Blame the dog days of summer and boredom brought on by hockey withdrawals, but I decided to look back on my trade history over the last five seasons in my keeper leagues. Then, I decided to share that list with the world — well, all of our THW readers. For better or worse.
Going back to the summer of 2010, after a couple years of contemplation and involvement in other leagues, two friends and I decided to start our own 20-team keeper. And not just any keeper, but one modeled after the NHL to offer the most realistic experience possible. We’re talking a salary cap, a rookie draft, the whole works — and an annual auction to reload rosters, with our general managers permitted to keep a maximum of 15 or a minimum of five players from one season to the next excluding prospects.
Five years later, we’re still going strong and although only seven of our original GMs remain in the fold — turnover is inevitable in fantasy — the collective group has never been better than it is today. Parity is at an all-time high, top to bottom, and the future is bright for our league.
One of those aforementioned co-commissioners also runs a 28-team dynasty league and convinced me to take over a team there last spring. It was a cheaper option ($40 entry fee versus $100) and a different type of challenge with additional scoring categories and no forced roster turnover. Without a salary cap, you can keep everybody if you want, which is great if you’re a powerhouse and not so great if you’re a gatekeeper or a bottom-feeder. Thankfully that league also features a rookie draft to help level the playing field.
Trades, Trades and More Trades
Trading is a big part of fantasy hockey and I’ve always enjoyed wheeling and dealing. Even when my roster appears set — as if it can get no better — I like to mix it up and keep things fresh. That eagerness to make a move, sometimes just for the sake of making a move, has worked for and against me over the years.
Time is always the truest indicator of success or failure, and taking this trip down memory lane had me doing subtle fist-pumps over some deals and cringing over others that were almost too embarrassing to share with the masses. But, rest assured, this is full disclosure because let’s be honest, you can’t win ’em all.
In hindsight, it’s probably best I stick to fantasy and my current role as an armchair GM. Based on this sample size — 120 total trades over the two leagues — I don’t foresee NHL teams knocking at my door, requesting my managerial expertise any time soon.
Auction Salary Cap League
OUT = Ryan Ellis, Ryan O’Reilly and Chuck Kobasew
IN = Wayne Simmonds and Roman Hamrlik
OUT = Mike Smith
IN = Patrick Kaleta and 3rd Round Pick (46th overall, Ryan Sproul)
OUT = Alex Frolov and Eric Tangradi
IN = Jordan Staal and Oliver Ekman-Larsson
OUT = Marian Gaborik, Pascal Leclaire and 2nd Round Pick (23rd, Brandon Gormley)
IN = Jason Spezza, Braydon Coburn and 1st Round Pick (4th, Ryan Strome)
OUT = Marian Hossa, Steve Downie and Matt Huwick
IN = James van Riemsdyk and Tomas Kaberle
OUT = Jason Spezza and 3rd Round Pick (46th overall, Ryan Sproul)
IN = Marian Gaborik
OUT = Roman Hamrlik and Linus Omark
IN = Matthew Lombardi
OUT = Tomas Kaberle, Nazem Kadri and 3rd Round Pick (43rd, Joey Hishon)
IN = Erik Karlsson and 2nd Round Pick (40th, Teemu Pulkkinen)
OUT = Marian Gaborik
IN = David Perron and T.J. Galiardi
OUT = Karl Alzner and 2nd Round Pick (40th, Teemu Pulkkinen)
IN = Jordin Tootoo and 1st Round Pick (13th, Brendan Smith)
