Fantasy Hockey Mailbag: What are the best moves for Patrick Kane and Nick Suzuki?

Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane (88) works the puck as St. Louis Blues' Robert Thomas (18) defends during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in St. Louis. (Michael Thomas/AP)

Life without Cole Caufield isn’t looking good for Nick Suzuki.

The Montreal Canadiens forward finally got back on the scoresheet Tuesday with a pair of assists, after recording just a single point in his previous six games. Even with the decent showing this week, it’s hard to imagine Suzuki providing much offense on a line with Josh Anderson and Rem Pitlick for the final 30 games or so.

This brings up an interesting question: Is Suzuki a drop candidate if he can’t regain consistent offensive production? In deep keeper leagues, absolutely not, but in one-year leagues it’s a difficult decision. It’s always tough moving on from someone as talented as Suzuki, but sometimes players are just in a tough spot for a month or two with no sign of things getting better. A Canadiens team that lost Caufield and will be selling off assets at the deadline certainly qualifies as that.

I’m not saying we’re at that point yet with Suzuki necessarily. However, if you’re fighting for a playoff spot in your league, desperate times call for desperate measures. You have to explore every option.

Let’s get to your questions:

It has to be Patrick Kane. The Chicago Blackhawks forward is operating at under a point per game for one of the few times in his career and his linemates have probably never been less potent. No disrespect to Jason Dickinson and Andreas Athanasiou, but they are a far cry from Alex DeBrincat or Artemi Panarin. Chicago as a team is also 31st in goals for and has the 24th ranked power play. Those numbers won’t get better when they start moving players in pursuit of Connor Bedard.

Kane, though, even at 34, is still a very talented player who would no doubt see his numbers skyrocket on a team that is heading to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Could you imagine what Kane could do playing alongside Jack Hughes on the New Jersey Devils? Or reunited with Panarin on the New York Rangers? There’s no guarantee Kane will be traded, but he stands to benefit more than any other name rumoured to be on the move before the March 3 deadline.

On the other side of the coin, someone like Brock Boeser could lose value should he be dealt. For all their faults, the Vancouver Canucks rank in the top 10 in goals for and have a pretty decent power play, plus there’s a lot of high-end talent to play with in the top six. It’s unlikely Boeser lands in a better spot and, because he has term left on his deal, he might not even get dealt to a contender.

I’ve heard plenty of rumblings about this, but not sure it actually happens. First, Thatcher Demko is still injured and would probably have to come back in time to show at least a couple of weeks of strong play before the deadline for a playoff team to take a chance on him. Second, how many teams really need a goalie? Los Angeles, Seattle, maybe Buffalo and Pittsburgh, and those teams might be looking for a cheaper option.

If a non-playoff team was interested, they could simply wait until the offseason to make an offer and Demko’s cap hit is pretty reasonable for a starting goalie, so the Canucks could always decide to keep him. If he does go somewhere, it’s likely to one of the four teams listed above, but again, I’m not convinced he’s moved.

I’d go with Filip Chytil for some of the reasons you outlined. He plays Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday next week against a few teams that give up a lot of goals. Chytil is also on a strong run, scoring four goals in his past three games and 12 points in his past 11. Between him and Andre Burakovsky, Chytil should have the most upside.

Based on the way he’s played and out of the three Buffalo Sabres’ goalies, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen should start the majority of the games the rest of the way. That said, I think the Sabres are a team that could entertain the possibility of adding a goalie before the deadline. Not saying they will or if it’s going to be anyone substantial, but if it happens, expect Luukkonen’s starts to drop a bit. Still, there’s no reason to get concerned at this point. Just use him for the time being and re-evaluate should a trade occur.

I think David Perron and Boeser would be safe to drop for streaming options. Perron has been especially quiet. As far as Taylor Hall goes, I don’t see him ever getting back to the elite play he was a few years back. Yes, he’s getting good deployment with the Boston Bruins, but I also think their top six is a bit deceiving. The Bruins often load up the top line with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, leaving that second unit a little underwhelming at times. Hall is probably a 60-point player at best at this point.

I put Pheonix Copley in the same category as Martin Jones. Copley’s record is very impressive, but his other numbers have been pretty bad. In leagues with save percentage and goals against, Copley can often hurt you in two of the three categories. Still, with that many wins there is value, you just need to ensure your other goalies have enough quality starts to offset Copley’s rough numbers. There’s always a chance the Los Angeles Kings could trade for a goalie, too. That would reduce Copley’s value.

