There are only a handful of games this week because the All-Star Game is set for this Saturday in St. Louis. While many owners may take a break from their league for a few days, that may give you an opportunity to pounce on a couple of free agents that can help you down the stretch (no days off).
The Gerard Gallant firing in Las Vegas was another surprise in a turbulent NHL season, and there is a good chance he won’t be out of work for long. Going 118-75-20 is impressive enough, but throw in the fact that he took over a Frankenstein roster that most thought wouldn’t be competitive for three years, and you have an x-factor that could impact a team greatly.
As for who’s hot and who’s not, here are the teams with seven or more wins in their last 10 games:
- Tampa Bay, Columbus — eight wins
- Florida, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Chicago, Vancouver — seven wins
Teams with three or fewer wins include:
- Detroit, New York Islanders, Anaheim, Los Angeles
- Ottawa (one win!)
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some waiver options this week.
Nazem Kadri (COL): 61% owned
Kadri is an under-the-radar type player up to this point in his career. Always overshadowed in Toronto, he’s in a similar situation in Colorado playing behind three superstar forwards. He’s sneaky tough (89 penalty minutes already), is tied for the team lead in hits among forwards (59), and is tied for second place on the team in goal scoring with 15. He plays a healthy 17:40 of ice time per night centering the second line, and he can be a semi-regular start for most teams.
Nick Foligno (CBJ): 18% owned
Another physical center, Foligno doesn’t look like he’ll ever be the guy who scored 31 goals in a contract year again. He does give you some steady stats in other areas, though, such as hits (152), and he could finish strong with a 40-plus point season if Columbus continues to play well.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (CBJ): 20% owned
Bjorkstrand is a different kind of player than Foligno, as he gives you some serious potential offense while he returns from an injury. Scoring two goals in his first game back is a great sign, and he’s on a 55-point pace (over a full season). Bjorkstrand is averaging over 17 minutes a night playing on the first line, and he is a late-season breakout candidate.
Viktor Arvidsson (NSH): 61% owned
Arvidsson is groaning through a substandard campaign with only 11 goals and 20 points in 35 games. He broke out last year with 34 goals in only 58 games (close to a 50 goal pace), and he also has seasons of 29 and 31 goals to his name. Perhaps a new voice behind the bench will help snap him out of his funk, and if that happens, you definitely want him in your lineup.
Travis Konecny (PHI): 69% owned
The Flyers seem to draft really well, but they continue to struggle in the standings. Konecny has been one of their better picks lately, and they took him late in the first round of the 2015 draft. With 42 points in 46 games, he is tied for the team lead in points as he enjoys his breakout year. While he put up an impressive 49-point campaign last year, he looks set to smash that personal best and is on pace for 75 points. He is an every-week start at this point, so get him while you can.
Wayne Simmonds (NJ): 22% owned
This is simply a hunch, as I believe Simmonds will be one of the most likely trade targets in the next few weeks. After trading Taylor Hall and firing their GM, New Jersey is looking at a continued rebuilding program, and Simmonds doesn’t seem to fit into that very well. He could still be a valuable commodity, as many teams would love to have a talented power forward riding shotgun during the playoff stretch. He’s hit a wall in New Jersey, but this is a guy that’s scored 24 or more goals six times, and he might rediscover that scoring touch on a better team if he gets the chance.
Erik Gustafsson (CHI): 48% owned
Gustafsson exploded onto the NHL scene last year (his third season in the league). After scoring 30 points in his first 76 games, he doubled that in 79 contests last year, including 17 goals. He’s nowhere near that pace this year with 22 points in 49 games, but he is still a solid offensive defenseman on a suddenly hot Blackhawks squad.
Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI): 19% owned
The Ghost has had a tough season to date, ghosted by his own coach at times and now out with a knee injury. Gostisbehere is on track to return by the end of January, and he is another prime trade target by the looks of things in Philly. His talent is undeniable, with a 46 point rookie season (in only 64 games) and a career-high 65 point season two years ago. I don’t like his chances of a sudden turnaround with the Flyers, but if he is dealt and gets his mind right, he can produce as well as anyone else.
Corey Crawford (CHI): 35% owned
At 35 years of age, Crawford is a UFA next season, so he could be another player moved before the deadline. After some serious concussion issues, he’s been steady for a so-so Chicago team and could be a guy another team turns to if their starter is injured. It’s a stash play, but stranger things have happened than a guy like Crawford coming back strong.
Morgan Frost (PHI): 1% owned
Frost has been sent to the AHL, although he seemed to be playing fairly well with the big club. His stats weren’t great (7 points in 18 games), but it was most likely an effort to let him have more ice time that was behind the demotion. He’s starting to produce on the farm, and his junior stats (310 points in 257 games) indicate his skill level. If he can take his game to the next level in Lehigh Valley, he could soon get a permanent call up.