OUT = Thomas Hickey and Ryan Stoa
IN = Chris Osgood and Cory Murphy
OUT = Marty Turco and Benoit Pouliot
IN = Jonathan Bernier and Lars Eller
OUT = Braydon Coburn and Matthew Lombardi
IN = Nazem Kadri, Jordan Caron and 3rd Round Pick (60th, Dustin Tokarski)
OUT = Eric Staal and 3rd Round Pick (60th, Dustin Tokarski)
IN = Jeff Skinner, Nick Leddy and 1st Round Pick (19th, Braden Holtby)
OUT = Jordan Staal
IN = Ryan Johansen and 3rd Round Pick (52nd, Brett MacLean)
OUT = Chris Osgood and T.J. Galiardi
IN = Kyle Beach and 2nd Round Pick (21st, Brett Connolly)
OUT = Mark Letestu, Nazem Kadri and 3rd Round Pick (52nd, Brett MacLean)
IN = Tyler Ennis
OUT = Tyler Ennis
IN = Evander Kane
OUT = Mike Modano
IN = 2nd Round Pick (36th, Jack Campbell)
OUT = Kari Lehtonen, Wayne Simmonds and Henrik Tallinder
IN = Dwayne Roloson, Nino Niederreiter, Dmitry Kulikov and 3rd Round Pick (58th, Blake Geoffrion)
OUT = Kyle Palmieri
IN = Devan Dubnyk
OUT = Dwayne Roloson, Devan Dubnyk and 2nd Round Pick (21st, Brett Connolly)
IN = Jon Quick
OUT = Dmitry Kulikov and 3rd Round Pick (58th, Blake Geoffrion)
IN = 2nd Round Pick (21st, Brett Connolly) and 2nd Round Pick (30th, Linden Vey)
OUT = Anders Lindback
IN = Colby Armstrong, 3rd Round Pick (46th overall, Ryan Sproul) and 3rd Round Pick (50th, Mark Dekanich)
OUT = 2nd Round Pick (30th, Linden Vey)
IN = Nikita Filatov
OUT = Rob Schremp and 2nd Round Pick (21st, Brett Connolly)
IN = Zach Bogosian
OUT = Mats Zuccarello
IN = Nikolay Zherdev
OUT = Alex Burmistrov, Nikita Filatov, Nikolay Zherdev, Lars Eller, Kris Russell and 1st Round Pick (4th, Ryan Strome)
IN = Patrick Kane and 1st Round Pick (18th, Robin Lehner)
OUT = Evander Kane, David Perron, PM Bouchard, 1st Round Pick (13th, Brendan Smith) and 1st Round Pick (19th, Braden Holtby)
IN = Tyler Seguin and 1st Round Pick (1st, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins)
OUT = 3rd Round Pick (46th overall, Ryan Sproul)
IN = Carlo Colaiacovo
OUT = Carlo Colaiacovo and 3rd Round Pick (50th, Mark Dekanich)
IN = Anton Stralman and 3rd Round Pick (59th, Charlie Coyle)
OUT = 1st Round Pick (3rd, Gabriel Landeskog) and Anton Stralman
IN = Ryan Ellis and 2nd Round Pick (22nd, Tyson Barrie)
OUT = Robin Lehner and 2nd Round Pick (36th, Jack Campbell)
IN = 1st Round Pick (19th, Braden Holtby), 2nd Round Pick (27th, Dmitry Orlov) and Ryan Smyth
OUT = 1st Round Pick (19th, Braden Holtby) and 3rd Round Pick (59th, Charlie Coyle)
IN = 1st Round Pick (20th, Mika Zibanejad) and 3rd Round Pick (44th, Magnus Hellberg)
OUT = Ryan Smyth and 3rd Round Pick (44th, Magnus Hellberg)
IN = 2nd Round Pick (34th, Joe Morrow)
OUT = Nino Niederreiter and Joe Morrow
IN = Victor Hedman
Is your head spinning yet? Mine is, just a little, but what a whirlwind first season that was with a personal-record 36 trades. To think we’re just getting started. This was a good year in terms of reshaping my roster and setting it up for the future.
The defining deals were the blockbuster to land Tyler Seguin and the pick that turned into Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, plus landing Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson on defence. Obviously, those four players all turned into huge impact guys over the next four seasons and all of them remained on my roster throughout, though I did lose Seguin and Ekman-Larsson to expiring contracts this off-season. I still have two seasons left of both Nugent-Hopkins and Karlsson.
