Hutch's Hockey: Business Etiquette

Hutch's Hockey: Business Etiquette

No sweeping statements or funny puns to open up the week. We're almost a month into the season now, and I've started doing a little more work on the trade market, or at least trying to. Making deals is part of the fantasy world -- it's easily one of my least favorite parts, but I'm always willing to look at an offer. 

Not to make this too much of a lecture, but we can all collectively be better in trade talks. Too often, I see an intriguing deal come through, only for it to be gone a few hours later -- sometimes before I've had time to really evaluate it. I will always give someone at least 24 hours to review a trade offer before rescinding it. Every serious fantasy manager will check in on their team once a day on average. These limited-time offers don't do anyone good. 

Another pet peeve in trades is offering one-for-one deals with players of greatly different values or X-for-one deals with scrubs on one side and a top-10 player on the other. It's different when you can throw in some draft-pick compensation and you're playing the long game in dynasty, but this is bush league for single-year pools. Don't waste time with it. 

I'm also skeptical of any trade involving a recently injured player. I saw a trade sending Ilya Samsonov (knee) one way for Jack Campbell get accepted, and it was frustrating that I wasn't the commissioner to veto it. Both managers should acknowledge the players are accepted as-is in writing, because anything else looks a bit like collusion from a neutral view. I prefer to make trades with healthy players or those reportedly near a return from an injury. 

That's a lot of "dont's" for one segment, but here's one big "do" for trading: make sure you're making your team better. I've recently been trying to offload a center in a league where I have too many -- I've had Bo Horvat's scoring surge on my bench, because you really can't sit Sidney Crosby, Jack Eichel or Brayden Point. I'd prefer to get a goalie back, but getting a multi-position forward for flexibility or an upgrade on defense would be great. Even value and production is fine to look for, but sometimes that roster flexibility or a boost in one or two categories can make a deal worth it when it doesn't look statistically even. 

Now for the fun part. Jamie Benn found the spotlight this week, thanks to a throwback start to November with four goals and four assists in three games. Now 33 years old, his heavy style hasn't aged well -- he's been in decline for a few years. That said, he's still a quality player. He's up to 11 points in 12 games, with seven of them coming on the power play. If you need hits and shots, Benn can help there, but he might be more of a short-term play if his success on the first power-play unit eventually fizzles. 

Fourth-liners don't get much love in fantasy, but there's reason for you to pay attention to the Devils' duo of Miles Wood and Nathan Bastian. Wood rampaged through Western Canada this past week, racking up three goals, three assists, 14 shots on net, a plus-5 rating and 19 PIM in his last three games. It was a rather unexpected burst of offense, but it's come with a role on the second power-play unit. Injury risk is a limiting factor for his long-term success, but his speed and physicality, plus the general improvements the Devils have made just a month into the year, make him a solid option for now. 

On the wing opposite Michael McLeod is Bastian, who is on a four-game point streak with a goal and four assists. He also plays heavy like Wood, but Bastian's got a better path to fantasy relevance -- he's the net-front guy on the top power-play unit. That means he's deflecting in shots and seeing some ice with the likes of Jack Hughes, Dougie Hamilton and the red-hot Jesper Bratt. The Devils are a fun, fast, young team, but they still need some grit to go with a growing group of talent. Bastian and Wood can provide that grit, and it looks like they'll even pick up some scraps on offense along the way. 

I don't like to make a big deal out of one good game, but I'll make an exception this time. Nicolas Hague had a two-point effort Saturday versus the Canadiens. He's earned only four points through 12 contests this season, but he's added 18 hits and 21 blocked shots in a third-pairing role that's seen him average 16:05 of ice time per game. Senators head coach D.J. Smith called Hague and Zach Whitecloud one of the best third pairs in the league. It's only one opinion, but that's still praise. Hague has more offensive talent than his partner, but his all-around game is what leads to fantasy appeal, as Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore are still the shiniest gems on the Vegas blue line. 

