Fantasy Nuggets Week 12

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·6 min read
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  • St. Louis Blues
    St. Louis Blues
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  • Vladimir Tarasenko
    Vladimir Tarasenko
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  • Connor Bedard
    Canadian ice hockey player
  • Marc-Andre Fleury
    Marc-Andre Fleury
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COVID continued to unfortunately be the big story this week in the NHL and especially the hockey world. While the NHL is showing some light at the end of the tunnel with games being played again and many teams starting to move past their COVID outbreaks, we got some terrible news yesterday when the IIHF announced the cancellation of the 2022 World Juniors as a result of COVID.

I’m not going to go into detail about the criticisms regarding the IIHF’s planning or the arguable lack of precautions taken, but I will note that there have been plenty who have stood up to highlight areas where poor management may have contributed to this outcome. Beyond the “why” of this announcement, it’s just sad to see. This tournament can be so much fun for the fans and a great experience for the players. It showcases the up-and-coming talent and we got such a promising preview of what this tournament might have had in store when Canada’s Connor Bedard became the youngest player in tournament history to score four goals in a single game, besting the record set by Wayne Gretzky.

Granted, it was in a lopsided game against Austria, but that makes this tournament’s cancelation hit all the harder. How would Bedard have done had the tournament continued? Well, at least there’s next year and we haven’t seen the last of him. Bedard didn’t come out of nowhere to achieve that feat, he’s a fantastic prospect with the potential to turn into a generational talent in the NHL. Given that he’s just 16-years-old it would obviously be best if we didn’t get too far ahead of ourselves, but he is someone to keep in the back of your mind.

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Moving on from a highly regarded prospect to an NHL veteran, one of the best stories that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention outside of St. Louis has been Vladimir Tarasenko. After undergoing three shoulder surgeries, there were serious questions going into the season about if Tarasenko would ever be the same player he was at his height. Remember how the St. Louis Blues decided not to protect him in the expansion draft and the Seattle Kraken opted not to take him, opting instead to grab defenseman Vince Dunn? Remember that Tarasenko requested a trade over the summer and ultimately the Blues couldn’t get a deal done?

Well any team who doubted him are regretting it now. Finally healthy, Tarasenko is playing some of the best hockey of his career. He scored a goal and registered two assists on Wednesday, bringing him up to 13 goals and 32 points in 32 games. His contributions are a big part of the reason St. Louis stands atop the Central Division with an 18-9-5 record.

It’s not clear if Tarasenko still wants to be traded, but it seems safe to say that St. Louis wouldn’t want to move him at this point, so unless he really pushes for it – and there hasn’t been any indication of him doing that since the season began – Tarasenko is expected to remain with St. Louis for the remainder of the campaign.

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If you’re looking at potential big names who might be moved before the trade deadline, Marc-Andre Fleury is a more likely candidate. It’s a bit early to say, but while Chicago has been better since Derek King took over as the head coach, they’ve been largely stuck in neutral for the last little while and that’s quite the problem given the hole their early season struggles put them in. With an 11-15-4 record, the Blackhawks are 10 points behind in the battle for a Wild Card spot and that’s a sizeable gap to overcome, even when you factor in how much time is left. I’m not writing them off entirely, but if Chicago doesn’t go on a significant run over the next month, then they will likely be sellers at the deadline.

Chicago doesn’t have a lot of great trade chips to offer up for picks or prospects. Patrick Kane would naturally attract a lot of attention, but it’s hard to see the Blackhawks moving him at this time. There might be some discussions about that over the summer given that his contract is set to expire in 2023, but we imagine that the Blackhawks preference would be to re-sign him so that he can finish out his career in Chicago and the Blackhawks would only likely seriously entertain trade talks if Kane indicated that he’s not interested in a new contract. It’s also worth noting that Kane has a no-movement clause, so he’d get the final say on any potential trade, making the idea of moving him before the trade deadline even more unlikely.

Jonathan Toews’ contract will also expire in the summer of 2023 but trading him is even less likely. That’s not because he’s the team captain, that’s because he hasn’t played nearly good enough this season to have any real trade value anyways. He has just three goals and 13 points in 30 games and while he has been better lately, his $10.5 million cap hit makes his performance this season unpalatable for any other team. If Chicago was desperate to move him they probably could by retaining the bulk of his remaining contract, but I doubt that’s something the Blackhawks would seriously consider at this time.

So that leaves Fleury. He hasn’t been nearly as good this season as he was in 2020-21, but that’s partially because of the team’s play in front of him and even with that, he’s still been serviceable with a 2.86 GAA and .913 save percentage in 20 starts. His $7 million cap hit will be easier to deal with for teams as just a midseason rental and while I just dismissed the possibility of Chicago retaining part of Toews’ contract in a trade, in the case of Fleury it makes perfect sense that the Blackhawks would be open to it. Even for teams that already have a solid option in net, adding Fleury would be a great insurance option going into the playoffs. That said, a squad like Edmonton would make the most sense given the inconsistent goaltending that they’ve endured so far in 2021-22, though that outlook might change if Mike Smith starts to perform after returning from his lower-body injury.