20 Fantasy Thoughts: Moves to make in wake of Taylor Hall blockbuster

Arizona Coyotes' Phil Kessel skates during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. It is Kessel's first visit to Pittsburgh since being traded last off-season to the Coyotes. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

(Insert Holiday) has come early for Taylor Hall owners. The 28-year-old pending unrestricted free agent forward is now a member of the Arizona Coyotes.

Memo to NHL general managers: save some activity for late February. We’re still roughly two months out from this year’s NHL trade deadline and the biggest shoe – Hall – has already dropped.

So, what’s next? Here’s a list of fantasy-relevant rentals who could move between now and February 24:

· Chris Kreider (LW), New York Rangers

· Wayne Simmonds (LW/RW), New Jersey Devils

· Sami Vatanen (D), Devils

· Alex Galchenyuk (C/LW), Pittsburgh Penguins

· Tyler Toffoli (LW/RW), Los Angeles Kings

· Vladislav Namestnikov (LW/RW), Ottawa Senators

· Jean-Gabriel Pageau (C), Senators

· Corey Crawford (G), Chicago Blackhawks

· Robin Lehner (G), Blackhawks

Because this year’s upcoming free agent crop lacks serious depth, I wonder if teams try and get creative when it comes to wheeling and dealing. Who doesn’t love an old-fashioned hockey trade? Let’s hope for more fireworks!

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1. Trade for Phil Kessel and pick up Christian Dvorak. For the time being, those two Coyote forwards stand to gain the biggest boost from the arrival of the 2018 Hart Trophy winner to the desert.

Through two games, that trio has combined for one goal and three helpers. Act quickly.

2. Try to acquire Antti Raanta as well. With Darcy Kuemper week-to-week with a lower-body injury, the 30-year-old Fin will likely see a healthy dose of action over the next little while.

If you can’t swing that, here are some waiver options to target: Linus Ullmark (Buffalo Sabres), Jonathan Quick (Kings), James Reimer (Carolina Hurricanes) and Juuse Saros (Nashville Predators).

3. Quick thought on New Jersey – stay away until further notice. No Devil is worth full-time ownership right now. They’re 2-6-1 under Alain Nasreddine.

4. Florida’s new-look top-six has ignited its offence.

Frank VatranoAleksander BarkovBrett Connolly

Jonathan HuberdeauVincent TrocheckNoel Acciari

Since splitting up Huberdeau and Barkov, the Panthers have potted 17 goals in three games. Acciari, Vatrano and Connolly have emerged as enticing waiver plays. Ride the hot streak!

5. Speaking of the Panthers, the time has come to circle back on Sergei Bobrovsky. After a rocky start, the Russian netminder has been much better in December, surrendering two goals or less in five of seven appearances. Offer away!

6. Former Florida netminder James Reimer has seen a resurgence of sorts in Raleigh with the Hurricanes.

Think about streaming the veteran if you’re hunting goalie categories. Quietly, the 31-year-old boasts an 8-5-0 record with a 2.30 goals-against and 0.927 save-percentage. He’s also tallied two shutouts. Stream away!

7. Attention to Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss owners: the goalie rotation on Long Island has ended. On Saturday afternoon, Varlamov got the nod for the second straight game, marking the first time this season – Game 34 – that either Islanders goalie had started in back-to-back games.

Side note: the Islanders have allowed 15 goals over the past three games. They’ll be fine.

8. If there was ever a good time to execute a buy-low on Boston’s crease, it’s now.

The Bruins have dropped eight of their last nine, perhaps opening the door a touch to acquire Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak for pennies on the dollar. They’ll return to form soon.

9. Currently under 50 per cent owned in Yahoo! leagues, Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk should definitely be on your radar, especially if you’re in need of help in between the pipes. The Wild are 13-6-5 since November 1. Do it.

10. With Jason Zucker on the shelf for the next four-to-six weeks due to a fractured fibula, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Fiala will see elevated roles for the Wild. As noted above, Minnesota has been playing sneaky-good hockey for a while now.

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11. Need some help at the wing? Pick up contract-year Tyler Toffoli.

The Kings forward has eight points – three goals, five assists – in the last seven games. He’ll likely be dealt to a contender around the deadline. Watch out!

12. Sticking with the pending UFA theme, make a move for Nick Backstrom as soon as possible.

After missing eight games with an upper-body injury, the Capitals pivot has four goals and nine points in six games since returning. For a value reference point, I had Backstrom ranked 32nd in my pre-season rankings.

13. If the price tag is too high and you need help up the middle, contemplate scooping up Ryan Johansen. The former Jacket is showing signs of waking up. The B.C. native has two goals and four assists during a mini three-game point streak.

14. Both Oliver Bjorkstrand and Gustav Nyquist are solid internal injury replacement options for Cam Atkinson.

Outside of Columbus, Nick Schmaltz, Jakob Silfverberg and Jeff Carter could help fill the void at right wing as well.

15. Take a flier on Zach Hyman. The 27-year-old had two goals and an assist in Toronto’s 4-1 win versus Detroit on Saturday. Midway through the game, the dual eligible forward (C/LW) joined Auston Mathews and Mitch Marner on a newly minted top line. They were outstanding.

16. Late in that game, Anthony Mantha was injured during a dust up with Jake Muzzin. It didn’t look good and the Quebec native needed assistance getting off the ice. Scoop up Robby Fabbri, who likely will be bumped up the lineup if Mantha has to miss time again. Take note.

17. Go out and get Golden Knights blue liner Shea Theodore if you can. He’s starting to catch fire. The 24-year-old has stuffed the stat sheet over the last week or so (one goal, six assists, seven points, plus-six, four penalty minutes, two power play points and 11 shots on goal). Value!

18. Is St. Louis’ Justin Faulk creeping back into the fantasy picture? The former Cane has four points – one goal and three assists – over the past five outings. I wonder if he’s been instructed to shoot the puck more. The 27-year-old has 24 shots on goal in that time frame. Category coverage!

19. Due to the mandatory three-day holiday break, this week’s 42-game week in the NHL will be cramped into four days.

Monday: 12 Games

Tuesday: 0 Games

Wednesday: 0 Games

Thursday: 0 Games

Friday: 11 Games

Saturday: 9 Games

Sunday: 10 Games

20. A total of 24 teams will play three in four. Meantime, the Ducks, Stars, Red Wings, Oilers, Senators, Penguins and Sharks have lighter two-game dockets.

Happy Holidays!

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