For a while there, it looked like we were going to get Quiet Jeff Skinner this season. He had only two assists in the first six games of the season, though he added a respectable 13 shots on net. In the six games since: three goals, six helpers, 22 shots and even five hits from a player known more for skill than sandpaper. Kyle Okposo's addition to the top line has sparked Skinner and Tage Thompson after early struggles, and hopefully that will continue throughout the year. Much of what I said about the Devils applies to the Sabres as well -- they're fast, they're fun, but there are some more established big names in Buffalo that need to do their part. Skinner's one of them, and it looks like he'll hold up his end of the bargain. 

I called the Kraken "frustratingly balanced" last week while hyping up Brandon Tanev. It's not to say that they're bad -- it just seems like the multi-point performances that put a light in fantasy managers' eyes don't come from Seattle very often. Since rejoining the lineup Oct. 25, Daniel Sprong has two such efforts, racking up two goals and five helpers in six games. In his best form, Sprong would probably top out around 40 points and 50 hits in a full season, but he's seeing time on the power play lately. It's a new bus driver every week for the Kraken, but they're a team that can effectively roll four lines, so there's plenty of fish to pluck out of the deep with this squad. 

Tomas Hertl needs no introduction -- he's the Sharks' top-line center. He started the year slow, and at a deep position like center, fantasy managers likely turned elsewhere. Go get him back now; he's put up a goal and six assists in his last four games, including a pair of power-play helpers. The Sharks aren't good. They've lost their last four games, twice to the Ducks in shootouts. Their offense at least looks competitive, and Hertl's a big part of that. Make sure there's an insurance plan to cover the corresponding knock on plus-minus. He's picked up 11 points and a minus-3 rating in 14 games this season. 

So far, Anton Lundell's sophomore season doesn't look so different from his rookie year. He's picked up a goal, seven assists, 33 shots on net and a plus-6 rating while centering the third line for the Panthers. The good news: his shooting percentage has virtually nowhere to go but up. This is a strong offense, and he'll bury his chances eventually. The point production could put him in the neighborhood of 55-to-60 by the end of the campaign, and some of those will be on special teams. This 21-year-old has a bright future, but he's also quite good right now. 

With big brother Seth Jones (thumb) sidelined, Caleb Jones has stepped up for the Blackhawks. In his last seven games, the younger Jones has six helpers, including two on the power play, where he's worked on the first unit. He's got some of his brother's physicality too -- he's racked up 17 blocked shots and 14 hits in 10 contests overall, though Caleb hasn't shown that side as much in his NHL tenure. It'll still be a while before Seth's back in the lineup, so Caleb's got a chance to shore up your defensive depth for the next few weeks. 

If you're feeling like the Maple Leafs or Blackhawks between the pipes, fear not. Hope comes in the form of an unlikely candidate: the Kraken's Martin Jones. The 32-year-old has won three straight starts, allowing just three goals on 92 shots in that span. He shut out the sputtering Wild and put on a show to beat the Penguins twice in a span of a week. The surge has his season save percentage up to .901, but the end result is he's still picking up wins. Who knows how long the Kraken can keep this going, but Jones is a must-have at least until Philipp Grubauer (lower body) gets back from injured reserve. 

In the end, there's always a give-and-take with trades. All I ask is for you to treat your fellow managers with respect. You're not going to fool anyone with Connor McDavid for Craig Smith -- there's no hidden value and you're doing nothing but generating facepalms. A good deal will help both sides, but a great deal is one where you can expose a situation before the market corrects it. Sell high, buy low, or anything in between. Just make sure your offers don't get you laughed out of the room. Good luck with your dealings and your roster management this week, and I'll be back next Monday. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shawn Hutchinson
Shawn has covered sports independently since 2010, and joined RotoWire in 2019. He serves as a beat writer for the Calgary Flames and contributes in hockey and baseball. Shawn also enjoys soccer, rooting on his hometown teams: Sounders FC and Reign FC.
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