a first-timer might have an itchy trade finger.

Justin Faulk is going through the same basic issues, and the Hurricanes haven’t played a ton of games, so he might be a better bet than Burns. You can, in fact, be too brazen with an offer.

(There are times when I’ve closed a browser/laptop in disgust at  THE AUDACITY of certain offers. There’s a fine line to walk here, gang.)

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Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Five points in nine games is fine for a defenseman who likely goes reasonably high in most drafts, but not quite in those “premium” spots that really sting. Still, after “only” scoring 12 goals in 2016-17 following two 20+ goal seasons, “OEL” is stuck at one goal, but that’s not the category that might cause some anxiety.

With a -10 rating, OEL has the second-worst mark, only below Mats Zuccarello. That’s rough, but the beauty of trading is that you haven’t absorbed any of that player’s bad moments.

Honestly, you might want to wait about a month on this one though. Read this post to see why the Coyotes are in for a few rugged weeks.

Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, Devan Dubnyk, etc.

This column is going a little long (don’t get this guy started on how annoying fantasy trades can be, folks), so allow me to lump in disproportionately struggling goalies to a single spot.

It’s true that each guy has his own caveat (Lundqvist’s age is a concern, Price will cost a higher price, and so on), the general rule is that they’re bound to rebound. If you can get them at a discount, go for it.

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The short version of this is to check extremes.

If someone’s shooting at an extremely high percentage compared to career numbers, sell high by trading them. This list is well-stocked with players who are suffering awful puck luck, and all should turn around. You can use similar logic to identify potential adds on the waivers, too (Rick Nash owners have had it).

Of course, you could also do the right thing and not annoy me by making any trades at all. There’s also that.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Wacky discussion: Larry Brooks suggests Devils save season by dealing Martin Brodeur

You’ve read the headline already and you’re ready to read this post and say, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

New York Post hockey man Larry Brooks posits an intriguing thought on a way to get the Devils to set their future up for the better. Brooks says that if the Devils can follow the mold the Flyers set when they dealt Peter Forsberg to Nashville a few years back, they can be better prepared to continue being a force in the Eastern Conference.

The thought is intriguing. The Flyers were able to get quite the haul from Nashville for the oft-injured former superstar helped set the future for them now by giving them Scottie Upshall (now in Phoenix), Ryan Parent (now in Vancouver) and a first round pick. The Flyers later traded that first round pick back to Nashville for Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell.  Those two players have been instrumental in the Flyers rise to success last season and again this year. So why wouldn’t the Devils try to do the same thing? Brooks’ theory is fun food for thought at least.

Lamoriello doesn’t quite have that ace. What he has on his team are nine players with no-trade clauses who would have to be massaged in order to be moved — impending free agents Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott are worthy — and what he has is Martin Brodeur.

Understand, the only way a Brodeur trade becomes a part of the conversation is if the all-time goaltender himself initiates the conversation with Lamoriello.

If that were to happen, if Brodeur, 38 and on the penultimate season of his contract, were to tell Lamoriello that he’d be OK with a trade to a blue-chip contender in need of a blue-chip goaltender, oh, and let’s just say he names Washington, then Lamoriello might well have his Forsberg and the Devils might well have John Carlson or Karl Alzner — or Mike Green? — plus a young forward along with a critically needed No. 1.

Now we don’t believe that Brodeur will ever be dealt and like what Brooks says, the only way it would happen is if Brodeur says he wants to get off the ship. Of course, if any team came to Lamoriello with an offer he just couldn’t refuse, we’re sure that he’d have a sit down discussion with Brodeur to get his thoughts on things and find a way to work things out. Of course, what team is going to have the chutzpah to call Lou Lamoriello to find out what it would take to land the team’s signature player and goaltender? There’s not many who would dare try it, if anyone at all.

The elephant in the room here is that the Devils don’t appear to have much of a future plan set for when Martin Brodeur is ready to retire. The Devils did draft a couple of goaltenders in the 2010 draft, but there’s not one that stands out as a future franchise goalie which is just what they’d need to have. Landing one in free agency will be made difficult thanks to the salary cap and the need to get Zach Parise signed long term as well as the burden of the Ilya Kovalchuk contract. There doesn’t appear to be a plan as of yet for life after Marty and it’s got to be something the Devils front office starts looking into and soon. Brodeur has just this season and next season left on his contract which will take him to age 40.

Time is ticking to get things going, but if you’re thinking that Brodeur will be the first domino to fall, you’re going to be waiting a long time.