Going back in time, though, Karlsson was a 20-year-old rookie with about 10 points when I acquired him fairly early in the season for Tomas Kaberle, still a productive top-pairing, power-play guy and Nazem Kadri, thought to be the next big thing in Leaf Land. Kaberle finished that season with 47 points to Karlsson’s 45, but only four goals to the youngster’s 13 in what became a lopsided win for me almost immediately thanks to Karlsson catching fire shortly after the trade was announced.
Seguin was coming off a 22-point rookie season and had been scratched at times during Boston’s Cup-winning playoff run, so the timing was perfect to buy low on him just prior to the rookie draft. The Oilers had won the draft lottery but had yet to announce their selection with Adam Larsson still very much in consideration and Nugent-Hopkins not necessarily expected to make the jump from junior that next season. He did, rightly or wrongly (some still say another WHL season would have been beneficial), but the Nuge has been a key cog for my team ever since.
It’s funny how much changes in a relatively short time, but back in 2010, Alex Frolov and Eric Tangradi were billed to have huge upside, with Frolov having put up 50-plus points in each of his first five seasons to that stage of his career and Tangradi fully expected to flank Sidney Crosby sooner than later. As it turned out, Frolov only ended up playing 43 games with the Rangers that season, tallying just 16 points before heading home to Russia at the ripe old age of 29, while Tangradi, now 26, basically busted with only five goals and 15 points in 143 career NHL games with three different teams. I walked away with the real stud in the making in Ekman-Larsson, another Swedish rookie who only had one goal and 11 points in 48 games that season but has topped 40 points in each of the past two seasons.
I later flipped Jordan Staal for Ryan Johansen, who was still in junior that season, and swapped an expensive Eric Staal for a cheap Jeff Skinner, who scored 31 goals and a career-high 63 points as a rookie that year.
Rounding out my top-five moves would be getting Patrick Kane for a package of then promising Russians — Alex Burmistrov, Nikita Filatov and Nikolay Zherdev — and acquiring Victor Hedman for Nino Niederreiter and Joe Morrow, who were teammates with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks at that time.
Those trades, in particular, paved the way for my team to climb from 17th to second place the very next season and remain a top-five contender until now.
OUT = Mika Zibanejad, Tyson Barrie, Thomas Greiss and 3rd Round Pick (59th, Ivan Telegin)
IN = Ryan Miller and 3rd Round Pick (43rd, Jordan Schmaltz)
OUT = Craig Smith and Devante Smith-Pelly
IN = Anze Kopitar
OUT = Victor Hedman
IN = Ryan McDonagh and 3rd Round Pick (48th, Ryan Spooner)
OUT = Anze Kopitar, Dmitri Orlov and Ryan McDonagh
IN = Kevin Connauton and 1st Round Pick (15th, Brandon Saad)
OUT = Ryan Miller and 3rd Round Pick (48th, Ryan Spooner)
IN = 2nd Round Pick (40th, Oscar Dansk)
OUT = Kyle Clifford
IN = Alexander Salak
I entered this season in great shape in terms of forwards and defencemen, but I desperately needed a starting goaltender to compete and everybody knew it. I ended up overpaying for Ryan Miller, but he was his consistent self that year, winning 31 games with a .916 save percentage and 2.54 goals-against average to backstop my team to a total of $450 in prize money. As much as I’ve missed Mika Zibanejad and Tyson Barrie in the years since, with both panning out from prospects to impressive players, that deal was still worth it. No regrets.
Anze Kopitar was the other big addition at the trade deadline who helped put my team over the top, but in a salary-cap system I couldn’t afford to keep him or Hedman and had to dump them for futures immediately following that playoff run. Luckily my young core was mostly cheap and ahead of my projected curve in their development, which boded well for the next season again.
