As we get later into the season, players can’t help but think more about what their individual futures hold, particularly those whose deals are expiring this summer but have yet to re-sign. This includes not just notable unrestricted free agents to be, but also youngsters set to become restricted free agents.
These players will want to finish as strongly as possible, to leave a favorable impression on ownership and give their agents ammunition to obtain the best possible deal in the off-season.
Accordingly, if deciding between two seemingly similar players to pick up from the waiver wire or to receive in trade, you might want to tilt the scales toward the one who happens to be up for a new contract this summer. Likewise, you may want to avoid dropping or trading away a player in the same situation, choosing instead to jettison someone who won’t be motivated by playing for a new deal over the last couple of months of the season.
That’s not to imply all of these types of players would automatically qualify as buy lows, or not be sell highs. In fact, you’ll see that among this week’s sell high recommendations are two skaters (Jaromir Jagr and Kyle Palmieri) who happen to be playing for new deals. In short, contract status is a factor to use in helping you to make tough choices, but should not be used as the sole basis for making decisions.
Four buy low players
Jaroslav Halak – Because of injury issues and better than expected play from back-up Thomas Greiss, Halak has been somewhat of a forgotten man in net this season. But prior to a couple of shaky recent outings, for goalies who had played 25+ games in 2015-16 Halak sat within the top nine in both goals-against average and save percentage.
With the Islanders playoff fate still in doubt, and Halak having fresher legs than most goaltenders, he could be leaned upon heavily. If you snag him in a deal now, you’ll likely come out ahead.
Mike Fisher – At age 35, Fisher’s career is on a downswing; and the arrival of Ryan Johansen hasn’t helped matters. Nevertheless, Fisher can’t be as washed up as his 2015-16 numbers (12 points in 42 games) suggest.
The big key is he’s still being counted upon by the team, and even scored three points in as many games right before the break. Look for Fisher to push to redeem his season, enough for those in deeper leagues to consider him as a pick-up.
Mark Streit – What looks like a lost season from Streit could still end up being salvaged. If the Flyers stay in the playoff picture, his veteran presence should be leaned upon more heavily. But if the team fades, then Streit is a good bet to be moved, in which case he might land back on another team’s first power-play unit.
Chances are Streit owners are so disappointed with him they might not realize that hope still exists, so the price to get him could be too low to pass up.
Olli Maatta – Don’t look now, but Maatta has seen his ice time creep back upward to average nearly 21:00 per game average since December. And he’s responded, including a January stretch of four points in five games.
The Pens would like nothing more than for Maatta to fulfill expectations that were in place before injuries and illness limited him to just 20 games last season.
If rearguards who can score at a 30-35+ point full season pace are viable in your league, then Maatta, who’s also just outside the top ten in NHL plus-minus this season, might be worth a waiver wire grab or trying to get in a minor trade.
Four sell high players
Joe Thornton – Since December 15th, Thornton has recorded a point in 20 of 22 games, with 28 total points during the stretch. However, that still brought him up to only a 70 point scoring pace for the season as a whole.
Although Thornton just might find a way to maintain that 70 point pace, it still would leave him a sell high. Why? Because if you were to deal him now, you could likely find a fellow GM who has visions – incorrect ones – that the recent superstar calibre play from Thornton will continue and thus might overpay for him in a deal.
Jacob Markstrom – As well as Markstrom has played since mid-December, Ryan Miller has been squarely back in the Vancouver goalie picture since his return from injury, due to his veteran experience and much larger salary.
As tempting as it might be for poolies to hope to ride Markstrom for the remainder of the season, that would be risky given Miller’s continued presence. Chances are you can still use Markstrom’s recent play to get a return in one-year leagues that would make it worthwhile to deal him.
Jaromir Jagr – Things are not aligned for Jagr to remain above a 60 point scoring pace. It’s not because he turns 44 next month, as father time clearly doesn’t apply to him. What’s concerning is he didn’t get to rest during all-star weekend, and entered the break with just one point in his previous six games.
Although he posted four points in his first three post-break games, like Thornton Jagr is doing so well that you essentially owe it yourself to capitalize by selling high on him.
Kyle Palmieri – Make no mistake – Palmieri has turned a corner on his still young career. But the reality is he’s received a point on more than 85 per cent of goals scored while on the ice at 5×5, and nearly 70 per cent at 5×4. Those are unsustainably high numbers for a winger whose previous career high in points was 31.
Beyond that, his shooting percentage is also well above his normal average. If you own Palmieri in a one-year league, selling high is the right way to go.