The NHL trade deadline is scheduled for next Wednesday and there's an intriguing aura regarding the spectacle this season. The names of several high-profile players have been making the rounds, including Ryan Kesler, Thomas Vanek, Paul Stastny, Matt Moulson, Marian Gaborik, Martin Brodeur, Ryan Callahan, Michael Cammalleri and Cam Ward, among others. Salary cap space is limited for several teams, but pro-rated deals and an increasing cap next year could help them move their assets. The ability to retain salary is also a key trading technique that we may see in deals prior to the deadline on March 5.
The aftermath of the trade deadline is also an interesting time for fantasy hockey and for waiver wire activity. Ryan Miller saw his stock rise dramatically after he was acquired by the St. Louis Blues in a blockbuster deal with Buffalo, while Jaroslav Halak has been dropped like a bad habit since the transaction. Keep in mind, the Sabres might try to flip Halak to another team in the coming days because he is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer, so he might end up gaining back some fantasy worth depending on where he goes.
This week's Waiver Wired won't delve much into recently-acquired players, but it is chock full of players who should be able to help your fantasy squad for the remainder of the season:
Darcy Kuemper (MIN) - G - Owned in 34% of Yahoo! leagues
Kuemper has established himself as Minnesota's go-to option the crease since Josh Harding has been sidelined with an illness, likely caused by him making adjustments to his medication for multiple sclerosis. He has started 14 straight games for the Wild and he owns a 10-3-2 record with a .924 save percentage and a 2.20 goals-against average. Kuemper won't be challenged much for playing time by an ailing Niklas Backstrom, who has been battling an abdominal issue all season, and it doesn't look like Harding will be back playing any time soon. His only competition could come if Minnesota decides to add a netminder at the trade deadline.
David Desharnais (MTL) - C - Owned in 12% of Yahoo! leagues
Desharnais start to the 2013-14 campaign was horrid. He registered one assist in his first 19 games, but he's been far better since then. Desharnais has been especially improved since the calendar changed to 2014, as he has seven goals and 10 assists in 20 games since the beginning of January. He has regained his past chemistry with Montreal's top gun Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher has rounded out the trio nicely. His point production, which will mostly be made up of assists, should remain high for the rest of the season.
Christian Ehrhoff (BUF) - D - Owned in 44% of Yahoo! leagues
Ehrhoff hasn't been able to recapture the form that saw him surpass the 40-mark in back-to-back seasons before he hit 50 points in 2010-11. However, he has been showing signs of returning to that play of late. Ehrhoff has recorded four goals and 10 helpers in his last 16 contests. Six of those points have come with the man advantage, where he used to be particularly dangerous. If another NHL team doesn't mind having him on board for the next seven years then he is available via trade and going to a contender would increase his fantasy value another few notches. As it stands right now though, Ehrhoff should be snatched up off waivers if he's available. Just be wary of his plus-minus rating.
Olli Maatta (PIT) - D - Owned in 21% of Yahoo! leagues
Maatta has seamlessly transitioned his skills from the junior ranks to the NHL this season and he's been better offensively than many pundits predicted. He is a solid all-around defenseman, who is tied for second among rookie blueliners with 25 points in 59 games despite earning just one goal and three assists in his first 27 matches. Maatta has topped 21 minutes in each of his past four outings and his ice time should remain high with Kris Letang sidelined by a stroke. Unfortunately, he still doesn't get much power-play time. The 19-year-old rearguard will be a good point generator down the stretch and he has a bright future ahead of him.
Gustav Nyquist (DET) - C, RW - Owned in 34% of Yahoo! leagues
The Red Wings have been hit hard by injuries this campaign, but their stable of young talent has stepped up. Nyquist has stood out the most from the pack and he's currently playing on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen. He went into the Winter Olympics on a hot streak, where he earned a silver medal with Team Sweden, and he's been good since his return. Nyquist has 10 goals and seven assists in his last 13 games, which is definitely deserving of a flier at the very least.
Nick Bjugstad (FLA) - C - Owned in 2% of Yahoo! leagues
Bjugstad has taken over the duties on Florida's B-line with Aleksander Barkov out with a knee injury. He is playing between Sean Bergenheim and Brad Boyes, who leads the team in goals (17) and points (28). Bjugstad established a new career high with 20:42 of ice time in the Panthers' first game from the Olympic break on Thursday and he picked up an assist. He followed that up with 18:27 of action against Columbus on Saturday, where he earned a goal and a helper. The 21-year-old center has four points and 12 shots during his present three-game point streak. Bjugstad has 26 points in 54 games, but his increased role makes him an interesting gamble for the rest of the year.
Eric Gelinas (NJD) - D - Owned in 4% of Yahoo! leagues
Gelinas has made New Jersey's power play infinitely better when he's been in the lineup. During the 46 games the rookie defender has been in the lineup, the Devils have converted 34 of their 136 power plays and without him they have gone 5-for-49. The Devils went 0-for-12 with the man advantage in four games before the Olympic break when they sent down Gelinas. In two games following the NHL's hiatus, New Jersey has scored six power-play goals on 11 opportunities and Gelinas has contributed three points (one goal, two assists). He leads the team with 16 points in man advantage situations and is tied with Olli Maatta for second among first-year defensemen with 25 points. His power-play prowess makes him an intriguing bench option, especially since New Jersey has been shredding the penalty kill of the opposition of late.
Steve Ott (STL) - C, LW - Owned in 12% of Yahoo! leagues
The former Buffalo captain was shipped to St. Louis as part of the Ryan Miller trade on Friday and he could be valuable contributor on his new squad down the stretch and in the playoffs. Ott has always been a dependable source of hits and penalty minutes and that won't change as a member of the Blues. He is also capable of contributing offensively and getting out of Buffalo will probably help alleviate some of the pressure and frustration he had been feeling. Skating in a bottom-six role on a deep team may actually help him get on the scoresheet more and his plus-minus rating will improve in St. Louis as well. He's worth monitoring because when he's on his game, he can fill several categories.