OUT = Ty Rattie, 1st Round Pick (14th, Darnell Nurse) and 2nd Round Pick (34th, Morgan Klimchuk)
IN = Corey Perry
OUT = Zach Bogosian
IN = Lubomir Visnovsky and 2nd Round Pick (36th, Brett Ritchie)
OUT = Alex Kovalev and Kevin Connauton
IN = Jordin Tootoo
OUT = Brandon Saad and Vladislav Namestnikov
IN = Devan Dubnyk and Jordan Schroeder
OUT = Ryan Johansen
IN = Tyler Pitlick
OUT = Alexander Salak
IN = Brenden Dillon
OUT = Jonathan Bernier
IN = Magnus Hellberg
OUT = James van Riemsdyk and Viktor Fasth
IN = Oscar Klefbom and 2nd Round Pick (21st, Curtis Lazar)
OUT = Carl Hagelin
IN = 2nd Round Pick (40th, Valentin Zykov)
This was the lockout-shortened season, so we had to act quickly and, coming off that runner-up finish the year before, I felt my team was a frontrunner again. My roster was stacked from the outset and our cap space fluctuates following the auction, giving us more wiggle room, so I targeted Corey Perry early on as my new ringer, essentially replacing Kopitar from the previous season. But that move backfired when I was devastated by injuries and bad luck, which resulted in a disappointing seventh-place finish.
I had taken a step back and making matters worse, with our three-year contract system, I had to extend the likes of Seguin, Karlsson and Ekman-Larsson, plus Taylor Hall, that off-season, which meant I couldn’t afford to keep Saad, Johansen, Zach Bogosian or James van Riemsdyk. Rival GMs were well aware of my cap crunch and the fact I would be losing those guys one way or another, forced to release them to the auction, so I had to cut my losses and take what I could get with those moves.
OUT = Chris Tanev
IN = Marcus Foligno
OUT = Oscar Dansk
IN = Andrew Cogliano
OUT = Madison Bowey
IN = Mike Green
OUT = Jeff Skinner, Tomas Tatar, Jason Demers, Erik Gustafsson, 1st Round Pick (16th, Brendan Perlini) and Waiver Signing (Andrej Meszaros)
IN = Henrik Sedin, Duncan Keith and 2nd Round Pick (24th, Nikita Scherbak)
OUT = Tyler Pitlick, Kyle Beach, Shane McColgan, Jordan Schmaltz and Joey Laleggia
IN = 3rd Round Pick (55th, Eric Cornel) and Waiver Signing (Vladimir Sobotka)
OUT = Waiver Signing (Vladimir Sobotka)
IN = Teemu Selanne
OUT = Matt Cullen, Magnus Paajarvi, Brett Ritchie and 3rd Round Pick (56th, John Quenneville)
IN = Travis Zajac, Zac Rinaldo and Ryan Reaves
OUT = Zac Rinaldo
IN = Daniel Carcillo
OUT = Ben Scrivens
IN = 2nd Round Pick (26th, Adam Almquist)
OUT = Andrei Vasilevskiy
IN = Jimmy Howard and Justin Williams
OUT = 3rd Round Pick (55th, Eric Cornel)
IN = Dany Heatley
OUT = Ryan Reaves and Todd Bertuzzi
IN = Daniel Briere
OUT = Jimmy Howard
IN = 3rd Round Pick (57th, Jonathan-Ismael Diaby)
OUT = Travis Zajac
IN = Rasmus Ristolainen and 2nd Round Pick (23rd, Nikolay Goldobin)
OUT = Duncan Keith
IN = Brandon Sutter
OUT = Kyle Clifford
IN = Matt Frattin
OUT = Daniel Briere and Brandon Sutter
IN = Anton Slepyshev and Daniil Zharkov
OUT = Alex Ovechkin and Rasmus Ristolainen
IN = Sidney Crosby
OUT = 2nd Round Pick (36th, Kevin Hayes)
IN = Zach Bogosian
OUT = Valtteri Filppula
IN = Josh Bailey
OUT = Mike Green
IN = Ryan Spooner
OUT = Valentin Zykov and Magnus Hellberg
IN = Andrej Meszaros, Martin Erat and Matt Cullen
OUT = Ryan Spooner
IN = Zac Rinaldo
OUT = Curtis Lazar, Andrej Meszaros and Matt Cullen
IN = Brandon Saad
OUT = Reid Boucher and 3rd Round Pick (57th, Jonathan-Ismael Diaby)
IN = Joel Armia
OUT = Daniil Zharkov and 2nd Round Pick (26th, Adam Almquist)
IN = 2nd Round Pick (25th, Marko Dano)
OUT = Martin Erat and Marko Dano
IN = Jiri Tlusty and 3rd Round Pick (50th, Marcus Pettersson)
This was essentially two seasons worth of trades wrapped up into one, having made 12 prior to the trade deadline, then 15 more between the end of playoffs and the end of the rookie draft.
