Hutch's Hockey: Shopping Season

Hutch's Hockey: Shopping Season

American Thanksgiving is a big benchmark for a lot of things in the NHL. At the most basic core, it's the roughly one-quarter mark of the campaign. There's the long-standing statistical evidence that it's much better to be in a playoff spot now than outside of one. This year could see a lot of moving and shaking -- after Sunday's action, the difference between fifth place and 13th place in the Eastern Conference is five points. The Western Conference is a little more stratified -- the top six are pretty solidly above the rest, but seventh through 12th places are also just five points apart. 

Of the teams on the outside looking in, I'd think the Hurricanes and the Oilers have the best chance to make a surge. The Hurricanes are right on the edge, so that's not a surprise, especially if the Flyers fade after a surprisingly solid first quarter. The Oilers have much more work to do, but there are signs of progress, especially if Stuart Skinner can hold the fort until Jack Campbell gets called up again or a trade is made. 

This time of year is also a big shopping season. A quarter of the NHL season means we're more like one-third of the way through most fantasy campaigns. This is the best time of year to get involved in the trade market. There's been enough time for trends to emerge, and there's still enough time to fix your fantasy squad before the trade deadline. 

If you're looking to sell high, you may want to offload Frank Vatrano. There's no doubt that playing in a true top-six role has helped him immensely. Mason McTavish is a star in the making and Ryan Strome is a solid playmaker, giving the Ducks two threatening scoring lines. Nonetheless, Vatrano is shooting 17.8 percent and is already over halfway to matching his career high of 24 goals. I don't see him staying around a point-per-game pace even if he finishes with a career year. That said, I can't fault anyone for holding on -- he wasn't drafted heavily before emerging as a waiver-wire gem. 

I could also justify parting with Filip Hronek while his value is high. I'm big on Hronek overall, but this is another case where a point-per-game pace (two goals, 20 assists over 22 games) seems like he's vastly outkicking his coverage. The Canucks really look to have it together this season, and there's a lot of talent to go around, but if they fall off their lofty pace, it's likely players like Hronek and Brock Boeser will be the ones slipping down the rankings. 

As for goaltenders, I'd be willing to part with either of Cam Talbot or Tristan Jarry. Talbot would be the harder one to let go -- he's enjoying a classic case of one more good year in his mid-30s, with a 2.02 GAA and a .931 save percentage over 14 games. The Kings are a defensively sound and structured team that can also roll four lines with the best of them. Talbot just hasn't been a primary starter (50-plus games) since 2017-18, and I'd be concerned about that workload moving forward since he's played in 14 of the Kings' 19 games so far. 

As for Jarry, he's doing his part on a Penguins team that I think is lucky to be 10-10-0. He's gone 7-8-0 over 15 games, with a 2.44 GAA and a .918 save percentage that puts him in line with his strong 2021-22 campaign. He's been solid in seasons that begin in odd-numbered years, so maybe he can keep this up, but there's also always an injury risk, especially with his heavy workload so far. 

If you instead want to buy low, there's plenty of options to target. The Stars' dynamic duo of Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson would be a great place to start -- both were drafted with early-round hype but are just hovering around a point-per-game pace instead of challenging for 100-point campaigns. The Stars are another highly balanced team with three good lines, but Robertson's shooting a career-low 11.3 percent through 19 games and Hintz is at a more reasonable 17.4 percent, albeit with less overall upside anyway. 

You could also opt for trying to get a bargain out of an injury situation. Nico Hischier returned from a four-week absence with two points in Saturday's 7-2 win. The Devils are nearly back to full strength, but Hischier didn't seem right to start the year, so the time off may have helped him to reset. As with many injury returns, the window to buy low is open for maybe a week before their post-injury play sets the market price. 

I'd also be willing to listen both ways on trades involving Adam Fox. He's a great buy-low candidate since he remains on long-term injured reserve, though he's eligible to return Wednesday and appears to be on track to be activated then. The Rangers have done fine without him so far, but he takes that team to another level, and his elite track record gives hope for how he'll play when he returns. This is the first time he's missed extended time in his career, so I can also understand any manager being a little nervous -- and perhaps ready to sell -- but Fox is a legitimate point-per-game threat even if that means he's more in the 60-70 point range this year with the missed time. If you're going after him, make the offer now, because his price will rise once he's back. 

