Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wire: 3/28
For leagues across many sites, the finals have most likely arrived, as leagues wouldn’t go into the last week of the NHL season, which is next week, as most teams have just two or three games left at that point. With that in mind, if you are reading this and are one of those finalists, I wish you the best of luck. However, journalists don’t just provide luck but also analysis. And my analysis all year long have been based on moves. Being that this Sunday ends the hockey season, I will structure it to include Tuesday’s matchups if the team has a good one. If you play in a league where the finals are next week or extend to a particular day, I can also include additional matchups. Therefore, if you need any waiver wire pickups this week, here they are.
Thomas Vanek (CLS)
Mr. Traded himself makes the list as my winger for this week. Vanek has helped the Blue Jackets’ offense since he has arrived, with four goals and five assists, and making other players around him better as well, leading to the Blue Jackets surging into the 3rd spot in the Metropolitan Division, rather than floating around the Wild Card like they have all season. Vanek, on the season as a whole, has 21 goals and 29 assists, which is on pace for his best season since 2013-14, where he played for three different teams (Sabres, Islanders, and Canadiens). In terms of the matchups, the Blue Jackets are on the West Canadian road trip this week, without the one team that is actually competitive and in the playoffs, the Winnipeg Jets. That is a good thing for signing Vanek, as the Jackets draw the other three teams that won’t make the playoffs this season and have iffy goaltending. The Canucks are 4th worst in GAA at 3.21, while the Oilers are 5th worst at 3.18. The final matchup is the Calgary Flames, who haven’t been as bad overall (14th at 2.97), but are still below average, struggling, and don’t have any goaltenders that scare you talent wise. Vanek has played prominent minutes too with this team struggling offensively like they have all season, so expect him to be involved in the couple of matchups where they can produce points, which I believe can be this stretch this week. It obviously wouldn’t be a long-term option at this point in the season, but Vanek from a matchup perspective can boost your team just enough playing against these lower West Canadian teams.
Derick Brassard (PIT)
“Again with the Penguins?” you may ask. Well, I will reiterate it, they always play well in the second half of the season. And once again, they have favorable matchups and four games. If you include tonight’s matchup with the Red Wings, the Penguins have four games this week. The other three matchups consist of the Montreal Canadiens, the New Jersey Devils, and the Washington Capitals. The Canadiens have struggled all year long defensively with Carey Price and Shea Weber injured, resulting in a GAA that is 9th worst in the league at 3.10. The Devils and Capitals have talented goaltenders that have both had injury issues and both have had down years to this point. This is not to stay they can’t steal one, but I am less confident that they do against the deepest offensive team in the NHL. The Devils (2.95 GAA) and Capitals (2.92 GAA) are right in the middle of the pack as a result. Brassard has 21 goals and 25 assists on the season, most of which with an Ottawa Senators that, despite being offensively talented, has had a down year and is nowhere near the offensive talent the Penguins have. With him now a month into his Penguins stint, he is starting to score goals for them now and has points in six straight games. And I expect, with these matchups as well as this team always playing well down the stretch, Brassard is once again a nice add for your fantasy team to finish similarly strong.
Sami Vatanen (NJ)
I have picked former Devil Adam Henrique on my waiver wire list in previous weeks, and now I will pick the other end of this trade. Sami Vatanen has been a nice two-way defenseman for the Devils, and a big reason why they are in a playoff spot. Offensively, he only has four goals on the season but has contributed 27 assists, which is very good for a defenseman and is very good on a team that isn’t overly talented offensively. Defensively, he has contributed 86 hits and 91 blocks, which will get you points as well in most leagues dependent obviously on the scoring structure. In terms of matchups, they also have four games, including one tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes. If you don’t get the add in time for that game, you still have three other good matchups against the Penguins, Islanders, and Hurricanes. The Penguins are still dealing with a goaltender platoon with Matt Murray being in and out with injury. As a result, the Penguins are tied for 11th worst in the NHL allowing 3.06 goals per game. The other two matchups against the Islanders and Canadiens are even more favorable. The Islanders have had the worst goaltending in the league all year, allowing 3.58 goals per game. And as I mentioned above, Montreal without their two stars is at 3.10 goals allowed per game. I believe Vatanen, especially with the Devils in a playoff push and in some rivalry games, can contribute both offensively and defensively in these matchups. So if you need a defenseman for depth or injury replacement or even just for matchups, I believe the former Duck is worth the add for a team that has a sense of urgency.
Jimmy Howard (DET)
The goaltending market is once again tough, with a lot more owned in more than 50% of leagues that are playing relevant hockey or are on good teams. However, if you need a goaltender with two potentially winnable matchups and still has a solid level of talent, I believe Jimmy Howard is the guy. He has a matchup tonight against the Penguins that I don’t necessarily like, but still may contribute at least a few points if he doesn’t get completely shelled. The other two matchups are against the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference in the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators. The Sabres have been absolutely pitiful at scoring goals, at a rate of 2.32 goals per game. And if you contain Jack Eichel, they have no consistently reliable goal-scoring options. Ottawa is not quite that bad, but have been struggling much of the year as well offensively. They are 7th worst in the league at 2.7 goals per game and aren’t going to be playing hard with nothing to play for and not many developmental pieces either. With that in mind, I think Howard, assuming that he plays, is a solid matchup goaltender. This is not meant to prioritize him as a goaltender one or two because odds are your team has top-notch goaltending if you’re in the finals. But those extra games mean extra points and will make the difference in a matchup that could be decided by single digits or even decimals, dependent on the scoring system. Regardless, it is only two games, but if you need that extra boost or that depth goaltender to take your team over the top, Jimmy Howard is worth the risk.