Long story short, I was frustrated with the way the previous season ended, out of the prize money, and seeing my window of opportunity gradually closing because of salary-cap constraints, I went for it. I went for broke, selling the farm for another title run. It appeared to be working, as I spent much of the second half of the season in second place before slumping at the worst possible time to finish fifth.
On paper, I had a dominant roster, but it failed me over the final couple weeks in a season where 15 points separated first from fifth in the standings. So when the dust settled and all I had to show for my efforts was $50 — or half off the next season’s entry fee — I decided to overhaul my team again in an attempt to reload rather than rebuild heading into my final season of Hall, Seguin, Ekman-Larsson and Sidney Crosby, who was one-and-done on my roster for financial reasons.
Reflecting on the campaign at hand, I gave up a lot of cheap long-term pieces in Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tomas Tatar, Brett Ritchie and Madison Bowey, plus all three of my original draft picks, for short-term solutions in Henrik Sedin, Travis Zajac, Justin Williams, Duncan Keith, Mike Green and Jimmy Howard. Keith was worth his weight in gold, but Sedin was a total dud down the stretch as the Canucks imploded under John Tortorella, and the rest were mediocre at best when it mattered most.
Hindsight is 20-20 and I would reverse those moves now if I could go back, but had I finished in the top three, which appeared likely, I would have won enough money to still be playing for free and been happy as can be.
Switching gears to my post-playoff trades, I was trying to right some of those wrongs by recouping a bit of youth, but without hitting the reset button or throwing in the towel on the season to come. I freed up a token amount of cap space by swapping Alex Ovechkin for Crosby — albeit at the cost of Rasmus Ristolainen as a throw-in — and brought both Saad and Bogosian back into the fold based on successful stints from years past. Josh Bailey proved to be a solid addition too and, bolstered by Crosby, my confidence was restored going forward.
OUT = Jiri Tlusty
IN = Matt Cullen and Colton Sissons
OUT = Matt Cullen
IN = Martin Brodeur
OUT = Niklas Backstrom, Andrew Cogliano, Greg Carey and 3rd Round Pick (49th, Colin White)
IN = Cam Ward
OUT = Brandon Saad, David Savard, Viktor Fasth, Dmitry Orlov, Scott Clemmensen, Nikolay Goldobin, Joel Armia, Oscar Klefbom, Marcus Pettersson, 2nd Round Pick (33rd, Jeremy Bracco) and Waiver Signing (Adam Larsson)
IN = Antti Niemi and Craig Anderson
OUT = Anton Slepyshev
IN = Matt Bartkowski
OUT = Mattias Ekholm, Matt Bartkowski and Nikita Scherbak
IN = Erik Gudbranson
OUT = Marcus Foligno
IN = John Moore
OUT = Dany Heatley, Derek Roy and Colton Sissons
IN = Jay Bouwmeester
OUT = Zach Bogosian and 1st Round Pick (13th, Kyle Connor)
IN = Evander Kane and Nail Yakupov
OUT = Fedor Tyutin and Steve Ott
IN = Waiver Signing (Mike Hoffman)
OUT = Mike Hoffman
IN = Patrik Elias and Zach Bogosian
This was a disaster from start to finish on so many fronts. Realistically, I should have went into rebuild mode instead of believing my own hype and staying that course until it was far too late.
My roster was top heavy and I repeated a past mistake of entering the season without a starting goalie after getting outbid on some of the cheaper options in the auction. Once the cap ceiling went up — as it always does, to allow for in-season buyers to emerge — I panicked and traded for three goalies in hopes I would have power in numbers with Antti Niemi, Craig Anderson and Cam Ward.