With waiver wires being so thin, though, it’s best to keep him and take the good with the bad where Copley is concerned.

Predicting when a goalie is going to get hot is tough, but I think Dan Vladar and Jack Campbell would be the two to bet on out of this group. They are playing very well, as Campbell has clawed his way back to fantasy relevance after an abysmal start and Vladar is slowly but surely taking the job from Jacob Markstrom. Both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames should win fairly regularly, which also helps the cause.

There is too much risk with the others. Maybe you could make an argument to roll with a Markstrom and Vladar tandem, and there’s possibly a case to be made for Copley as well if you think he can improve his numbers. However, I think Vladar and Campbell are the safest options to provide value in the fantasy playoffs.

Hi Michael, do you think Chandler Stephenson is now a drop? Fairly cold now and on the fourth line. No Stone and Eichel not playing well either.

This is a tough call. The line of Chandler Stephenson, Mark Stone and Jack Eichel was one of the best in hockey earlier this season, but with Stone now out indefinitely, it’s hard to see Eichel and Stone producing like they once did. If your position in your league standings is pretty secure, I’d give Stephenson a bit more time, but if you’re desperate for a win, you might have to make the tough call to move on if there are better options on the waiver wire.

It’s likely going to take an injury to Antti Raanta or Frederik Andersen for Pytor Kochetkov to be fantasy relevant again this season. Given the injury history of both, it’s not unreasonable to think it could happen. That said, even if Kochetkov doesn’t get back in this season, he’ll almost certainly be up with the Carolina Hurricanes full time next season. In a worse-case scenario, Kochetkov is part of a tandem next season on a really good defensive team or, best-case scenario, he’s getting most of the starts.

Out of that group, Scott Laughton is a definite hold in a multi-cat league, especially if you have things like hits, PIMs and faceoff wins. He provides a lot of category coverage. When Auston Matthews gets healthy, you could hold onto Calle Jarnkrok, if he settles back in to playing with John Tavares and Mitch Marner regularly. He’s been producing well in that slot.

The other two I would probably stream, and Eeli Tolvanen has a particularly good schedule to do so next week, with four games, including outings on light nights of Friday and Sunday. He’s on a three-game goal-scoring streak as well.

It’s certainly possible. Anton Forsberg has been solid of late and played well when Cam Talbot was injured earlier in the season. The issue here is, will the Ottawa Senators be good enough in the final couple of months to ride the hot hand? If they’re out of the playoff hunt, it would probably make more sense for them to rotate the goalies fairly regularly. Perhaps Talbot could even be dealt at the deadline because he’s on an expiring contract. That seems like the more likely scenario to me for Forsberg to claim the job.

If you had Adam Fox, would you trade for Valeri Nichushkin?

No, I would not. Valeri Nichushkin is a very good player, but Adam Fox is elite. Fox is on pace for more than 80 points this season and there are not a lot of forwards who can hit that mark, let alone defensemen. It’s much more rare to find a defenseman who can produce like Fox than it is to find a forward who can produce like Nichushkin.

I’d prefer Anton Lundell and Kyle Palmieri out of that group. Both are playing very well at the moment and Palmieri in particular has a good schedule next week. He’s on the one New York Islanders line that’s scoring.

If blocks and hits are an important category for you, I’d keep Esa Lindell. If this is strictly a points league, you could take a chance on one of the other two. Bowen Byram would have the most upside this season.

That’s a very low risk. This happens quite a bit in the NBA but rarely in the NHL. Unless Patrice Bergeron has a legitimate injury, he’ll be in the Bruins’ lineup. Sure, maybe the final game of the season if there’s nothing to play for he may sit out, but the fantasy playoffs should be done by then anyway. Don’t overthink this one and keep him on your roster.

If the Vegas Golden Knights don’t replace Mark Stone with anyone substantial, Jonathan Huberdeau is probably the better option. However, long-term I’d rather have Jack Eichel. Vegas has proven to be very aggressive in bringing in high-end talent to its roster, and they’ll do everything they can to put the pieces around Eichel for him to succeed.

As far as the Calgary Flames go, I don’t see coach Darryl Sutter being the type of coach who’s going to maximize Huberdeau’s fantasy value. They caught lightning in a bottle with Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm a season ago, but just Lindholm isn’t enough to get Huberdeau back to being a 100-point player.

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