In the same vein, it's worth at least asking Andrei Vasilevskiy's fantasy managers if they want to let him go in trade. Anyone who intentionally drafted Vasilevskiy this year, knowing he would miss about six weeks due to back surgery, was playing the long game to begin with, and they may not be interested in making a deal now that he's back. It's still worth checking on -- he's got a lot of mileage despite being in his prime at 29 years old. He should still get 40-45 games this season as long as his back stays good and nothing else pops up. 

If your shopping trip includes a visit to the waiver wire, Alex Nedeljkovic could help you out in goal. He's split time with the aforementioned Jarry lately, though that's likely due to a pair of back-to-backs for Pittsburgh. In two games since returning from a lower-body injury, Nedeljkovic has a shutout win over Vegas and a 3-2 loss with 31 saves versus Buffalo. While Jarry was a costly draft-day option in fantasy, Nedeljkovic is doing fine in limited time in the backup role -- a position that could make for a solid tandem even if the Penguins remain middle-of-the-pack overall. 

Another goalie with a recent shutout over Vegas is Connor Ingram, who turned aside 34 shots in a road win Saturday. The 26-year-old has already been on my radar this season as an early free-agent grab, but it's worth mentioning that the Coyotes have strictly rotated their netminders this year. Ingram has outplayed Karel Vejmelka, and if that continues and the team remains in the wild-card conversation, Ingram could have a chance to take over the majority share of the starts. 

It's tough to think of a player who has gone without a goal in one month and then scored 10 times in the next month. The most recent example is Lawson Crouse, who reached double-digits in November with an empty-netter Saturday. The 26-year-old winger has some genuine consistency on the Coyotes' second line with Matias Maccelli and Nick Bjugstad. Crouse is up to 13 points, 46 shots on net and 36 hits through 19 contests, providing solid grit and offense. He's a solid rental option -- just remember to return him to the waiver wire when the stick goes cold. 

Trevor Moore is also in the midst of a strong run, logging four goals and two assists over his last three games. The 28-year-old winger is already well-known for his solid two-way play, but there's a couple of things fueling his 11 goals and eight assists through 19 games this season. One, his power-play ice time is up to 2:31 per game, and he's produced five points with the man advantage this year after having all of seven points on the power play last season. He's also shooting 20.8 percent, and that's without a meaningful increase in shots per game. I still really like the Kings' offense, and Moore's out there in plenty of formats, but the regression red flag looms. It's not a concern while he's hot. 

If you're looking to add on the blue line, Neal Pionk and Noah Hanifin have started to turn things around after slow starts. Pionk has four assists over his last six contests, and he continues to be a force in other areas. He's kept a positive or even rating in 11 straight games, and he has multiple hits in nine of those 11 contests. 

Hanifin, meanwhile, has gotten a chance to shine a little more on offense since moving to a pairing with the ever-steady defensive presence that is Chris Tanev. Hanifin has four points and a plus-8 rating over his last six contests, and while he offers little in physical play, he's added six blocked shots in that span. If you're choosing between the two blueliners, Pionk is likely a better source of physicality, while Hanifin will generate more points and shots over the long run. 

One more player I'm keeping an eye on: Mikael Granlund. I've avoided almost all parts of the Sharks' offense this season -- aside from the occasional Tomas Hertl or Calen Addison share, I'm not interested in the risk of depending on a weak team. Granlund could change that after picking up five points over his last six games. The 31-year-old is getting top-six minutes and power-play time. He's added 19 hits over 14 contests, an improvement in the physical category from a guy who rarely exceeds a hit per game. He's also just minus-7 on the year, though he was out of action for much of the time the Sharks could barely score a goal per game. Avoid him in plus-minus leagues, but he's playable elsewhere. 

I'm looking to float some trade offers with more urgency this week. After my slow start in many leagues, I've found some fixes on the waiver wire, but I'd like to strengthen the middle and top of my lineup going forward. There will still be moves to make all around, but this is the time of the season to gain ground. In eight- and 10-team head-to-head leagues, you've played almost everyone once, so you know where you stand and what you need to improve. That's all for this week, and I'll be back with more 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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