Problem is, they all played for losing teams when one of our league’s two goaltending categories is wins, then Anderson lost his job to overnight sensation Andrew Hammond in the second half. That pretty much did me in and emptied my prospect cupboard in the process, all to finish middle of the pack and out of the regular-season money in eighth place.
Humbling to say the least, but the Hockey Gods finally smiled on me during our four-round playoffs, as my team lived up to its potential in prevailing for third place to save some face. That came with a $60 consolation prize and dropped my entry fee down to $40 for the season to come.
I’d also like to think that I bought low on Nail Yakupov, so here’s hoping that he clicks with Connor McDavid for a breakout season to help keep my team in the mix.
OUT = Jay Bouwmeester
IN = Cody Eakin
OUT = Patrik Elias, Cody Eakin, Nikita Nikitin and John Moore
IN = Martin Marincin and Dave Bolland
OUT = Marek Zidlicky
IN = Calvin de Haan, Jon Merrill, Scottie Upshall and Derek Dorsett
OUT = Antti Niemi
IN = Eddie Lack
OUT = Derek Dorsett, Dave Bolland, Scottie Upshall and Martin Marincin
IN = Benoit Pouliot
OUT = Cam Ward and Eddie Lack
IN = Sam Gagner and Viktor Fasth
These trades are much ado about nothing so far. Most of these moving parts weren’t going to be keepers for me, although I do plan to hand Benoit Pouliot a one-year extension. Calvin de Haan and Jon Merrill are both cheap options too, but I’m undecided about their future on my roster.
Regardless of that decision, I was able to parlay Marek Zidlicky into a younger, more meaningful asset, so consider that forward progress. Zidlicky could retire, but he’s on a dirt cheap contract if he finds an NHL suitor, so that deal may turn into a win-win before the puck drops for real again.
The goalies were straight salary dumps, especially Ward, who would have required a buyout and forfeit of my third-round pick in the 2016 rookie draft if I didn’t want to honour his contract extension for next season.
1) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins = Entering year 2 of a 3-year contract
2) Nail Yakupov = Starting a 2-year contract extension
3) Benoit Pouliot = Getting a one-and-done deal
4) Josh Bailey = Year 3 of 3 on cheap basic contract
Michael Mersch = Prospect
1) Erik Karlsson = Entering year 3 of a 4-year contract
2) Calvin de Haan = Year 3 of 3 on cheap basic contract
3) Erik Gudbranson = Year 2 of 3 on cheap basic contract
4) Jon Merrill = Year 2 of 3 on cheap basic contract
Laurent Brossoit = Prospect
All Oilers, all the time, or so it would appear. Here’s to hoping Edmonton actually starts trending up or I’ll be in big trouble again, especially with my lack of prospects in play as trade assets.
Fortunately for me, whether I decide to keep the minimum of five or all eight of the above, I’m going to have a ton of cap space heading into the most stacked action since our inaugural year. That will be a welcome change after being so strapped for so long, but I also have a ton of holes to fill, including a goalie vacancy again. I’ll need to execute a perfect game plan in order to come out with a competitive team, but I can go about that in several different ways.
Carey Price is the big fish in goal and, granted a few more expensive starters could be released to auction at our Sept. 1 keeper deadline, the talent pool is currently quite shallow with Craig Anderson and Cam Talbot looking like the next-best options. I’ll have to work one of them into my budget, which might mean winning a bidding war above their market value.
My defence is in pretty good shape, anchored by Karlsson, but I could try to buy a veteran blue-liner like Duncan Keith or Brent Seabrook. My boy Ekman-Larsson will be available, along with John Carlson among the younger difference-makers.
The forwards are really shaping up to be a who’s who with Crosby, Hall and Seguin joined by the likes of Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn, with the expectation that Evgeni Malkin, Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos will also be available to the highest bidder after presumably pricing themselves out of their current situations. That list literally goes on and on, so needing eight more forwards shouldn’t be a concern for my team.
With 12 to 15 auction buys followed by eight reserve draft selections, my roster will be looking much different by mid-afternoon on Oct. 3, the date of our auction. Hopefully different will translate to better, relative to the competition. I’m trying to maintain a glass half-full outlook, but everybody is optimistic about their chances right now, and I realize that I’ll have my work cut out for me to improve on that eighth-place finish next season.
