20 Fantasy Thoughts: Giroux, Rakell poised to make noise after deadline

Anaheim Ducks left wing Rickard Rakell, right, celebrates his game-winning goal with Troy Terry during overtime of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks Sunday, March 6, 2022, in Anaheim, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

The dust has settled on yet another NHL trade deadline.

And in the fantasy world, that only signifies one thing: The playoffs are just around the corner.

But before moving forward, it’s important to take a step back. Like most seasons, the final sprint of trade activity generated a flurry of fantasy-relevant transactions, culminating with a whopping 30-plus deals on Monday leading up to the 3 p.m. ET / noon PT deadline.

There’s lots to unpack:

1. Indisputably, Claude Giroux’s fantasy stock is set to receive a big-time boost going from Philadelphia to Florida. The 34-year-old is expected to make his Panthers debut on Thursday night in Montreal, where he’s likely to skate on the top line with Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe as well as the first power-play unit. Take note.

2. With Aaron Ekblad sidelined long-term for the Cats, look out for MacKenzie Weegar, Brandon Montour and even newcomer Ben Chiarot to help fill the massive offensive void. Ekblad is almost irreplaceable, which means it’ll have to be a committee type thing.

3. For some reason, Marc-Andre Fleury can’t escape the spotlight. Just hours after being acquired by Minnesota, the future Hall of Fame goalie watched from the bench as Cam Talbot notched a 28-save shutout against, who else, the Vegas Golden Knights.

Even though Talbot has won five consecutive starts, it’s fair to assume Fleury’s the new No. 1 for the Wild. At least to start — wink wink; nudge nudge.

4. Long-term, I like the prospects of Kaapo Kahkonen landing in San Jose. Short-term, not so much. Not only have the Sharks been free-falling down the standings for a while now, but they currently rank in the bottom third of the NHL in goals against per game (3.11). There’s also the whole James Reimer and Adin Hill thing, too.

5. Now that Fleury’s out of the mix in Chicago, there’s no need to be sniffing around that crease. Kevin Lankinen is the new starter, Collin Delia will be the backup. Nothing to see here. Even with Fleury, the Blackhawks ranked in the bottom 10 in goals against (3.44). Stay away.

6. Scoop up Rickard Rakell. Suffice to say, Pittsburgh was a fantastic landing spot for the pending UFA. The 28-year-old winger, who’s hit the 30-goal plateau twice in his career, will likely get every opportunity to stick in the Pens’ top six. Evgeni Malkin could make Rakell a boatload of money, if you know what I’m saying.

7. In theory, defenceman Hampus Lindholm’s arrival in Boston should allow for Charlie McAvoy to be a bit more ambitious offensively. I like this pickup for the Bruins quite a bit. Sleeper.

8. Because there’s so much firepower around him, Mark Giordano should have no problem picking up residual points here and there in Toronto. On top of that, he’ll likely quarterback the second power-play unit, which means possible overlap with the big boys on the first power-play unit. Solid streamer option.

9. Chalk up Colin Blackwell under deep sleeper. Even though the 28-year-old winger will likely start on Toronto’s fourth line, he’s demonstrated the ability to play up and down the lineup a bit. In fact, playing predominantly in the Rangers’ top six last season, he notched 12 goals and 22 points in 47 games. Furthermore, Blackwell’s currently riding a season-high five-game point streak (3 goals, 4 assists). Food for thought.

10. Speaking of which, Brandon Hagel in Tampa is another fascinating flier option. On the surface, you’d think he’s a regression candidate going from Chicago’s top six to a potential shutdown role in Tampa. That said, it’s the Lightning, so you just never know. Keep tabs.

11. Along those lines, Taylor Raddysh will likely garner a bigger role in the Windy City than the one he had with the two-time defending Cup champ Lightning. Not only is the 24-year-old seeing first-unit power-play time early on, but he’s also been skating on the second line with Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik. Be mindful.

12. On Broadway, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Andrew Copp found a way to solidify a role within the Rangers' top six. Of course, that would mean plenty of prolific exposure to the likes of Artemi Panarin, among others. For now, just take a wait and see approach.

Rest assured, another newcomer, Frank Vatrano, will be jockeying for that garden seat, too.

13. I’m curious to see where Max Domi fits with the Carolina Hurricanes. Rod Brind’Amour has been jumbling up his lines like crazy lately, so anything’s possible. Stay tuned.

14. With Drew Doughty on the shelf for the foreseeable future in L.A., Sean Durzi makes the most sense to add as an in-house replacement. Newcomer Troy Stecher could emerge as an option, too. It’s so crazy how banged-up the Kings are right now.

15. Big opportunity for Owen Tippett in Philly. To this point, the 23-year-old, who’s proven he can score at the CHL and AHL levels, has yet to do it consistently in the NHL. It’s time to step up. Monitor closely.

16. Tread carefully, but Logan Thompson has appeared in five consecutive games for the Golden Knights. To this point, he’s outperformed Laurent Brossoit, so it should come as no surprise to see Vegas riding him in the absence of Robin Lehner.

17. Erik Brannstrom is the in-house replacement for Thomas Chabot in Ottawa, who’s done for the season with a broken hand. Truthfully, I’m not crazy about this play. Having said that, the Jake Sanderson watch is on, and fantasy owners should be excited about that.

18. Don’t look now, but the Oilers' Kailer Yamamoto has five goals and nine points in his past six outings. Pick him up!

19. For what it’s worth, my top deadline pickups: Evander Kane and Tyler Toffoli.

20. Lastly, a look at this week’s schedule (March 21-27):

Monday: 4 Games
Tuesday: 11 Games
Wednesday: 4 Games
Thursday: 10 Games
Friday: 5 Games
Saturday: 12 Games
Sunday: 8 Games
Total: 54 Games
2 Games: SEA (1)

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