Dynasty Advanced Scoring League
OUT = Erik Haula
IN = John-Michael Liles and 3rd Round Pick (73rd, Elvis Merzlikins)
OUT = Mike Fisher
IN = Kris Versteeg and 3rd Round Pick (81st, Anton Slepyshev)
OUT = Dennis Seidenberg and Filip Forsberg
IN = Ales Hemsky and Martin Havlat
OUT = Jarome Iginla, Brad Boyes, Brian Gionta and Andy Greene
IN = Brad Richards, Andrej Meszaros and Calvin de Haan
OUT = Mike Ribeiro, Joel Ward, Tom Gilbert, Frank Corrado, Austin Watson and 2nd Round Pick (47th, Jori Lehtera)
IN = Nathan Horton and Ryan Ellis
OUT = Ryane Clowe and Kris Versteeg
IN = Shawn Matthias and Raffi Torres
OUT = 1st Round Pick (11th, Josh Ho-Sang)
IN = Brandon Dubinsky
OUT = Kirill Kabanov and 3rd Round Pick (73rd, Elvis Merzlikins)
IN = Viktor Fasth
OUT = Martin Brodeur and 3rd Round Pick (81st, Anton Slepyshev)
IN = Steve Downie
Technically, I had some mop-up duty from the previous GM prior to the 2014 rookie draft. Unfortunately, a rival GM wound up mopping the floor with me by flat-out stealing Filip Forsberg.
The team I had inherited was coming off a fifth-place finish out of 28 teams and I felt it was still a contender with some veteran additions, but I gambled on a couple personal favourites in Ales Hemsky and Martin Havlat, perhaps forgetting that it was 2014 and not 2004. Back then, they were budding with star potential — Havlat was a point-per-game player and Hemsky a productive sophomore and former first-round pick. In the present, they were both plugs, with Hemsky only putting up 32 points and Havlat failing to produce half that many with 14. Talk about an epic fail of a trade. In my defence, Forsberg had just been dealt from Washington to Nashville where Barry Trotz had buried him in the minors behind Calle Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons. When I made that trade in early June, nobody was predicting Forsberg as a Calder candidate exceeding 60 points the next season. But that’s what he turned into, and I was left looking awfully silly.
The other big blow came in acquiring Nathan Horton, who would have been a force in this league with shots and hits among the scoring categories. At the time of that deal, reports had Horton on the road to recovery and projected to be healthy for the start of the season, but we all know now that he didn’t play a single game and might be retiring because of a serious back problem. I’ve since dropped him for a waiver claim as painful as that was to do.
On the bright side, Brandon Dubinsky was a beast when healthy as another guy who benefits from those extra categories, and Steve Downie became valuable by leading the NHL in penalty minutes and chipping in 28 points. It’ll be interesting to see how Josh Ho-Sang pans out, but a year later I’d probably still trade him straight up for Dubinsky.
I’m also going to need Calvin de Haan to step up sooner than later to offset that loss of Jarome Iginla, whose effectiveness I underestimated in this scoring system even at his age. You can certainly chalk up some rookie mistakes for a fairly seasoned fantasy player.
OUT = 3rd Round Pick (78th, Mikael Wikstrand)
IN = Tom Gilbert
OUT = Shawn Matthias and Anton Stralman
IN = Magnus Paajarvi
OUT = Magnus Paajarvi and 2nd Round Pick (50th, Paul Bittner)
IN = Trevor Daley and 3rd Round Pick (59th, Roope Hintz)
OUT = Ryan Getzlaf and Carl Soderberg
IN = Craig Smith, Mika Zibanejad and Dougie Hamilton
OUT = Ryan Ellis, 1st Round Pick (22nd, Ilya Samsonov) and 3rd Round Pick (59th, Roope Hintz)
IN = Kari Lehtonen
OUT = Trevor Daley, Stu Bickel and J.T. Wyman
IN = Patrick Holland and Teemu Hartikainen
OUT = Teemu Hartikainen
IN = Kyle Clifford
OUT = Craig Anderson
IN = 2nd Round Pick (47th, Kevin Labanc) and 3rd Round Pick (75th, Matt Grzelcyk)
OUT = Andrej Nestrasil
IN = Leo Komarov
OUT = Patrick Kane
IN = Mikko Koivu, Erik Johnson and 3rd Round Pick (83rd, Conor Garland)
OUT = 3rd Round Pick (83rd, Conor Garland)
IN = Hudson Fasching
OUT = Dougie Hamilton
IN = Hampus Lindholm, Jon Merrill, Brandon Gormley and Ty Rattie
OUT = Brandon Gormley, 2nd Round Pick (47th, Kevin Labanc) and 3rd Round Pick (75th, Matt Grzelcyk)
IN = Anton Slepyshev and 2nd Round Pick (32nd, Artemi Panarin)
OUT = Mikko Koivu
IN = Nikita Nesterov, 3rd Round Pick (76th, Kristian Nakyva) and 3rd Round Pick (81st, Vili Saarijarvi)
OUT = Steve Downie and Niklas Svedberg
IN = 3rd Round Pick (77th, Gustav Forsling)
It didn’t take me long to figure out that defence wins championships in this league, and that all of the top contenders boasted the best blue-lines. The scoring system is weighted — a defence goal is worth seven points to a forward’s five and a defence assist is five points to three, among other variations — so I decided to build from the back end.
It was disappointing to learn the previous GM, who had finished fifth, traded away P.K. Subban just before pulling the chute. He returned a package that included Cody Franson, Forsberg and the pick that turned into Ho-Sang, but I would have much rather hung on to Subban.
It also became apparent that defencemen, especially young promising ones, wouldn’t come cheap. But I made it my goal to get a group that would stack up against anybody, and 24 trades later, I think I’ve succeeded in that regard.
I landed Dougie Hamilton in a package for Ryan Getzlaf before obtaining Erik Johnson in parting with Patrick Kane. Like I said, not cheap.
When Hamilton was traded to Calgary, my personal no-Flames rule — as ridiculous as it is — forced a move for Hampus Lindholm, plus Jon Merrill, Brandon Gormley and Ty Rattie. Fair value I would say, but I’ll miss Hamilton’s presence over the next decade no doubt.
Those deals left me with glaring weaknesses up front — as you’ll see in the depth chart below — but forwards are seemingly easier to acquire, so I should be able to balance my lineup in due time. And the fact that I still managed a seventh-place finish in the regular season and a first-round playoff win — pocketing $20 for the latter, or half off next season’s entry fee — validates my defence-first mentality.
OUT = Marek Zidlicky
IN = Danny Kristo and 3rd Round Pick (2016 draft)
OUT = Brad Richards
IN = Jesper Fast
I’m trending younger this off-season, in part because my division rivals have been loading up and surpassing my talent pool on paper. So I decided to offload the 38-year-old (and still unsigned) Zidlicky for a prospect and a pick, followed by 35-year-old Richards for 23-year-old Fast. Those moves will probably prove more hurtful than helpful next season, but the hope is short-term pain will result in long-term gain.
Artemi Panarin = Prospect
Ty Rattie = Prospect
Alexander Khokhlachev = Prospect
Hudson Fasching = Prospect
Anton Slepyshev = Prospect
Danny Kristo = Prospect
Patrick Holland = Prospect
Calvin de Haan
Kristian Nakyva = Prospect
Gustav Forsling = Prospect
Vili Saarijarvi = Prospect
As you can see, I’m solid at two of the three positions — on defence and in goal — but my forwards are pretty hurting in comparison to the competition. Fortunately a few of my forward prospects are close to NHL-ready and should be contributing within the next year or two.
That said, I’m fully expecting to go down before I can go up again in the standings. I’d be shocked with another top-10 finish in 2015-16 — more than likely I’ll rank somewhere in the bottom two-thirds of the 28 teams — but, as strange as it may seem, I think I’m taking this roster in the right direction.
Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.